2 March 2013

#lentphotos - 16 - a blessing

(in which I encounter a holy muscle rub)

Chapel, Clare College, Cambridge

Clare College is one of the most musical colleges in Cambridge and its choir is internationally recognised, having performed all over the world. A famous musical alumni is the composer and conductor John Rutter and much of his music has been performed in this place.

A number of years ago I used to sing with a chamber choir based in Bracknell.  In 2003 we were preparing to perform John Rutter’s Requiem at the acoustically sublime Douai Abbey near Reading.  It was the first time I had really come across Rutter’s music and the Requiem is a particularly gentle and introspective setting of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. Clare College Choir had done their recording of the same work with Naxos in this very building nine months previously.  (This particular CD is dedicated to the memory of Rutter’s son Christopher who was tragically killed in 2001 while he was an undergraduate student at Clare College).

Around the time I was learning the piece with the choir, the Scotsman’s ministry at the church we were at was coming to an end.  It was not particularly happy time and the church were running out of money to be able to pay him a salary.  We had to make a decision to move at a very awkward time for our eldest son’s education, so it was an all round difficult time for us as a family and I felt the heaviness of depression taking up residence for a season. The peacefulness of Rutter’s music was a source of much solace during this period.

When my mum died in 2008 we were looking at music to play for her funeral in the church and at the crematorium, as she and Dad had not planned anything.  It seemed so right with her gentleness as a person to include a piece by John Rutter and the work we chose was the serene Gaelic Blessing. The setting was played by Hade Edge Brass Band (strange as it may seem to some, brass bands can and do play beautifully and lyrically.)  One of our sons played in the band and mum loved to attend their performances when she could, in spite of the limitations of  her illness.

On a visit to Cambridge the following year we stumbled across a signpost to Clare College (it is tucked away down a side street in between the big guns of Kings College and Trinity College).  The whole college is beautiful and peaceful, including the gardens on the other side of the River Cam. In the chapel I truly felt a blessing that day, the weight of some of those knotted stresses of the previous six years being soothed by a divine shoulder massage. 

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