Between 11th-13thOctober, all thirty-two members of Millfield’s Camerata, along with eight staff, set off for a weekend of singing around the college chapels of Cambridge University.
As we departed our over-night stay in Winchester on Saturday morning, the students were eager to arrive in Cambridge. For many, this was their first time in the world-famous university city and, for others, was a chance to look around and explore not just a beautiful and cultural city, but the chance to visit a prospective university. As we arrived into Cambridge on Saturday, there was chance for everyone to explore the city centre, sit down for a meal and prepare for the busy day ahead. After everyone was well rested and now firmly in the mindset for the occasion, we arrived at St. Catharine’s College for the first of our two services. All were immediately overwhelmed by the beauty of the college and, once inside the chapel, there was a chance to rehearse the music for our service of Choral Evensong with the Senior Organ Scholar of the College. After a short break, and at exactly 5pm, the first downbeat from Mr Cook heard the choir sing the opening introit ‘I Know My Soul Hath Power’ by Hubert Parry. The sound of the choir and organ united throughout the service was exhilarating, a truly wonderful and warming sound, particularly in Stanford’s Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis in C, a stalwart in Cambridge College Chapel repertoire. In quieter passages the choir handled the intimate atmosphere within the chapel, and when the music demanded a grander dynamism the choir potently delivered, filling the chapel with a rich, and shaped wall of sound. The Senior Organ Scholar at the College commented that the anthem, Parry’s My Soul There is a Country, was one of the best renditions he had ever heard. As the service ended and the choir processed outside, the congregation made their way across the college quadrant for a drinks reception; where members of the choir, Old Millfieldians, friends of the school, family members, and local musicians gathered to enjoy the company of those around them, especially in the beautiful setting of St. Catharine’s College, our Director of Music Matthew Cook’s former college.
After leaving the hotel the following morning, we arrived once again in the centre of Cambridge; and having sourced breakfast from local venders, made our way into Christ’s College. As we walked through the gatehouse, one of the immediate features that hit us were the coloured array of flowers, draping down the old stone walls around the Quadrant. The morning service only allowed for a shortened rehearsal, so we headed straight into Christ’s Chapel, where Millfield’s very own Chaplain, Rev. Philip Harbridge, was both student and chaplain. With a plethora of music to finesse, adjusting to the new acoustic, and to time with the college organist, the choir took to the mindset immediately. Featuring music from Macmillan, Britten, Bruckner and Parry, the choir grasped the new acoustic well and adjusted their sound for the slightly larger chapel and chamber-esque sounding organ of Christ’s College Chapel. After the service, and after the congregation had enjoyed a glass of sherry in the antechapel, Camerata enjoyed brunch in college.
After departing Christ’s College, Camerata headed in the direction of Scudamore’s for an afternoon of punting along The Backs. Along the journey, as we passed by many of the colleges including St John’s, King’s, Clare, and Trinity our guides displayed great historical knowledge about the university, its colleges and, of course, the antics of Cambridge University students over the years. Overall, it was a thoroughly successful trip. Camerata very much enjoyed singing in the college chapels of St Catharine’s and Christ’s College, especially with the college organists, and there was ample time to relax, explore and delve into the city of Cambridge.