Ely Cathedral Choir was invited to undertake an extensive tour of Norway in February 2012.
The Cathedral Choir ready to depart - 7 February 2012
The invitation came from Mr Ralph Cupper, Kantor at Eid Church who has organised tours to Norway for other English Cathedral Choirs (including Exeter and Norwich) in the recent past. Ralph put us in touch with a number of venues and we were spoilt for choice!
Listed below is the itinerary of the tour along with reports and images.
Fly to Bergen from Gatwick
Evensong - Eid Church
Evening Concert - Førde Church
Evening Concert - Vereide Church
Evensong - Stange Church
Sung Eucharist and Evening Concert - Lillehammer Church
Evening Concert - Oslo Cathedral
Evening Concert - Moss Church
Fly to Gatwick from Oslo Gardermoen
Norway was always going to be a special tour. Normally there is at least one person who has been to a destination before a tour departs - this time it was new ground for everyone. The land of the northern lights, trolls and pickled fish did not disappoint (apart from the fact that we didn't see the northern lights!) Norway is a stunningly beautiful country. How often can you truly say that you enjoyed an 8 hour coach trip? You can when you are driving through the majestic fjords. Simply breath-taking. The sights visible from the top of the two Olympic ski jumps that we visited in Lillehammer and Oslo were "out of this world," - in Oslo, as we stood above the clouds, almost literally!
Sights were only one of the senses enlivened by our trip. The sound of our music making was ultimately what we were there for. With eight performance in 7 days in conditions very different to our Cathedral back home, the congregations, large and small were treated to some wonderfully uplifting offerings from the choir who grew in confidence to the point where the boys were trusted to sing Britten's 15 minute masterpiece, "Rejoice in the lamb" from memory, at a moment's notice.
Tasteful sustenance was provided by some rare delights. Minced moose and reindeer stew were a mouthful into the unknown, but a welcome offering from wonderful hosts, a sentiment felt in all destinations.
If truth be told however, the majority of the choristers would overlook the sights, the sounds, and the tastes of Norway for the feel of the most magnificent snow they have probably ever encountered. It enabled the choristers to be what they need to be, kids having fun. One of the churches even provided sledges and snow shoes for pre-concert entertainment. Snow was thrown, used as a building material, trampled through up to the knees and most memorably, tobogganed down on a 1km run by the side of the Olympic ski jump in Lillehammer. For choristers and adults alike this experience was one of pure exhilaration, bettered only by some of the braver gentlemen who went down the ski jump slop on their backsides.
One of the senses remains to be shared. Smell. Nothing was as vivid and colourful, deep and expressive as the smell in the boys' rooms after the ceremonial removal of boots after a hard day's work and play. Shoe freshening spray is essential requirement for the next tour. Did the boys care? Not at all! Their minds were too preoccupied with the thrills of the day and the wonderful singing experiences that they were given to care about that minor detail. Room for improvement in this area though!
All of us on the trip agreed, Norway had treated us incredibly well. This really was an experience that lived up to the hype and I for one would love to return. All of us have returned better for the experience of a quite magnificent tour.
Andrew Marshall Deputy Head King's Junior School, Ely
When I first heard that the next Ely Cathedral Choir Tour would be to Norway, many many months ago, I jokingly said to my Dad that he should take me along. I never thought, that a few months later on I would be taking my mother's place as 'Matron'! To say I was a little nervous at the prospect of looking after 16 boys for 8 days straight would be an understatement, but I can honestly say that it turned out to be one of the best trips I've been on.
Norway is a beautiful country, with endless miles of snowy rolling mountains and shimmering fijords. In the (many!) hours of coach journeys that we had, there was not a moment of boredom as the countryside unfolded in front of us. Especially stunning views could always be identified, as choristers were torn away from 'Indiana Jones' being played on the coach and shouts of "Look left!" would ring through. Aside from the countryside, the infrastructure of the small towns and villages was particularly intriguing as perfectly formed 'chocolate box' wooden houses gave way to rustic wooden churches.
The authentic Norwegian cuisine was also a delight to discover - aside from the many rounds of obligatory ham and cheese sandwiches, which provided our staple lunch menus! For me, three meals in particular stand out; a regional Norwegian stew with frankfurters and vegetables, minced moose and a delicious reindeer stew. If only Rudolph knew!
As one of the few people in the tour party not to be directly involved with the singing, it was a real pleasure for me to be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the work of the boys and the men during rehearsals, concerts and services. Despite having been around the tradition for my whole life, it still amazes me how quickly the boys can switch between being 'little boys' and professional singers. To pick out a musical high point would be almost impossible, as the quality was consistently outstanding. However, the final concert in Moss was particularly enjoyable and impressive, as the boys sang many of the items from memory - including a 15 minute 'Rejoice in the Lamb'. It would be criminal of me not to mention my other favourite musical moments - Mr Lilley's performances of 'Etheldreda Rag', during which many of the boys could be spotted tapping their feet, or swaying to the music!
Of course no trip to Norway with 16 young boys (and several other men who, although not so young, certainly behaved in the same way!) could pass with out snowball fights, slipping around on the ice, getting buried up to the knees in some of the thicker snow, and some organised snow-play. For me, and I think for many of the boys, one of the highlights was the sledging, which we did in Lillehammer. A very steep ride up to the top was rewarded with an exhilarating, equally steep, zip down to the bottom.
Looking after the boys on this trip was a real pleasure - smelly shoes aside. I'm not quite sure my nostrils will ever recover from the unsavoury aroma which filled the boys corridor on the final night, as three pairs of shoes for each boy were lined up to be collected and put into bags! However, I can honestly say that I enjoyed the company of each and every boy on the trip and, now back at home in London, I can't help but miss the endless cries of 'Miss Trepte!'.
Sara Trepte Choir Tour Acting Matron
Images to follow