October 17th started out not looking a very auspicious day on which to visit a small rural church in Argyll, with cloud and drizzle accompanying us north. Had you been there, however, you would have seen a riot of colour at St Adamnan’s Episcopal Church, in Duror, in Appin country.
Local congregations were represented, as well as members of the Community Choir, as we joined in the Service of Choral Evensong. St Adamnan’s is one of a number of linked charges in this beautiful, historic part of the Highlands of Scotland between Ballachulish and Connell Bridge, and deserves our support.
It follows a wonderful event we had in March last year at the much larger St John’s, Ballachulish. St Adamnan’s is quite a different building, requiring quite a different tone and content.
On arrival at the Church, we were ushered further on to Cuil Bay, where we ate our lunch in the lovely setting of one of the families, before heading up again to the church.
The Chancel area was packed with seats as the composite choir started the afternoon practice. The Community Choir was obviously well-rehearsed, the two choirs merged well, and we could concentrate on the finer points.
The enigmatic organ is probably the oldest in regular use in Scotland, and so it was a privilege to be there when it was played so skilfully by Kerr Jamieson. The organ is placed at the rear of the church, with the organist’s back to the front of the building, so some technical help (in the form of a miniature camera and monitor) had to be used so that conducting and playing were in synchronisation…..and it worked perfectly! With the 200 year anniversary of SS Wesley this year, both voluntaries were by him.
The Service was scheduled for 3.30 in the afternoon (not at 3.30 am as the Notice Board announced!) and people started arriving at 2.30, when we were still practising!
None of the music selected was long or complex, but depended on a strong harmony and all choir members listening to each other in the confined space. The skies were still very grey just before the Service, but we determined to process from the small Vestry (how did we ever get so many people in there?), round the church to come in from the front door. The sun actually blinked out as we provided the wonderful splash of red and white and purple in an otherwise green backdrop.
The introductory voluntary was Wesley’s ‘Andante in E Minor’, and the Introit was Helen Kennedy’s ‘Spirit of God, come dwell within me’, to the highly-appropriate tune ‘Leaving of Lismore’ (which is a beautiful island just along the coast).
‘Praise My Soul, the King of Heaven’ got the congregation off to a rousing start, and the Versicles and Responses were the traditional setting, which everyone knew. Psalm 149, and the Mag and Nunc used well-tried chants which all went ‘cleanly’. ‘At even, ere the sun was set’, to the tune Angelus (what else?) allowed the organ to show its dynamic range, and after the Sermon, we sang one of Margaret Rizza’s pieces, ‘O Lord, my heart is not proud’. After the Intercessions, as we sang ‘ The day Thou gavest’, I saw the last rays of what had been a rather watery sun, disappear. Our Vesper was ‘Go now in Love, go now in Peace’, which is a lovely piece by P.M.Liebergen, and is the kind of tune you whistle all the way home!
‘Chorale Song’, again by SS Wesley, completed the musical day…..but all was not finished!
The whole congregation were invited to the home of another lovely couple, where tables groaned under the weight of much home baking, and we all had a great chance to blether and reminisce about the day’s events.
For me, it proved three things:- it was a wonderful culmination of the work which everyone around had undertaken, over the last lot of months; how well that voices can blend after two hours of practice; and the power of music to evoke strong emotions in the human spirit.
All of these are alive in kicking in Appin, and I hope it is not long before we return to this area….as it is not far from where christianity came to our shores.
If you would like more information about the Church, click the following link…. http://www.argyllandtheisles.org.uk/duror.html