Today I attended Evensong at the St. Nicolaas church in Amsterdam. A stately, spacious Roman Catholic church directly opposite the busy trainstation of Amsterdam Central, and an oasis of quiet splendour. They boast no less than three choirs: the Cappella Nicolai, the St. Nicolas Chorale and the Schola Cantorum Amsterdam.
One of the sopranos in the Chorale is an acquintance of mine and she had made a Facebook event of this their last Evensong until October (!). So naturally I had to attend 😉 Actually one of my best friends sang in one of the other choirs a few years ago, so it was not all new, but having come to love English choral music so much in this last year it was a new and more rewarding experience today.
The Chorale has a very elegant sound and I loved to hear adult female voices for a change – I absolutely love boy choirs, but just as an adult female voice cannot produce the same sound quality as a boy, neither does it work the other way round. Also the men were very clear and strong but never overdoing it. Distinct but part of the whole. Their director Michael Hedley, I observed, conducts very, how shall I say – imaginative. Lots of mimic gestures, almost like he’s telling a story to a child, using his hands instead of words.
What I loved most music-wise were the Sarum plainchant of the Office Hymn, and the Psalm. There’s something about plainchant and the Anglican psalm singing that gets to me, more profoundly than all the other beautiful music. It’s so solemn and meditative, and to hear it in such a beautiful space, filled with the energy of so many prayers – it has to be experienced, here and in every church or cathedral or chapel or monastery 🙂
After the service was over, I had a chance to visit the choir room and their library. Almost felt like going backstage after a concert 😉 I saw that they had a mailbox system for all the choir members, divided neatly into Cantoris and Decani and each vocal group, numbered and with their own colour. I thought that was pretty neat (in both senses of the word ;)). Their library clearly showed the taste of the director: for instance, three thick folders of Howells canticles, and a meagre half one for Bach!
I didn’t join the choir for drinks as I was feeling tired, but I will be following their adventures in Ely where some of them will be singing this summer and blogging and taking pictures; apparently they have wifi in the cathedral and they need to be there 7 hours a day to sing (and rehearse) – and drink lots of tea in between 😉
Choral Evensong for the Eve of the 4th Sunday after Trinity 16 July 2011 Introit: Never weather-beaten sail (
Parry) (Wood) Responses (Nardone) Office Hymn: O blest creator of the light (Sarum plainchant) Psalm 84 Canticles: Evening Canticles in E flat (Wise) Anthem: Hear O Lord (Amner) Closing hymn: The day is past and over