Monday, November 17, 2008

A Day at Windsor Castle

The Choir Enclosure at St. George's Chapel

Picture this. It is the evening of November 3. I am sitting in the Choir at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Directly in front of me is where King Henry VIII was buried in 1547. His favorite wife Jane Seymour buried here in 1537. The beheaded King Charles I was buried here in 1649. (Black stone in floor of above picture.) [Pictures except where mentioned are from the official St. George's Chapel web site since photographs are not allowed in the Castle or the Chapel.]

We're attending the evening service commemorating All Saints' Day, the High Altar Durufle Requiem is being performed by the Chapel Choir in Latin. The lights are low. The Choir standing in seats right next to us! The boys voices and harmony is heavenly--other worldly.

Part of St. George's Choir

The Choir of St. George's Chapel comprises 23 boy choristers, singing soprano and twelve Lay Clerks singing alto, tenor and bass. The boys are educated at St George's School which is situated in the Castle grounds, and the Lay Clerks live in the Horseshoe Cloister, just to the west of the Chapel, and on Denton's Commons. The primary function of the Choir is to sing the daily services, the Opus Dei, and the large repertoire of music drawn from all ages and traditions.

Detail of Organ Pipes

Above us fly the heraldic banners emblazoned with arms for each Knight in the Order of the Garter. A smaller piece of brass ("stall plate") is attached to the back of the stall displaying its member's name, arms and date of installation. A member's sword is placed below a helm which is decorated with a mantling and topped by a crest, coronet or crown. On a member's death, the sword, helm, mantling, crest, coronet or crown, and banner are removed.

The Queen is Sovereign of the Order of the Garter, and each June she presides over the annual Ceremony of the Order. This comprises a luncheon in the Waterloo Chamber (in the State Apartments in Windsor Castle) followed by an afternoon service in St. George's Chapel. The Sovereign and Knights proceed on foot, wearing their robes and insignia, down to St George's Chapel where the service is held. If any new members have been admitted to the Order they are installed at the service.

St. George's Chapel -- Windsor (photo by Sheri)

For me, the tour of Windsor Castle, St. George's Chapel and the service at St. George's made the whole trip to England worthwhile. Everything else was frosting on the cake!

(More on the Castle tomorrow.)


TravelinOma said...

The organ pipes look so beautiful. How fun to hear a boy's choir. We went to Evensong once and it was kind of audience participation, so we followed the words and chanted along. My daughter-in-law was pretty freaked out afterwards, wondering if she'd promised to be a Catholic. But we didn't get to hear a boy's choir. I'd love that.

Keri(th) said...

Wow, I wish I were a fly on the wall for this wonderful evening. It seems abundantly surreal!