It’s sixteen thousand, nine hundred and thirty seven kilometres between Newcastle and London, and by the time this is published, most of those of us who are about to start tour will have travelled that distance. We’ll have crossed Australia — in itself quite a journey: Australia is a much bigger country than we often realise, living on the east coast. We will have passed through China, or Singapore, or Hong Kong (Singapore airport features healthy, vibrant trees growing, apparently quite happily, inside the terminal. There are also koi swimming gracefully and peacefully in an indoor pond). We will have flown over Russia, across the top of Europe, and crossed the channel to England. Most of us will have spent upwards of twenty-odd hours in a plane, passing through and over clouds, most of us barely conscious of the miracle of starting a (long) day on one side of the planet, and ending it on another. We will have arrived, disoriented and jet lagged, through the neat queues of immigration and the bright blue and white signs declaring UK BORDER. It’s a very long way, from Australia to England.
By the time you are reading this (and a sad hello to those choristers who weren’t able to join us for this incredible experience), most of the choir will be gathered across the other side of the world, ready to start our tour on Sunday night (Monday morning, Australia time). New arrivals will have greeted those who left Australia earlier to travel or see friends before the tour. We will have unpacked our music and our robes, worked out the intricacies of wifi and money conversion and time differences. We will be meeting in the foyer of our accommodation for a quick pre-tour chat and a much longer dinner. And then on Monday we will be travelling together to Southwark Cathedral, and on Monday afternoon we will be singing our first Evensong.
It is such a long way from Australia to England, and twenty-odd hours on a plane is a long time to reflect on the size of a world we often take for granted. It’s tiring travel, and many of us will still be jet lagged when we greet each other on the other side of the planet. But we will spend the next two weeks singing our faith in the home of our choral tradition. We will showcase some of what Australia has done with that tradition, music from some of our very own Australian composers. We will sing in buildings which have known music and prayer for centuries, buildings of such size that our own cathedral would fit easily inside them. We will learn and challenge ourselves, and worship together, and explore this small green rainy corner of God’s glorious creation.
Then we’ll come back, with photos and memories and learning. We will slip back into our weekly routine and our cathedral community as though we’ve never been away, and we’ll be richer for the two weeks of tour and we’ll bring that richness back with us as each Sunday we sing God’s glory and love.
But we’ve got two weeks until then. What an incredible two weeks they’ll be.