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May 25-June 5, 2023

THURSDAY, MAY 25: LONDON/WINDSOR

Waiting to meet up at Heathrow

Nearly half the trip participants traveled to London early, but nearly everyone met up on June 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport when the group flight arrived. Once united, the group met our tour guide for the trip, Penny, who led us to meet our coach (bus) outside. We then drove to Windsor Castle.

According to our guide: Windsor Castle was built 900 years ago by William the Conqueror to guard the western approach to London. Today, it is England’s largest castle and also the largest inhabited stronghold in the world.

Highlights of the visit included St. George’s Chapel, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House and the State Apartments.

We checked into our hotel and enjoyed a meal together as a group. Some participants went to Richmond later that evening to visit the neighborhood from the popular Apple TV series “Ted Lasso.” Sadly, nobody saw the coach or his crew and Mae wasn’t behind the bar at the Crown and Anchor, called The Prince’s Head in real life, but it was fun to visit.

FRIDAY, MAY 26: HAMPTON COURT/STONEHENGE/SALISBURY

The next day started with a visit to Hampton Court Palace.

. The building of the palace began in 1514 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey,

who later gifted it to King Henry VIII. It became one of the king’s favorite residences. Known for its magnificent gardens and hedge maze, there was a good deal to see in two hours!

After Hampton Court, we drove to Stonehenge From our guide: located around 30 minutes north of Salisbury on the beautiful Salisbury Plain. It is Europe’s most famous prehistoric monument and you can sense the mystery that shrouds the ancient stones that were constructed over 5,000 years ago.

The final stop of the day was at Salisbury Cathedral, , which holds one of the original (and possibly the best-preserved) copies of the Magna Carta. Originally issued in 1215 as a peace treaty, the document heavily influenced the US Constitution and facilitated the spread of the common law. It made justice less open to bargaining or bribery and reinforced the fundamental principle that no one, including the king, is above the law. It remains England’s only written constitution.

That evening, we checked into our hotel in Salisbury. Billed as the oldest purpose-built hotel in Europe, the Red Lion Hotel is 803 years old and reportedly haunted. It was certainly a maze to find our rooms! Here, we met up with the final members of our group– the Lawsons! We enjoyed dinner together and some in the group enjoyed live local music later that evening.

SATURDAY, MAY 27: WINCHESTER/PORTSMOUTH

From our guide: Winchester is famous for its medieval Winchester Cathedral, with its 17th-century Morley Library, the Winchester Bible and a Norman crypt. Nearby are the ruins of Wolvesey Castle. The Great Hall of Winchester Castle houses the medieval round table linked to King Arthur.

The stained glass window in Winchester Cathedral (center right below) has a fascinating story. Learn about it HERE.

Of course, we had to test the acoustics!

Winchester itself was a fun place to explore, as it was Saturday and the weekly High Street Market was active – with vendors selling everything from fresh flowers, meats, and fruits and vegetables to clothes, jewelry and household goods.

Later that afternoon, we continued our trip south to the town that would be our home base for the next week, Portsmouth. We checked into our hotel, had a little free time, and met for a group dinner.

SUNDAY, MAY 28: PORTSMOUTH

We had the opportunity to attend the morning communion service at Portsmouth Cathedral and had the rest of the morning free to explore the town. From our guide: Portsmouth is an important port city and naval base on England’s south coast. It’s known for its maritime heritage and Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The Dockyard is home to the interactive National Museum of the Royal Navy, the wooden warship HMS Victory, where Nelson died in the Battle of Trafalgar and HMSD Warrior 1860. The Tudor ship Mary Rose is also conserved in the dockyard museum.

The choir met our wonderful organist, Matt Dixon, and spent the afternoon rehearsing with him, mastering the sung psalms, the hymns, and reviewing the rest of our repertory.

MONDAY, MAY 29: PORTSMOUTH

Today, we learned the importance of the Bank Holidays in the U.K. This is the spring bank holiday, so pretty much everyone takes the day off and heads out of town—similar to Memorial Day in the U.S., although they don’t necessarily fall on the same day!

After a morning rehearsal, the rest of the day was open until evensong, so many took the opportunity to do more sightseeing, do laundry, or enjoy a leisurely afternoon.

Marriage Certificate on Display

On the ten-minute walk from the hotel to the cathedral, we walk past Royal Garrison Church, where King Charles II and Catherine of Braganza were married in 1662 (the cathedral has the original marriage certificate, and a facsimile hangs on a wall near the cathedral shop).

According to our coach driver, Mickey, the church was bombed on January 10, 1941, during a wedding. The roof was destroyed, but the chancel survived. The building remains in its ruined state as a reminder of the ravages of World War II.

Tonight was the first of five Choral Evensong services for the choir. There was a two-hour rehearsal in the morning, and the 45-minute service took place at 5:45pm. Choral Evensong is a nightly service of music and prayer, led by the choir. HERE is a sample bulletin.

TUESDAY, MAY 30: ISLE OF WIGHT / PORTSMOUTH

After two days off in Portsmouth, it was time to get back in the coach and see more sights. We drove to the ferry station for a quick trip to the Isle of Wight. From our guide: The Isle of Wight is an island off the south coast of England, known for its beaches and seafront promenades, such as sandy Shanklin Beach and south-facing Ventnor Beach, dinosaur remains, fossils, ruins of a splendid Roman villa, white chalk rocks, and charming villages. Fun fact: according to Penny, our tour guide, Isle of Wight residents call tourists “groccles.” Could this be an inspiration for the muggles in Harry Potter?

We drove around the island, stopping first at the Needles Landmark. This row of three distinctive chalk stacks is one of the Isle of Wight’s most iconic sights. We continued our sightseeing drive, eventually stopping for lunch in Shanklin, a popular seaside resort town on the southeast coast.

After lunch, we completed the circle of the island, stopping at the “foot ferry” (no coaches allowed) across the Solent and back to Portsmouth in time for Evensong.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 31: BRIGHTON / PORTSMOUTH

We were originally supposed to go to London today, but we changed plans on the advice of our tour manager. We would have spent more time driving than sightseeing and, with a little shuffling, we were able to see everything on our final scheduled day in London. Most of the group visited Brighton, the storied seaside resort town.

In Brighton, we toured the celebrated Royal Pavilion, George IV’s over-the-top, faux Chinese retreat. The Royal Pavilion was something to see; the ornate décor, kitchens, dining room and living quarters were beautiful and opulent (see the pic that shows the gilded dragon chandeliers George IV favored).

The gardens at the Royal Pavilion were spectacular and lush and a nice lunch at an authentic pub and a chance for some to wade a little in the English Channel rounded out the day. Several of the group went to The Lanes, a famous shopping district with many small shops to explore. The final attraction was the well-known pier, which is basically a seaside amusement park (and very windy in early June!). Then it was back to the coach, and a fairly long return drive to Portsmouth, and a chance to nap for many (travel is exhausting!) in time for our Evensong.

THURSDAY, JULY 1: OXFORD / PORTSMOUTH

We met the bus at 7:30 a.m. for our trip to Oxford. We started at the Brookes campus for a 30-minute lecture by Oxford Professor Peter S. Forsaith, who is recognized as the foremost expert on Wesley iconography. A Research Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History, Dr. Forsaith has written and lectured on many aspects of Methodist history. He spoke with us about various images of John and Charles Wesley and shared some of their books and letters from the early- to mid-1700’s which were all sitting on pillows.

We then drove to the city of Oxford to explore as much of the city and university as possible. We split into groups for walking tours – including one group hoping to find as many Harry Potter sites as they could! From our guide: Oxford University is the oldest in England, dating from around 1200. The city itself was developed in Saxon times around the 8th century nunnery, now Christ Church, and still maintains its original street plan and parts of its city walls.

In the afternoon, we toured Christ Church College. From our guide: With its compelling combination of majestic architecture, literary heritage and double identity as (parts of) Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, Christ Church attracts tourists galore. Among Oxford’s largest colleges – the largest if you include its meadow – and proud possessor of its most impressive quad, plus a superb art gallery and even a cathedral, it was founded in 1525 by Cardinal Wolsey. It became home to Lewis Carroll, whose excursions with the dean’s daughter gave us “Alice in Wonderland”.

This was definitely the coldest day of the trip so far. Several of us had been spoiled by the spectacular weather we’d been having and needed to buy Oxford sweatshirts. Even still, it was a nice, long, unhurried visit to Oxford, as we had the evening off and did not participate in Evensong. We were all starting to learn our way around Portsmouth and enjoyed visiting new places in the evening for dinner – although there were far more options than nights left!

FRIDAY, JULY 2: PORTSMOUTH

Today was a scheduled “day on your own” in Portsmouth. Two groups were able to go to High Tea (literally!!!) at Spinnaker Tower, the most iconic symbol of the (modern) Portsmouth skyline. The traditional high tea featured a selection of sandwiches, an assortment of sweet treats and fruit scones with clotted cream and jam plus a pot of tea (or coffee) in the middle observation deck of the tower. Built to resemble a sail billowing in the wind, the tower has three viewing platforms at the top of the open structure at heights of 100 m (328 ft), 105 m (344 ft), and 110 m (361 ft). We were able to visit all three floors.

Later that afternoon, Canon Jo, who had been leading our evensong services each night, gave us a tour of Portsmouth Cathedral. First built in 1180 as a shrine to Thomas a Becket, it was designated a cathedral in the 1920s. It is the Mother Church of the Diocese of Portsmouth, which covers southeast Hampshire, Portsea Island, and the Isle of Wight. We enjoyed learning from her about the beautiful space we had been singing in for the past week.

The cathedral also has its own brand of gin, The Dean’s Tipple, featuring a picture of the cathedral on the inside of the bottle, which was available for purchase in its gift shop.

The evensong service was broadcast on our livestream. Watch it below:

SATURDAY, JUNE 3: CHICHESTER / PORTSMOUTH

On our last full day in Portsmouth (where has the time gone?!), we visited Chichester. Chichester Cathedral was founded in 1075 and has two architectural features that are unique among England’s medieval cathedrals—a free-standing medieval bell tower and double aisles. (Listen to the Bells) Most unusual, however, is its remarkably diverse collection of art. From excavated Roman mosaics, medieval paintings, and ancient sculpture reliefs to Victorian glass work, several contemporary art pieces, and even a colorful stained glass window from Marc Chagall.

We had the opportunity to tour the city – one of the tour guides was even the mayor! We toured the gardens around the cathedral, learned about the Roman Walls and ancient city plan, visited Chichester Cross at the center of the town, and got a special peek into the assembly meeting rooms in the Council House.

This was the final evensong of our residency. Listen to a beautiful recording of the service by our brilliant organist, Matt, HERE.

There wasn’t a planned group dinner on the last night in Portsmouth, so we were able to revisit some favorite spots or go to that one last new local restaurant we’d been hoping to try.

SUNDAY, JUNE 4: LONDON

We enjoyed one last full English breakfast at the hotel before checking out and boarding the bus back to London. English breakfast is an institution: eggs (fried or scrambled), bacon and sausage, baked beans, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, and of course tea—though now there is also coffee. There’s enough food to last at least half a day! For the more calorie-conscious, there were lighter options: croissants, sliced meats and cheeses, and yogurt. We took a panoramic bus tour, seeing the sights of the city, stopping at St. Paul’s Cathedral, then on to the Tower of London for lunch. We boarded a boat and cruised the River Thames from the Tower to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, walking to Westminster Abbey and Methodist Central Hall. Then we got back on the bus and drove to Buckingham Palace.

After the tour and a lot of time on the bus, we returned to the hotel where we had begun our trip 10 days ago for one last group dinner.

MONDAY, JUNE 5: BACK TO AMERICA

Back on the bus. Back to Heathrow. Back to reality.

REFLECTIONS ON THE TRIP FROM DAVID:

The trip to England was a highlight for the Dayspring music program this year. A total of 30 people—20 singers and members of their families—traveled from May 24 to June 5. As described above, we saw many sights in the south of England.

But the core of the trip was the week we spent in Portsmouth, where we made wonderful connections and sang five Evensong services. Portsmouth is fascinating and full of important history. As the home of the Royal Navy and British shipbuilding since the sixteenth century, it has a lot to offer. Several of us explored Admiral Nelson’s flagship, the HMS Victory, and especially enjoyed seeing the Mary Rose, salvaged in the 1980s after lying at the bottom of the Solent for over 400 years.

While all of this was wonderful and inspiring, it was the spiritual experience of the Evensong ritual and the personal connections we made that meant the most. We first worked with local organist Matt Dixon, an extraordinary and generous musician who gave us wonderful help as we polished the intricacies of the Anglican Evensong service—one of the oldest and most traditional in the liturgy, dating from the earliest days of the Church of England. We learned to chant psalms in the Anglican style, thanks in large part to Matt. He accompanied our performances of the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis settings (known collectively as the canticles) brilliantly, and did a marvelous job with our anthems, all of which are staples at Dayspring.

Canon Reverend Dr. Jo Spreadbury led the services. She has a long and distinguished history in the Anglican church, having served in the diocese of St. Albans for 15 years before moving to Portsmouth in September in 2015. She previously worked at Christian Aid and as a verger at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. She is currently on the Church of England Liturgical Commission, in addition to her duties at Portsmouth. Canon Jo said some truly heartwarming things: she noticed and remarked on the choir’s joy in singing and the singers’ camaraderie. She appreciated our approach to the psalms and responses, which she described as reverent but not ponderous.

While the congregations for our five services were small, we felt the presence of the countless generations of people who have worshipped in that place daily for a thousand years. Combined with the physical beauty of Portsmouth Cathedral and its marvelous acoustics, it was profound and rewarding. We are exploring ways to bring some part of that experience to Dayspring so that all can share in the majesty and wonder of this long-established liturgy.

~ David Schildkret

Director of Music Ministries