The musical spirit of Canterbury came to Sacramento for the fifth time on Jan. 26 in the person of Dr. David Flood, the director of music and master of the Choristers at Canterbury Cathedral in England. The occasion was the 32nd annual Diocesan Choir Festival at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.
Canterbury Cathedral was one of the performance venue high points of the combined Napa High School Alumni and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Napa choirs tour in the United Kingdom last summer, organized and directed by Travis Rogers, director of the St. Mary’s choir.
This annual festival harkens to classically popular choir festivals in Britain and always combines a number of church choirs, and members of the St. Mary’s choir were eager to sing.
Rogers provided a collection of musical pieces to each choir member who chose to participate and organized a rehearsal in Napa the eve of the performance.
That morning, Rogers and the St. Mary’s choir members joined singers from 11 parishes around Northern California at the Sacramento cathedral to rehearse the program under the meticulous and enthusiastic direction of Dr. Flood in preparation for the Evensong service late that afternoon.
The songs included: “Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis in F major” by John Ireland; “Preces & Responses” by Humphrey Clucas; “How Lovely is they Dwelling Place” by Johannes Brahms and two selections from the cathedral hymnal. Rounding it out was the Lord’s Prayer, sung with the congregants.
The full Saturday morning rehearsal led to an excellent lunch in the cathedral’s great hall, with about 65 singers from all over the region getting acquainted before cranking it up again for afternoon rehearsals leading up to Evensong.
At 4 p.m., canon, organist and festival organizer David Link began the Organ Voluntary announcing the beginning of the service. Chants, prayers and songs followed, as powerful bass notes and piercing high notes combined with the mid ranges to create inspiring sounds, penetrating listeners’ bodies and threatening to lift the cathedral roof as Dr. Flood almost aerobically conducted the choirs, exalting them to ever greater heights and skills. Shivers ran down spines while smiles spread over listener’s faces.
And then it was done — but the power and the tingling remained, as did the shine and glow on the faces of the singers, who had experienced and performed something special.