Our Trip to the North

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First year medic and soprano choral scholar, Hattie Hunter, reports on the wonderful few days spent in her home county of Yorkshire.

Departing from the dreaming spires of Oxford after our concert in aid of the Muze Trust with The Choir of Merton College, we began our expedition up to the dreamy fields of North Yorkshire in two rickety minibuses. Having rejected the idea of balancing our stuff on the roof, we were buried under a thick blanket of bags, suitcases, and the odd radiantly grey choir jumper. Mark’s trusty Radio 3 minibus clattered up the motorway quite zippily, but unfortunately, Alice’s Radio 2 minibus was limited to the approximate speed of a cow. This necessitated long and frequent breaks.

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After getting lost a couple of times, befriending an inquisitive cat, and getting lost a few more times, we eventually arrived at my house for a veritable feast – a combined effort from all of our kind hosts. We (read: most of us) were up bright and early the next morning to travel to Ryedale school (Tom’s host Helen made him toast to eat in the car). Although it seemed doubtful at first, the school was indeed found to contain children, and we had a super workshop with Cantarla, the school’s girls’ choir. We worked on a few pieces together, including Howells’ ‘Like as the Hart’, and Britten’s ‘Hymn to the Virgin’. It was going really well until Mark terrorised a girl by forcing her to conduct, so we had to leave while she was rushed to hospital*. Cantarla then treated us to a groovy rendition of the Agnus Dei from Bob Chilcott’s ‘Little Jazz Mass’, before a hearty lunch in the school canteen, where we all committed a massive faux pas by taking trays for our food. According to the Ryedale students, nobody ever does this twice.

After lunch, we went to Ampleforth College – mine and Max’s old school. Incredibly, it was sunny and warm, so everyone went outside to the enormous expanse of grass in the valley, where we watched the rabbits running around, played a 30 second game of frisbee, and spent half an hour trying to rescue the frisbee from a tree. Meanwhile the organ scholars stayed inside to test out the alarmingly loud trumpet stop.

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The concert, at 7.30, was a great success, and we managed not to be too mystified by the 6 second echo. The audience, who awkwardly didn’t clap for the first few pieces in fear of upsetting the monks, were startled into ovation by Bertie’s incredibly weird organ piece, and clapped delightedly from that point on. One audience member even remarked that we were better than The Sixteen (although she didn’t specify what of). After a heated stream-jumping competition at a local pub, where Declan C treated us to a remarkable impression of a frightened Wildebeest fording a river, causing a pedestrian on the other side of the road to produce his umbrella*, it was time to head back to our generous hosts for another night.

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On Tuesday, we made the most of the choir’s National Trust membership (purchased for our visit to the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland) at Rievaulx. The choir’s resident cathedral enthusiast, Xann, was overjoyed to finally visit a place that she had wanted to visit since she was a small child. However, as the choir doesn’t have English Heritage membership, we were limited to Rievaulx Terrace, and couldn’t descend the sheer drop to the Abbey. Xann looked on wistfully…

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After a quick amble round the picturesque market town of Helmsley, we then continued over the moors to Stockton-on-Tees. We were met at St Cuthbert’s Church by Fr Cooper and Margaret, who had prepared us lots of delicious sandwiches and cakes. The church’s enchanting orange carpet provided a dramatically different acoustic to Ampleforth, which worked well for our more twiddly numbers, and we had a rapturous audience, their clapping uninhibited by the prospect of irascible monks. After the concert, a quick sandwich top-up, and ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’ as a final encore, we set off back to Jesus, arriving in the middle of the night, with everyone’s necks stuck at strange angles, and with a suitcase imprint on my face.

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* DISCLAIMER: Some statements in this blog post may be exaggerations or total figments of Hattie’s imagination.

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