London Gallery Quire

London Gallery Quire

 

Church Crawl 2007

Saturday, 22nd September

Report by Rob Mahoney

It's amazing the number of things one encounters on a LGQ Church Crawl, and the quire's sixth crawl was no exception. So too were the LGQ fringe events but more of those later. It was aptly entitled 'Sarf of the River' since all the churches visited were indeed South of the Thames. If it was great singing you were after, then the tingle factor was certainly there. LGQ and many friends from around the country, around sixty singers and instrumentalists, converged on Deptford and Greenwich to visit and sing in four delightful churches on their annual Church Crawl. Thankfully it was a dry day, which made the saunter between venues easier.

The first church was St Nicholas Deptford, where Peter the Great visited in 1698 when he arrived in Deptford in order to learn how to build a Russian Navy. There has been a church on the site since the Norman Conquest and at one time there was even a West Gallery, though sadly not there today. We launched straight into “Birmingham” which set the tone for the rest of the day. The sound was beautiful and stayed that way for the whole day, thanks to the efforts of the instrumentalists, conductors and singers.

St.Nicholas, Deptford
St.Nicholas, Deptford
St.Nicholas, Deptford
Francis Roads conducting
St.St.Nicholas, Deptford
St.Nicholas, Deptford
St.St.Nicholas, Deptford
Nicholas Markwell conducting

According to Richard Morrison - The Times, November 1804 "... everyone should visit St Paul's Church in Deptford before they die ..." Well we did, and felt better for it, though the playwright Christopher Marlowe, another known to enjoy roistering in Deptford, found that his final visit led to his murder and burial at St. Nicholas' Church. Thankfully all the Church Crawlers left intact and invigorated by the singing and showed no sign of demise.

St Paul's is a remarkable example of English Italianate Baroque style with wonderful acoustics. Built as one of eleven churches for the new areas of London by the Church Commissioner, between 1712 and 1723 it was paid for by the same local coal tax that paid for the rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral. The Crawlers' singing was described on one occasion as ‘luscious’!. In all we sang twelve pieces and were loathe to move on to sample the eateries and hostelries of Greenwich. But of course the need for sustenance eventually took over and we spread out in groups to eat and drink.

St.Paul, Deptford
St.Paul, Deptford
St.Paul, Deptford
Alan Weeks conducting
St.Paul, Deptford
Ros Clements conducting
St.Nicholas, Deptford
Gate post at St.Nicholas

After lunch we reassembled at St Alfege Greenwich, where a church has stood since Saxon times. This is the traditional site of the martyrdom of St Alfege, where history tells us that in 1012 during his sixth year as Archbishop of Canterbury, and having been held for six months by Danish raiders a ransom of £3,000 was demanded. Knowing that his people would be unable to afford this huge sum, Alfege refused to let them pay, and his captors bludgeoned him to death with ox bones.

The church is also steeped in less gruesome history: General Wolfe - the hero of Quebec - was buried here. So appropriately we sang “Thanksgiving for a Victory” and you can still see the organ played by Thomas Tallis - the "Father of English Church Music", who was the organist and eventually buried here in 1585.

The astonishing connection between Greenwich and the sea over so many years meant that we simply had to sing New Poole: Psalm 107 NV (William Knapp) amongst other songs.

St.Alphege, Greenwich
St.Alphege, Greenwich
St.Alphege, Greenwich
Admiring the interior
St.Alphege, Greenwich
John Miles conducting

Our final venue was the Old Royal Naval College Chapel in Greenwich. The Chapel is a complete and unaltered neoclassical period piece, almost as it was when it opened in 1789. It's amazing the amount of hot air that West Gallery Music can generate! Having settled into the choir pews and whilst coming to the end of a Funeral Hymn the fire alarm started and we made an orderly exit from the building. But how we had sung!

Royal Naval College Chapel
Royal Naval College Chapel
Royal Naval College Chapel
Tony Singleton conducting
Royal Naval College Chapel
Royal Naval College Chapel
Royal Naval College Chapel
Outside in the colonnade,
after the fire alarm went off !!

Fringe events
The evacuation of the old Royal Naval Chapel was not the only ‘fringe event’. Others included: an emergency first aid drill following the need for one Crawler to dive onto the pavement; an encounter with sand and deck chairs in a road in Greenwich as part of a car-free day – as far as can be established not one costumed Church Crawler was photographed making sand castles – but who knows; some Crawlers were seen following a marching Jazz Band whilst searching for an eatery; and, following the evacuation from the Chapel, the Crawlers were buzzed by a helicopter and nearly became part of a wedding party - these were just a few of the things encountered on a day of immense fun, and great friendship.

Photos by Tony Singleton and Cedric Morgan

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