On a warm Saturday afternoon at the end of May, World Traders and their guests met at the Cellerium Café in Westminster Abbey to enjoy an early supper followed by the Purcell Club tour. And what a treat lay in store.
The Purcell Club is named after the famous composer, who was organist of Abbey from 1679-1695. It is a male voice choir formed predominantly from members of the Westminster Abbey Old Choristers’ Association. The singers give of their services free in order to put on the tours and all the profits from ticket sales go to support the Abbey and a range of small charities.
After supper, we assembled in the Cloisters for a welcome by a member of the Abbey clergy. We then moved into the Abbey and took our seats in the Nave for the first piece of sacred music. Our guide, who was outstanding, described the history and architecture of the Abbey in great detail, moving from one location of interest to the next, including the Quire, Sacrarium, High Altar, the Cosmati Pavement (unique in this country and recently used for the coronation – we, understandably, could look at it but not tread on it!), St Edward the Confessor’s Shrine, Henry VII Chapel and Poets’ Corner.
At various points there was a pause for members of the Purcell Club to sing suitable musical items ranging from the 16th to 21st centuries. As might be expected, the music was stunning, both in its quality and its variety; bringing a lump to the throat at some points; and each piece wonderfully complemented the architecture we were looking at.
On returning to the Nave for the final part of the tour, a short piece was played by one of the Abbey organists to demonstrate the Abbey’s magnificent organ. The tour ended with the choir singing a piece of great solemnity around the Unknown Warrior’s Grave as the lights dimmed.
It was a very special evening, and particularly poignant being so soon after the Coronation. I think we all felt that it was a privilege to be there.