I was back in the county of Gloucestershire yesterday for a recital and masterclass with Peter Wilman who has, at various times since the late seventies, been involved in my life and its music making. From my first days as a chorister through bands such as Lothlorien (named before that kind of stuff became achingly fashionable) and Chainsäw, and latterly in more artsy collaborations, he is one of the few people from the past who still appears at the other end of a text or email.
Between recital and masterclass we had a few moments to spare, so wandered up Pitt Street (which now proceeds in a downward direction) to look at “our” school, and then into the Cathedral, familiar now to many because a generation of wizards went to school in its CGIed cloisters. Gloucester Cathedral’s illustrious heritage predates Harry Potter by about a millennium, though, and as we walked slowly up the nave, around the cloister and towards the Lady Chapel I took in the atmosphere of the monastery that survived Henry VIII’s purge, and other gems too – the memorial to the son of William the Bastard (Conqueror to his supporters), the tomb of Edward II, literally “poked” to death, as the story goes…
…and the list of organists, including Wesley, Brewer and Sanders, the memorial to Ivor Gurney, chorister and student, and the likely spot where Howells and the selfsame Gurney sat on that evening in 1910 when the Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis was ushered into the world, simlutaneously opening the door to an entire history of music.
In the very smallest of ways Pete and I are parts of the history of that building as well, leading the choristers in 1984, taking part in the 250th Three Choirs Festival, and may other small things besides, and we felt suitably historical yesterday, both closer to fifty than to forty and with those years long, long behind us.
Gloucester Cathedral remains our Cathedral, though, and the photos below, daily sights to me back in the day, show only the smallest idea of its timeless beauty. That I then went on to study (for want of a better word) at the achingly beautiful Magdalen College goes to show that whatever other deficiencies my education may have had at least it was picturesque.
Herbert Howells wrote often of that head start that being born in Gloucestershire gave to a composer, of the immemorial sound of voices, and of the Cathedrals of the Three Choirs as the houses of the mind. Amen to that, amen also to the old school gym now bearing its new name of the Ivor Gurney Hall.