That’s it — the tour is over. The last notes were sung (reasonably well — not too many death stares in our last service on tour), the celebratory dinner finished, the speeches and thanks and gifts given. The last wine / beer / Scotch / cider / whatever else of tour was shared and now bags are packed (mostly) and breakfast is being eaten while we wait for a bus that will take some of us to the airport, and some of us to London, from where we will disperse. We’re all a bit tired today, but there will be hugs and laughter and cries of “see you in Australia!” and we’ll go our separate ways united as a community that little bit more by the wonderful experiences we have shared.
Choir tour is over. No more singing at Norwich or Southwark, no more rehearsals or concert preparation. Some of the music we’ve got to know so intimately, we now won’t sing again for a long time. We will say goodbye to the old language of the psalms and prayers and when most of us sing again next week, or the week after, we will return to the modern language we’re more familiar with. Our own cathedral will feel smaller than usual after the sheer scale of the buildings in which we’ve sung, but it’s home. It will be nice to be home.
There’s a lot we’ll take with us. We’ve sung every day together for two weeks. We’ve learned a different way of singing psalms; we’ve sung under different directors and in places which are infused with a thousand years of prayer and humanity’s longing for God. We’ve spent time with each other in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise, talked with people we ordinarily wouldn’t have the chance to spend much time with. We’ve had to get used to different acoustics, different venues. We’ve done so much singing, and we’ve done it (by and large) pretty well.
When we come home to the daily routine, when we are once again distracted by work and home and all the demands of day-to-day life, when the details of the tour have faded slightly into memory and photograph albums, we will still have that. We will have the knowledge that we sung our faith across the other side of the world, in places which have seen history and prayer and worship for longer than we can imagine. We will sing the same faith at home, and know that it is the same faith sung by our sisters and brothers here, and it’s the same faith that has been sung for more than a thousand years, and we are connected by more than we ever imagined, part of a family of love united by the God who created us.
One of the hymns we sang this fortnight puts it:
As o’er each continent and island
the dawn leads on another day,
the voice of prayer is never silent,
nor dies the strain of praise away.
So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
but stand, and rule, and grow for ever,
till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.
This trip has changed all of us. No one has been unmoved by the things we’ve done and seen, and we’ve certainly become better musically for it. But we will bring back renewed knowledge of the great communion of faith we’re a part of, and the faith we sing will be stronger for it.