Compline at Clumber Park Chapel

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Saturday 20th June 2015

A Race for Compline at Clumber

On Saturday 20th June some three dozen or so singers gathered in the beautiful Bodley-designed Chapel of St Mary the Virgin in Clumber Park. On arrival, some had wondered if this popular event had been rather over-subscribed, for Clumber Park was full of both cars and people. It transpired that a ‘Race for Life’ event was also taking place that day – a ‘Pretty Muddy 5k’. Most singers were relieved that the journey from the field doubling as a car park to the chapel wasn’t as tasking and muddy as the impression given by the mud-covered apparitions milling around the place. I write ‘most’ as at least one person was there for both events – never let it be said that altos are not adventurous.

Some of those arriving in the Chapel were concerned that the unusual parking arrangements at Clumber had left them late for rehearsal and were perhaps initially relieved that the 1pm rehearsal had not yet started. However, there was some concern that several singers, the music and most of all the Director for the day, Stephen Bullamore were all absent.

Meanwhile, some miles to the South of Clumber, the Newark contingent, including Stephen, were drifting very, very slow up the A616. Their journey had started an hour or so earlier with an attempt to reach the A1 – not normally a major task from the town. It transpired, though, that the roadworks which had been undertaken a few weeks earlier had been incomplete and at short notice the North-bound carriageway had been closed from between Newark and Retford. And so, carefully avoiding the Boyzone stage, they battled their way back through the town and headed over the Smeaton Arches. Now in slow-moving traffic they called ahead to the National Trust at Clumber to send a message through to the Chapel that we hoped to be rehearsing by 2pm.

Alas, such optimism proved unfounded. Some three hours after departure from Newark the party arrived at Clumber. As the service was due to start imminently, Stephen gave out the music, led a brief rehearsal and we sang Compline from cold.

Father John Willett was our calm, experienced and smooth-toned priest. He took the unusual arrangements entirely in his stride and sang the Office beautifully. The service was dedicated to David Cowlishaw and participants did him proud. We did not risk the planned polyphonic antiphon, but sang all the plainsong that had been planned.

For all that the best was made of the situation, clearly this was not the afternoon which participants had hoped for and some (who had not sung this service before and so did not know the music) did not feel able to stay, particularly given the now mounting queue of cars leaving Clumber. Thus a further Compline event has been arranged for September. There will be no charge for those who had booked for the Clumber event – if you took music away, please bring it with you to this additional service. Compline will take place in the glorious acoustic of the Chapter House of Southwell Minster on Wednesday 9th September. Rehearsal at 8pm, Compline at 9pm, it will once again be led by Stephen Bullamore.

Stephen Bullamore

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