One of the many wonderful things about being in Salisbury is that it makes a wonderful home base for exploring the rich history and landscape of Southern England. We spent our Wednesday break between rehearsals in Winchester, an ancient city that dates back to 150 BC. Winchester’s most famous son is Alfred the Great, who defeated the Vikings in 871 to become King of Wessex. Winchester was his capital.
Winchester’s most famous structure, of course, is its Cathedral, one of the most important royal churches in Anglo-Saxon England. The cathedral’s roots begin in the seventh century, when England’s pagan monarchy first became Christians.
In the 10th century, the cathedral became home to a community of Benedictine monks who prayed and chanted eight times a day. In this practice lies the beginning of the great English choral tradition that has brought our own choristers to Salisbury!
Winchester is also home to the Great Hall, which is known as “one of the finest surviving aisled halls of the 13th century.” The hall was constructed in 1067 by William the Conqueror, and contains the greatest symbol of medieval mythology, King Arthur’s Round Table.
Thursday was our day away from our work at Salisbury Cathedral, and we began early with a simple breakfast of chocolate croissants and fruit on the bus (or “coach” as we have come to know it!) By 10:00 we were on the ferry to The Isle of Wight, the site of Queen Victoria’s beloved Osborne House. Our tour included a look at many photographs and paintings of Victoria, Albert, and their nine children – as well as the generations of royals who are their legacy. Queen Elizabeth is the great, great granddaughter of Victoria and Albert.
We also had a tour of Carisbrooke Castle, where Charles I was imprisoned in the months prior to his trial. We learned about Charles I in London last Sunday, and saw the place where he was tried and executed, so visiting Carisbrooke brought the lesson all the way around. Our hands on experience of the historic castle was a favorite for many of the choristers, and made even better by the spectacular view of the modern day Isle of Wight which could be seen from the ancient walls.
We finished the day with dinner in the seaside town of Ryde before boarding the coach and returning – tired and happy – to Salisbury.
The photo gallery to the left shows a few more photos of The MasterSingers of The Choir School as Choir in Residence at Salisbury Cathedral!