Schola Cantorum in Paris
Boat trip on the Seine
On an overcast Thursday afternoon, thirty eight members of the Schola Cantorum and the Headmaster left Stonyhurst for Paris. Good humour and a sense of fun were in evidence from the very start and the journey to Liverpool Airport went quickly. By 8.15pm we were in Paris, where a coach was waiting to transfer us to our bijou hotel rooms in the Latin Quarter.
After a refreshing night’s sleep and a hearty French breakfast, Friday morning saw us all bright eyed and bushy tailed; the first port of call in the early morning sunshine was the Boulangerie au coin de la rue, where we collected our lunchtime picnics. As the morning wore on, the temperature continued to rise and by the time we had reached the shore of the Seine for our boat trip, it was almost 20 degrees!
Our boat, named Brigitte Bardot, took us past many of the Parisian sights including the American Church, the Alexander III Bridge and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. It was then time for déjeuner sur l’herbe beneath the Eiffel Tower before returning to the hotels by Metro (a not uneventful experience for some teachers!)
Later in the afternoon we travelled to the Lycée Fenelon for our rehearsal in the school’s beautiful chapel. At the concert, which included sacred and secular items, it was good to see well over seventy people in the audience, including several OS. Soloists were Genevieve Turner, Robert Simpson, Steffi Link and Laura Erel. After our impromptu encore we all attended a Reception and then enjoyed supper at the school before a late night walk back through Paris to the hotels.
Following breakfast, we set out towards either Sainte Chappelle or Musée D’Orsay. Both parties gained much from a very interesting and thought provoking morning and then met up for lunch at the Hippopotamus restaurant. Sight-seeing and shopping followed before returning to the hotels to collect everything needed for our performance in the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
The rehearsal over, we all waited down in the Crypt to be summoned back up into the Cathedral. When we climbed the stairs and processed into the Choir Stalls, we were all suddenly very conscious of between eight hundred and one thousand pairs of eyes looking at us! There were many parents and OS in the congregation. We sang Hymn to the Virgin by Benjamin Britten as our Introit; Sir Richard Terry in C major as the setting and our anthem was the Candlemas favourite, Eccard’s When to the Temple Mary went : the final chord of this piece really rang around the Cathedral’s spacious and magical acoustic. At the conclusion of the Mass, the Celebrant invited the congregation to applaud – a definite one-off, previously unheard of at Notre Dame!
As we left, with the sound of the applause ringing in our ears, it began to rain. With the Eiffel Tower flashing away behind us, it was but a short distance to the sumptuous Dumont family apartment, where we all enjoyed a splendid dîner cocktail.
It was a particularly early start for Dr. Morgan, Yoann Belon and Laura Erel who went to the Church of St. Augustin to meet up with the organist at 8.30 am! The Schola Cantorum arrived at 9.45am in time for a good rehearsal before climbing a vast number of stairs to the South Tribune from where we sang, immediately under the great dome of the church and more than thirty feet up off of the ground. We repeated When to the temple Mary went as our Offertory anthem - the last chord of which again rang around the dome - and sang A Prayer of St. Richard of Chichester as the Communion Motet.
Following the Mass, everyone went to lunch at another branch of Hippopotamus. In the afternoon we all went to Montmartre. Here, some walked up the enormous flight of steps to the Sacré Coeur Church while others ascended by cable car, its doors opening to a fanfare of the entire Schola Cantorum singing Tallis’ Canon in eight parts! During the course of the afternoon, Dr. Morgan had a caricature portrait presented to him by some Schola members. Sadly, it was then time to leave Paris; we arrived back at Stonyhurst shortly after midnight, looking forward to Monday morning and a return to our normal routine.
Thanks to all staff and pupils involved, particularly Mrs Kirkby and Mrs Johnson, and to parents.
Dr K Morgan
(And above all, thanks to Dr Morgan!)