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Posts Tagged 'ss. alban and sergius'

Nice ways to spend Valentine’s Day or, things I’ll probably only ever be able to pull off once, part VI

oxford-ticket-2Back to happier things.

My initial thought had been that we could go to Hagia Sophia Cathedral in London for Liturgy on Sunday; I had only been able to quickly walk through there back in ’07, and thought it would be awesome to actually go for a service and perhaps see the folks I had met who attended there.

Turned out that the Sunday we were going to be in England was the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, however, and given the role of that day in preparing for Great Lent, it seemed preferable to attend a service in English. The Cathedral does a Divine Liturgy in English on the first and third Saturdays of the month; otherwise, they do everything in Greek. (“We’re the patriarchal cathedral for the Greeks in London,” the choir director there told me when I met him. “Our services are in Greek or else.”) Alas, we were there for the second Saturday.

Plus, as Dr. Lingas had told us on Friday, it was a Sunday for Byzantine chant in English up in Oxford.

Liturgy started at 10:30; the earliest train to Oxford we could catch was at approximately 8:30am, and that got us up there around 9:50. It was about a twenty minute walk from the Oxford train station to the Holy Octagon, and I remembered where it was easily enough.

This was the first time I had seen the interior of the Oxford church; while humble in a lot of respects — it is a very simple brick building — they have done a lot with what they have. Also, while somewhat smaller than All Saints, I’d say they packed in about 30-40 more people than we typically do — it was filled to the gills. On the other hand, it was 2 February on the Old Calendar (the Meeting of the Lord, or Candlemas as doubtless some of the English converts might call it), so it being a major feast might well have accounted for the attendance.

The celebrant was Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware); the homilist Fr. Ian Graham; the cantor Dr. Lingas. Talk about a delightful treat of a morning. Metropolitan Kallistos served with a great deal of enthusiasm and verve; I’ve said before that recordings really do not capture how animated he is, and I would like to reiterate that point. Fr. Ian’s homiletics are very different from what we were used to, but not in a bad way, and it was very valuable to hear on this particular Sunday. Dr. Lingas — with one other person — sang essentially a stripped down version of The Divine Liturgy in English; what was interesting was that many of the same, shall we say, pastoral realities were present as I run into at All Saints. For example, the “Dynamis” of the Trisagion was, as is the case for us, merely a repeat of the first iteration rather than a separate, longer, melismatic comp0sition. Also, as with Bloomington, as soon as the Liturgy was over — time to start chatting! In all fairness, they actually have to go to a separate building entirely for their coffee hour, so there’s no hallway into which they may just quietly slip. It was nonetheless comforting to see that such issues are not geographically limited, shall we say. One fascinating difference is that at All Saints, more or less everybody in the congregation tries to sing everything; in Oxford, the people were largely silent.

The Oxford church is on the property of something called Ss. Gregory and Macrina House; it’s a house that exists as a center for non-liturgical Orthodox activity at Oxford, including some accommodations for students and the occasional visitor. It also appears to be where the offices for the Fellowship of Ss. Alban and Sergius are presently located, and is also where the coffee hour occurs. I hope to have some occasion to spend more time there in the future.

Following Liturgy, we ate lunch at the Eagle and Child; alas, it was full enough that the Rabbit Room was inaccessible, but the bangers and mash — and the fish and chips, and the beer — were still quite tasty regardless.

The rest of the day was spent strolling around the town and the campus, and it was a gorgeous, if chilly, day for it. In some respects, it was good we were there on a Sunday — most places where we might have been tempted to spend lots of money were closed. That said, Blackwell’s is an exceedingly pleasant place to spend several hours (and perhaps hundreds of pounds). They have shelves and shelves of things which have to be special ordered here — Greek New Testaments and Septuagints, English-Norwegian dictionaries, and so on. On the other hand, Oxford is certainly a place where people with those kinds of interests are concentrated, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. One more reason to contrive a reason to move there someday. Alternately, it’s a great reason to have a little notebook in which one can write down ISBN numbers and look online for better deals in US dollars.

We attended Evensong at Queen’s College; it was almost entirely at the other end of the spectrum of liturgical practice and singing from Metropolitan Kallistos and Dr. Lingas, but it was a nice reminder of what good liturgical singing can sound like in the Western tradition. I forget how much I like a pointed psalm sung antiphonally.

Finally, it was time to go back into the city. We got good sausage rolls from a bakery called La Croissanterie, and boarded the train.

Tips: It is reasonably common to encounter cash-only locations in Oxford. The bakery was cash-only, a coffee chain called Caffè Nero, and admission to the Saxon tower of St. Michael’s at the North Gate (“the oldest building in Oxford”) was cash only. (Megan went up; I didn’t. Again, something about paying to see part of a church just doesn’t sit well.)

Evidently, if the Orthodox visitor to Oxford were to contact the Ss. Gregory and Macrina House well enough in advance, they might find that they would be able to stay there. I don’t have any other details, and they don’t have a website or an e-mail address I am able to find, so the easiest way to contact them appears to be by phone — 01865 513117.

Yeah, Oxford is still my favorite place in the universe. What can I say?

Coming soon: how we actually got to bum around, y’know, London for day, and why the Sherlock Holmes Pub and Restaurant should be avoided at all costs.

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All Saints Choir invited to be Midwest franchise of Cappella Romana

And before I say anything else about that, do check today’s date.

Fr. Peter with the choir during the Great LitanySaturday evening, the choir’s first public outing, did go very well, however. They learned the music, they were able to do it outside of the church building in front of a group of people specifically there to listen to (and, to some extent, watch) them, and I am inestimably proud of all of them for doing it and keeping it together throughout. For most of them it would have been the first time they would have ever done anything like this, and certainly the first time the choir as an ensemble has ever participated in this kind of outreach. There are always things you’d hope would go better, but they maintained composure throughout the whole program and never once crashed and burned. Just being able to do that is a fantastic start for a group like this, and now we all know we can do it (I’ve always known they could do it, it was just convincingRichard with the men them), we’ll move forward from here. This group wouldn’t have been able to do this at all a year ago, and it sure isn’t because of me that they can now, so that they were able to do this is a measure of the hard work they’ve put into this.

(Thank you to Anna for taking photos, but really just for being there.)

Here are some highlights:

Troparion of Bridegroom Matins

Lauds with stichera, Bridegroom Matins of Holy Tuesday (Matthew Wells, Megan Barrett, and me, cantors)

15th Antiphon, Great and Holy Friday (John Labban, cantor)

I’m hoping the next opportunity to do something like this comes along soon (but preferably after Pascha, at least).

In other news, my paper went well at the Medieval Studies Symposium; I felt good about the research and the presentation, particularly since I had been able to go back and replace many of my key references to English translations of Syriac sources (for which I didn’t really have a choice when I started writing the paper a year ago) to the Syriac sources themselves. I also felt like I handled the questions well. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Dorushe conference goes at Notre Dame this weekend.

I’m leaning increasingly towards going to the Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius conference one way or the other. It seems very much like it would be worth the money and would behoove me to be there. Maybe I can “blog the conference,” as it were. Even so, at the risk of sounding like I’m begging for money — tip jar, baby, tip jar!

If I can just say — I am well to have March behind me. It has been a really awful month on several levels, and I have felt despairing at many points throughout the last 31 days. I am hopeful that April is beginning on a brighter note, with an eye towards the fact that the month is ending with Pascha (and Finals Week, but never mind that now). Onward and upward, with God’s help.

Mmmmmm, fish.

coptic-annunciation.gifA blessed Feast of the Annunciation to everybody, even if liturgically it’s been over for three and a half hours. I’m still eating fish right now. In honor of the fact that I just got my Coptic textbook six months early, I’ve chosen a Coptic icon of this feast.
So, I’m a member of the Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius, and I think you should be too. I joined a little over two years ago, and quickly noticed — “Hey! Everything they do is over in England!” That makes it a little spendy for academic wannabes with no institutional support to participate, so I inquired after the possibility of starting a United States-based chapter for the, well, probably three of us who are over here. Probably not, was the answer, but they mumbled something about planning a conference on American soil at St. Vladimir’s, probably around January 2007.
Well, January 2007 came and went with no word. However, a few months ago the Fellowship officially announced that the conference would be occurring in June of this year, and then today, at long last, registration opened.
It should be quite an event; Metropolitans Kallistos & PHILIP, and Bp. Hilarion are among the highlights, over five days (4-8 June 2008) in Crestwood, NY.
However, one thing that quickly made itself conspicuous as I was perusing the registration information: there is neither a Fellowship member registration price break, nor a student price break. It’s $400 for everything (including accommodation) if you pay in full before 7 May, otherwise it’s $500 for everything, and that’s the only verse that song has.
Now, to some extent, this is to be understood. I have to imagine the number of actual members in America is so small as to be insignificant, and perhaps most of them are people who are already going to be there as invited guests. This is also not exactly an academic conference as such, so there’s not really a good reason to have student pricing.
But still. With airfare, that’s going to be around $700. We’re back where we started when I first joined the Fellowship — it’s a bit spendy for an academic wannabe without institutional support to participate.
All the same, I wanna go. I really wanna go. I’m not going to get a chance to do much else this summer, my wife will be out of the country again, plus 2008 has really sucked so far anyway, so this would be nice.
It occurred to me that allegedly my blog is worth $2,822.70, which would pay for four people to go to this conference. Well, I think I should leave some of that for a rainy day, but if I can just monetize just a quarter of my blog’s value, then there is my registration fee and airfare, no muss, no fuss.
So I’ve added a tip jar. Besides that link, there’s a permanent link to it on my blogroll under “Tip Jar.” If you think what you read here is worth something, then I recommend counseling and lots of it, but I nonetheless give you the opportunity to let the free market work. (It will be noted that not contributing anything will also be seen as a weighing in on the value of this blog and perhaps a more accurate one at that.)
(And yes, I recognize that, realistically, this will maybe raise enough money for me to buy a latte at the airport. Well, whatever — nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say.)
(Maybe tomorrow I’ll actually say something about Bp. MARK’s visit.)
(OK, OK, I’ll quit with the parentheticals.)

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