An icon of St Thomas of Canterbury made by Peter Murphy of Broadstairs, Kent. Part of the ‘Divine Dimensions’ exhibition at St. Peters.
A report of CGMS Vespers at St. Peter’s, Oare by Helen Nattrass
As I approached St. Peter’s Church at Oare on Sunday 26th October, I felt as if I were ‘going to work’ and was busy thinking about directing the Vespers and making sure that the Choir and the Congregation were settled and ready to sing the whole thing without any major snags.
Nothing prepared me for the glorious sight of the Iconostasis and its Icons as I entered the church. No photograph captures the deep yellow and sheen of pure gold and this exhibition had lots of it, with the portraits of Christ, Mary, the Saints, scenes from the life of Jesus and so on. Each picture had its individual character and its own inner story and life. We all spent minutes of wonder and awe gazing at the images in front of us.
For the Vespers we were a choir of around twenty people. We arranged ourselves in the choir stalls and waited for the Congregation to arrive. We expected a good turnout but could not believe it when we ended up with standing room only; and even that ran out by 6.30 when we began.
We sang the service through assisted by Carolin Clapperton, the Vicar at Oare. In some places the Congregation joined in as well. The Icons gave the Vespers service an extraordinary atmosphere. To conclude, the Choir came out of their benches, faced the Iconostasis and sang the solemn ‘Salve Regina’. There was a tangible sense of connection with the spirit of the images on view. After the last note died away there was total silence which lasted for several minutes before anyone felt they could move. In the end I think nobody wanted to leave the Icons.
We received many congratulatory comments from members of the congregation afterwards and, though credit should go to those of you who came along and were part of the choir on the evening, some of the success is surely due to the very nature of Gregorian Chant and the excellent setting we were in. I would like to officially thank all those who came and sang, and especially congratulate those who took the plunge and sang with us after only a limited amount of chant experience.
Our social hour afterwards at the Three Mariners sealed this project in a very convivial manner!