I wonder if Sir Christopher Wren had looked into his crystal ball would he have seen how wondrous a task he was undertaking when he designed St Pauls Cathedral? From its design and conception in the 1600’s to the present day St Pauls has grown into an iconic landmark that serves the community and brings history to life.
Embracing The Old & The New
In more recent times St Pauls has embarked on a calendar of events that keeps abreast of the modern world. The Cathedral is not a stark, decrepit building for the religious few. It is a dome-topped, elaborate time-machine that embraces the twenty-first century by amalgamating the artistic skills of a by-gone age with modern technology. Visitors can experience a wealth of activities as well as the Cathedral’s original usage as a House of God. Sight-seers can book their tickets and climb the Whispering Dome; tour the galleries on foot or through virtual media; admire the breath-taking artwork from floor to ceiling or enjoy afternoon tea in the Restaurant.
The Best Of Wren, Where & Who
In the Crypt far underground lie our national heroes. Sir Christopher Wren, Lord Nelson, Duke of Wellington and more recently Baroness Margaret Thatcher, daughter of a humble grocer from Grantham embarked upon her final journey here with all the pomp and ceremony of a State Funeral.
Music On A High Note
There are records of the choir’s existence going back to 1127. Today it is some 30 strong ranging from boy treble to adult bass voices. Daily repertoire follows the monastic tradition that can be accompanied or sung a cappella and in-house and community concerts are part of St Pauls inclusive outreach programme.
There are four separate organs at St Pauls, namely the Grand, the Chapel and two smaller organs. The former of the four was newly built in 1872 and the most recent replacement was in 2012 to the Chapel Organ. The Grand is a massive and costly beast with the usual pipes, stops, pedals and manuals but its update has opened up the possibility of a new and more diverse repertoire than the ‘ sacred standards’ of Handel and Bach.
Stop The Clock & Ring Those Bells!
Lady Thatcher’s funeral saw the silencing of Big Ben and the jubilant chiming of St. Paul’s Bells. There are 12 bells housed in the North-West Tower and Great Paul plus others of significance in the South Tower. Although many may think that bell ringing is only undertaken for its liturgical message and musical appeal – bell ringing is an exact science and it is in fact executed as a numerical exercise. Perhaps the Mars Bar advert over-simplifies the skills required as the ringers perform acrobatics in the steeple whilst enjoying their chocolate bar citing ‘Work, Rest & Play’.
Back To The Future
Sir Christopher Wren considered the design and completion of St Pauls to be his ‘’greatest work’’. His reputation as a scientist and mathematician was built on its success and is stands as an awesome sight today.
So if this wondrous dinosaur has learnt to re-invent itself and grow alongside the external world how can it adjust further? Well how about breaking with tradition and having girls in the choir…or a digital piano as well as the monstrous organ workings for a more informal Friday-night sing-a-long around the Old Joanna. The acoustics would be marvellous!
I think Lady Thatcher would approve after all she was a pre-internet Prime Minster that strode us with an iron will into the twenty-first century.
And Sir Christopher Wren may be looking down on us now with nodding approval.