A blessed interruption

The Jesus chapel at Norwich Cathedral, a place of quiet prayer.
The Jesus chapel at Norwich Cathedral, a place of quiet prayer.

We’ve been spending a lot of time rehearsing. It’s slightly different in English cathedrals — we robe, and do most of our rehearsal in the choir stalls of the cathedral itself, rather than in the song school. We were interrupted in rehearsal yesterday. Norwich was once home to Benedictine monks, who kept the daily patterns of prayer and reflection. Norwich Cathedral today is still primarily a place of prayer, and on the hour the day’s chaplain steps up to the microphone behind the rood screen, and asks for a moment of stillness and quiet for prayer. It’s a simple prayer, gentle, and it finishes with an invitation to the tourists — and visiting choir — to join in the Lord’s prayer.

It’s often not great to be interrupted in rehearsal. We are focused on what we’re doing, and there’s a lot of music we need to get through, to make sure we’re on top of, so that we give the music, and our God, the honour of our best singing. But we stopped, and sat down in the stalls, and some of us probably zoned out, and some of us prayed.

And it was good, to be interrupted by prayer. It was good to be required to stop, to step back from what we were doing; to engage, even briefly, with the Divine and to be reminded of why we do what we do. This is why we robe every day (or every week at home), why we spend time rehearsing and learning music and singing, why we’ve travelled across the other side of the planet to the home of our Anglican choral tradition. Yes, we sing because the cathedral choir is the best choir in Newcastle (not that the blogger is biased!), because we learn wonderful music, because we like each other. Yes, we are a family. But we sing to what is beyond us. We sing to draw people closer to God, to be a part of a community’s worship. We join saints and angels and the entire Christian communion to make the presence of the Creator of the world nearer at hand. We sing because it’s one way to express our faith.

Being interrupted was a good reminder that everything we do should be underpinned by prayer. In seeking to express the love and glory and vulnerability of God, and of ourselves, in our music, we should pray; we should seek God’s presence in our own hearts before we express God’s presence in notes and chords. But if we don’t, that’s ok too. Because the music we sing, and the psalms we chant this week, and the readings we hear, tell us that God is always present, always a part of the music we sing and of all we do. God is present in the music, and in the love we share with each other and with those around us; God is present in our loneliness and sadness and fear and joy.

Whatever we do, we do it surrounded by the love of God. As choristers, our response to that is simply to sing.

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