Tuesday, August 21, 2007


After leaving Knebworth, I whizzed up the A1 to Kettering - actually figuring out the back roads way to get to a Very Big House which has intrigued me for a long time. Boughton is called the Versailles of England - The house built by Ralph, 1st Duke of Montagu, Ambassador to the court of Louis XIV, who became very fond of all things French while living there, and bringing French style back to England at a time when France was not particularly popular! He was fortunate to do this after Louis had expelled the Huguenots from France and so was able to employ the many fine craftsmen among that number.

Boughton is an exquisite and mysterious place - a Tudor house fronted by the massive and elegant French-style state rooms added by Ralph. In appearance it is severe, elegant, beautiful and hides a rambling and charming collection of Tudor buildings, wings, courtyards and nooks. Outside, symmetrical French - inside, elegant English Baroque! The Duke collected French furniture, decorative arts, French/Italian/Dutch paintings, Chinese porcelain - the collection is stupendous! I have to say that it was beyond all expectation and I'm still finding it the most intriguing of the many Big Houses I saw on this trip - and as you're yet to read, I saw some amazingly thrilling houses!

Below are some pictures of the exterior: a view from the drive, two views of the front, the stables, and a view of some thatched cottages in a little village down the road.

Monday, August 20, 2007

We arrived at Heathrow on Friday, the 3rd - The Choir boarded busses to head up to Cambridge, I boarded the Hertz bus, picked up a cute little Ford Focus and drove up to Knebworth House just north of London. I wanted to see this place because Sir Edwin Lutyens (architect, fabulous designer, renovator of Lindisfarne Castle (Durham Trip), Castle Drogo (Worcester trip)) was the brother-in-law of one of the previous (or so) generation of owners and had a great deal of influence in the renovation of the house and gardens. It's a grand Tudor house that's been reduced, added to, redesigned in various periods both good and not so good, and has a very romantic aura, as well as a very tangible romantic aura in that Rudyard Kipling was the father of one of the wives. There's an excellent exhibition of his works and memorabilia, including a re-creation of his study at Knebworth: same table, books, a wax dummy of him wearing his famous dressing gown! He's a little dusty. Lutyen's renovations turned out to be more in the variety of paint choices, placements des objets, general re-organisation - and it is, of course, brilliant. The garden is especially beautiful - quite formal and in parterres, with various rooms and arcades. In the Libary there is a very charming self-portrait by Lutyens with a clever nod to his government buildings in Dehli.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Choir

Some pictures of the Choir: the beautiful Elizabeth Clemmitt (the Choirmaster's Wife and son Ethan's first Choir Trip!) in the Wren Cloister, tenors and sopranos during rehearsal, Choristers on break in the Wren Cloister between rehearsal and service, Richard and Randy Manges, the Maestro leading rehearsal in the Old School Chapel.

It just occurred to me to add that not only does Lincoln contain Norman and Gothic elements, but a new library designed by Christopher Wren was added on the north side of the cloisters. Glorious! He also designed a pulpit which stands in the nave.

The Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral has some exquisite architectural details - the wealth of Norman and Gothic stone and wood carving delights, intrigues and mesmerizes one constantly. Some of the details: the wooden vaulting of the cloister, the "Crazy" vaulting in the choir (taken from the organ loft), two views taken during the triforum and roof tour (notice how the vaulting of the nave and west end are misaligned and my finger clutching the camera while staring down a hundred feet or so thru a tiny doorway with v. little railing!), and details of the Choir Screen.

More of Lincoln Cathedral

Friday, August 17, 2007

Christ Church Choir

the Organ

What a joy! This is one of Henry Willis' most famous instruments - also basically untouched except for some additions by Harrison & Harrison which didn't detract from the Willis work. The Great, Choir and some of the Pedal stops are in the main case, the Swell, Solo and big Pedal stops are in the Triforum. The organ is beautiful in every aspect: a rich, bright, robust sound with some of the most exquisite solo stops I've ever played.

My favorites were the Corno di Basetto on the Choir, the Orchestral Clarinet in the Solo, the Harmonic Flute in the Solo, well, in fact all the flutes, all the 8' foundations, the reeds, the strings - I loved it. It's a very expressive organ, with an incredibly responsive action for an electro-pneumatic instrument. It's capable of extreme delicacy and huge power - with a gratifying crescendo in between.

The sound of that Tutti in the vast acoustic is thrilling!

Inside the Cathedral

The Cathedral

What a glorious place - first of all, it's huge! You enter the Cathedral Close throught the Bailgate and in front of you is one of the most jaw-dropping facades. The Norman Cathedral's west front is nearly intact, surrounded by and extended by the gothic church. The screen is an on-going feast of visual impact - the combination of of Norman and Gothic elements creates complex counterpoint.

For a great portion of it's history each of the 3 towers had spires, the center one being 150 feet tall - making the cathedral the tallest building in the world for 200 years until the Eifel Tower. The central spire collapsed, the other 2 were taken down. Sited on the top of the hill, one can imagine the impact the sight of the cathedral made from a distance. In fact, it can still be seen from quite a ways away - when I was at Belvoir Castle the guide took me to the window and we could clearly see the Cathedral from 38 miles away!

Views of LIncoln Cathedral


Just back from the UK - where the Christ Church, Winnetka Choir, Randy Manges and I had a spectacular time! It truly was a magical week of singing, playing the magnificent Willis organ, and seeing some Very Big Houses. And, of course, there was some drama on the road, but more about that later.

From start to finish this Choir trip was absolutely the best - a v. congenial group of people, easy flights, lots of fun, and the singing was the best ever - Richard's choir was absolutely fine in all aspects. It's so wonderful to hear the choir blossom in a good acoustic - and this year his trebles were extraordinary! So confident and producing a beautiful sound.

I've got lots of pictures of Lincoln Cathedral - a truly awe-inspiring edifice - Norman, Gothic, and huge!