Magnificent Music in Cambridge

Sunday, November 14, 2004–George got up first and finally found the thermostat, so things started to warm up. The water in the shower was only about lukewarem, so there was no lingering in the shower.

We got dressed and had breakfast (instant oatmeal and oj), then walked over to St. John’s College Chapel for their Remembrance Day sung Eucharist that featured the Duruflé Requiem. The choir was still rehearsing when we arrived. The service was at 10:30 and the music was superb. It is unbelievable how much sound that choir puts out for such a small number of people. The Sanctus and Hosanna in excelsis were just plain thrilling. After the service we greeted David Hill, the director of music, who is a friend of Derek’s.

We went for lunch at a place called Tattie’s on King’s Parade, specialty: topped “jacket potatoes” (the U.S. readers here will know them as large baked potatoes) and soup. I had a potato with salsa, Indian-spiced chicken and a little cheese–not too bad point-wise, although a very cosmopolitan mix of spices. George had a tomato soup.

From there we walked down the street to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and it’s great collections of paintings and decorative arts. I thought especially interesting were several paintings by the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century English painter Walter Sickert, whom the American murder mystery novelist Patricia Cornwell has tried to prove was Jack the Ripper. I’d never seen any of his paintings before–scenes of dance halls and prostitutes. But there was lots of other stuff we didn’t see–like all the Egyptian artifacts. We shopped a little in their gift shop

We came back to the flat briefly, then went for Sunday afternoon tea at 3:30 at Tessa’s house. She had made fresh scones–just coming out of the oven as we arrived–and a delicious orange sponge cake. And of course she is a delightful conversationalist. What a wonderful hostess.

We left her house a little after 5:30 to go to the King’s College Chapel for our second choral Eucharist of the day, this time featuring the King’s College Choir in the Fauré Requiem. There was a huge crowd–unlike at St. John’s in the morning–and we got two of the last remaining seats in the seating area between the choir stalls and the altar. The sound was fine, of course. The King’s choir could not be more different than St. John’s. King’s is much better at singing softly, but they don’ have as much power as St. John’s. The organ was really something. The Sanctus, with the violin obbligato up in the choir loft, was breathtakingly beautiul. The Faure requiem is much less bombastic than Duruflé, so it was an interesting contrast. We skipped taking communion again (complete with incense)–once was enough for one day.

After the service we tried to go to The Maypole, a local pub near Tessa’s house that she had recommended, but got nary a glance from the proprietor, so we finally got fed up and left and went to another restaurant on Bridge Street. I had a pasta dish with smoked salmon and green peapods. Quite good. Back to the flat after that for the rest of the evening.