Looking up at the facade of St Paul's is quite an experience. After a longish cab ride, due to ever and eternally ongoing cycle lane construction in London, I arrived at the cathedral main West Door entrance. There were already lots of folk there waiting for the doors to open for the private Evensong service at 5pm. It was a colourful and cheerful throng, all wearing their decorations with varying amounts of pride and reticence. I had mine in my bag and not emblazoned across my chest - I wanted to make sure that others were indeed wearing them before I pinned it on myself. This whole award and decoration 'thing' clearly still feels truly unreal and not quite part of my normal life ? I still cannot believe I am actually in this position, and that for some reason I am deemed worthy of it ? I am so very honoured and excited, but just a tiny bit baffled.
Sara arrived in perfect time and we two stood and chatted to a couple of military men, one Royal Engineers, and another who is a Naval diver, we ladies enjoying the rich display of medals these two relatively young men had displayed on their ultra smart dress uniforms.
At 4.15 pm with the rain just spitting a little, but ready to fall in buckets the great doors opened and in we walked, almost right up to the chancel, and shown to the places for 'blue ticket' holders ! We were almost directly below the Dome, rich with fresco paintings, stupendous carvings and masonry and such deep and rich colours. Not the glitter of Viennese Baroque, but a quieter more British understatement, but none the less magnificent.
The processions of choir, clergy, Bishop, the Mayor of London and finally an extraordinarily sprightly Prince Philip at the great age of 94, walk up the long central aisle and the service began. The choir were wonderful, warm, vibrant and so disciplined, yet the sound was rich and soaring indeed. What a fantastic line of counter tenors ! They whole sound was most uplifting, but with my singing teacher hat on I have never heard a finer quartet of warm counter tenor tone in any cathedral choir ! On top of all that there is the connection with our wonderful baritone Tom, who was a fine chorister there, our young Skye lad Ashton who spent a good few years having the experience of his life there, and today I find it that one of my oldest and finest pupils from 35 years ago Philippa Hyde, now a well known professional and great exponent of Early Music, has her youngest son Ben as a St Paul's chorister. What a legacy, and how astonishing to think it all came from such early encounters and beginnings...........
After the service finished we chatted to other recipients and had a couple of photos taken for posterity then made our way to a nearby restaurant for a relatively early dinner, a child free chat and a leisurely discussion about the finer points of the glorious choral music !
A much faster cab back to Victoria station and before you could say ' Dyson in F' we were winging our way back to Sussex. It will be a very brief visit South, and fast journey home on the morrow, but oh it was worth every early morning minute, and every aching muscle and bone in my recovering body.
Life memories if you will.
( Photo kindly taken by a recipient who was awarded for Mountain Rescue and will be in Paradise in two weeks time....small world )
A St Paul's selfie !
Service over,and you can see how close to the front we were !
The plush red chair was Prince Philip's seat.