June 2, 2022

The Privilege of Choristership

Dear Friends,

It feels a bit like cheating (or goal-snatching?), but this ran across my desk and I felt the timing was meant to be. It is a copy of a speech that the British actor and comedian, Alexander Armstrong, gave at a concert at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, organized by the Friends of Cathedral Music there. He is, of course, speaking about the immersive and intense experience of being a chorister in a boarding school. Nevertheless, I have found the stories of choristers from all types of programs to be similar, even if with varying degrees of intensity. It is true, belonging to a more serious choir is much like playing a team sport, yet no-one sits on the bench! And singing is one of the few activities I can think of where children can actually perform at a professional level (and be treated like young professionals, for that matter). As we wrap up the current program year and look forward to summer activities, we are already beginning to plan more substantial programming for young voices in the fall. Now is the perfect time to be thinking about which activities will be most beneficial long-term, worth the commitment of time and energy which is required.

Jeremy Bruns

"The Privilege of Choristership" by Alexander Armstrong

Your Royal Highness, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen: good evening! What a spectacular event this is and what a great honour it is to be a part of it. I am thrilled to be here. Moreover, I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you briefly about the tremendous privilege of choristership: the single greatest leg-up a child can be given in life. 

Now, I know that sounds overblown and, yes, it is a bold claim but the more I think about it the truer I realise it is. Someone made the mistake of asking me during an interview the other day what the benefits are of being a chorister. Well that interview ended up overrunning by half of an hour and I was barely halfway through my list. 

The most obvious benefit is the total submersion in music. This is a ‘compleat’ musical education by process of osmosis. When you come to hang up your cassock for the final time at the age of 13 you will – without even having realised it was happening because you were just having a lovely time singing – have personal experience of every age and fashion of music from the ancient fauxbourdons of plainchant, to the exciting knotty textures of anthems so contemporary that the composers themselves might very well have conducted you. You will have breathed life into everyone from Buxtehude to Britten to Bach to Bridge to Bax to Brahms to Byrd to Bairstow to Bruckner to Bliss (and that’s just the Bs I can think of off the top of my head). But you will know them, know them and love them in the way only a performer truly can. Choral music, to this day, has the power to move me so profoundly that I can lose myself in it for hours and just ride out the happy contemplations it evokes. It is a constant and lifelong tiding of comfort and – euphoric – joy. 

Then there is the musicianship you absorb as a chorister, not just the music theory, the maths (the Italian!) all of which is very useful, but elegant musical phrasing, the projection of good diction, the shaping of beautiful vowel sounds for optimum tone, the careful precision singing a psalm, which can only be achieved by listening intently to those around you and blending your tone and rhythm with theirs – all of these skills and sensitivities become second nature and all of them have strange and unexpected use and resonance in later life. 

And then there’s the language – and I don’t mean the salty badinage of the vestry but the liturgy you’re immersed in, the psalms, the collects, the canticles – the poetry you get to sing (Herbert, Donne, Milton, Shakespeare, Hardy, Auden are all poets I first learnt to love – Christopher Smart even – by singing and performing their words). Your lexicon at the age of 13 is astounding, and your turn of phrase, taught by endless psalms and hymns, and not just the range of your vocabulary but your innate sense of the poetic. You will have come to know only too well the powerful quiet of an evensong, the sumptuous echo of a final amen sung from an ante-chapel but rolling around the clerestory like wine in a taster’s glass. 

And let’s not overlook the discipline of choristership; the order it brings to a young person’s often chaotic life, the friendship, the focus. Punctuality is one of the first lessons you learn: the ignominy of arriving even a minute late is something no chorister wants to experience twice. Then self-possession, decorum and grace are all attributes you quickly learn to fake – in the first instance – before adopting them for real as you gradually mature. But where else in the modern world is a child taught gravitas? Where else is a child taught, for example, to bow with proper dignity and humility? 

I owe my entire career to my experience as a chorister. It was where I learnt to perform, where I learnt to use the full range of my voice; where I learnt to listen, where I learnt to write comedy, where I learnt to carry a pencil at all times – but most importantly it was where I learnt the wonderful truth that something exceptional, something as beautiful as anything anywhere, can be created just by you and your friends. I remember on a choir tour to Salamanca (ooh travel there’s another benefit!) exploring the old cathedral with a couple of friends and finding ourselves alone in some sort of chapter house, we fired off a Boyce 3-part canon just to test the acoustics. A terrible, toe-curlingly self-indulgent thing to do but what a sound we made! And what a thing to discover: that we three – children essentially – carried between us all the components of something so joyous, so perfect, so complete. (And Boyce! There we are, there’s another B for my list.) 

I was lucky enough to be a chorister at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh which had a good mix of boy and girl choristers as is now fairly typical in cathedrals up and down the country. And both there and at Trinity College, Cambridge where I ended up as a choral scholar, I sang with people from all walks of life (many of whom had their entire educations – at some of the country’s best schools I might add – paid for by the music they had first learnt as choristers). I sang alongside some people of different faiths and plenty of none at all. And I am always heartened by the ethnic diversity in our cathedral and college choir rooms. So you see, you don’t need to be a boy to be a chorister, you don’t need to be a toff to be a chorister, you don’t need to be religious, you don’t even need to be Christian. Although as I say that I’m aware there is a certain spirituality that all choristers come to know well – something that lurks in the silences of a darkening nave while rush-hour traffic chugs about just yards outside the West door. A spirituality that is wrapped up in the ritual, the mystery and the beauty of this ancient tradition we have become part of. And I’m going to call that spirituality The Privilege of Choristership. That is what we are here tonight to celebrate and to preserve for the future, ‘throughout all generations.’


Pentecost: June 5

Join us for a festive Pentecost celebration as we rejoice in God's presence in our lives through the Spirit. We will have a joyous children's procession, the launch of a new children's sermon at the 10:00 am service, and a strawberry shortcake reception to follow. Church School children should meet Bryn and the teachers by the tower door at 9:55 am for the Pentecost procession. We will then proceed to the Bishop Garden for Church School. We hope you can join us for this wonderful festive day as we close our program year.


Funeral Announcement:
Jay Westcott

Jay Westcott, husband of Suzy Westcott, died this past week after a long illness. Suzy worked at Epiphany for many years as our financial administrator and recently retired to spend more time with Jay. Please keep Suzy and her family in your prayers. A memorial service for Jay Westcott will happen on Friday, July 8th at 11am at Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill. 


Office Staffed Limited Hours:
May 25 — June 8

Epiphany's Parish Administrator, Kathryn Dominguez, will be on vacation Wednesday, May 25 through Wednesday, June 8. During this time, the parish office will be staffed by volunteers for limited hours from 9:00 am — 1:00 pm Monday through Thursday. Many thanks to volunteers Marie Johnson, Laurie Minniti, Joan O'Connor, and Pat Aldrich for their help! 


June Birthdays and Anniversaries

Congratulations to all our Epiphany friends celebrating birthdays and anniversaries during the month of June! 


New Epiphany Household Directory

A new May 2022 Epiphany household directory is now available for download! However, we need your help. This is the first directory produced with our new database program, Realm — please take a moment to review your household information and confirm its accuracy. For any corrections or changes, please contact Kathryn in the parish office. 


Winchester Town Day Trolley Tours

On Winchester Town Day – Saturday, June 4, there will be four trolley tours, from Winchester Common. They will include:

Churches and the Communities of Faith – 9:45 AM to 10:30 AM
Tour Description: Winchester Churches, and their Communities of Faith, are well recognized in, and beyond Winchester. Ranging from the Congregational Churches, through the Unitarian Society, Parish of the Epiphany, and others; the tour will pass by their buildings, their architecture, and their architectural styles, which complement the beauty of the town, and the challenges of faith communities.

Parks and Landscapes of Winchester – 12:45 PM to 1:30 PM
Tour Description: Winchester, is known for its beautiful landscape of parks, beaches, and fields. While this may appear rather natural, it is largely the result of decades of planning, conceptualization, and work. We will pass by a number of such locations, and narrate their various aspects of connection to the beauty, and desirability of the town.

Vincent Lawrence “Vince” Dixon, Historian, and Epiphany parishioner, who specializes in local, church, landscape, and educational history, will be the tour guide.


Winchester PRIDE Fest 2022

Purchase your Epiphany PRIDE Fest T-shirt!

Save the date for Winchester's 2nd annual PRIDE Fest on Wednesday, June 8 at 5:00 pm in Winchester Town Center! Co-sponsored by Network for Social Justice and the Town of Winchester, PRIDE Fest is a community-centered Winchester-based event featuring multiple ways for attendees to educate themselves about LGBTQ+ rights and issues and celebrate Pride through music, crafts and creative games. This year’s festival will include students and community-staffed tables and a mainstage with musical performances, a DJ, and speeches by Winchester middle and high school students. Show your PRIDE and purchase your Parish of the Epiphany PRIDE Fest T-shirt showing our support.


Evensong: June 12

All are invited to a service of Choral Evensong on Sunday, June 12 at 5:00 pm. Choral Evensong is the most particularly Anglican service in all of Christian worship. Originating from monastic hours, it consists of the distinctive parts of the ancient offices of Vespers and Compline. The choir offers canticles, prayers, and anthems so that everyone’s devotions at the end of the day may be enhanced by music, scripture, and candlelight. 


Register Now for Parish Weekend Away!

To register for Epiphany's intergenerational Parish Weekend Away at the Barbara C. Harris Camp & Conference Center in Greenfield, NH the weekend of September 23-25, 2022, please click the button below! 

Please note that our overnight registration is currently full. Please fill out the registration form if you are interested in being added to our waitlist. We are actively trying to secure additional lodging. You are also welcome to register for Saturday full day only or Sunday morning and lunch only. 

Register for Parish Weekend Away!

Help with Fellowship Hour in June

We are looking forward to fellowship hours on Sundays in May, and would greatly appreciate your help! Please click on the button below to contribute a baked good, fresh fruit, a gluten-free snack, and/or your time. 

Sign Up to Help with Fellowship Hour!

Youth Lock-In: June 24

Please save the date for a Youth Group Lock-In! We'll gather the evening of Friday, June 24 for a progressive dinner, games, and fellowship. On Saturday, we will learn more about a local organization making a difference in the community, and spend a couple hours working with them. Please reach out to Eva Dalzell with any questions or if you'd like to help out! 


This Week's Calendar

Click here to access the complete parish calendar.

Thursday, June 2

5:30pm Men's Group via Zoom 

7:30pm Healing Prayer via Zoom

7:30pm Parish Choir Rehearsal in the Upper Parish Hall 

9:00pm Compline via Zoom 

Saturday, June 4

5:00pm Scouts BSA Blue and Gold Banquet in Hadley Hall and Cloister Garden  

Sunday, June 5

8:00am Holy Eucharist in the Sanctuary 

9:00am Bible Study in the Suter Room

9:00am Fellowship Hour in Hadley Hall 

9:00am Parish Choir Warm-up in the Sanctuary

9:00am Zoom Church School Lesson via Zoom 

10:00am Holy Eucharist in the Sanctuary, Hadley Hall, and via YouTube 
10:00am Church School in the Bishop Garden

11:15am Pentecost Strawberry Shortcake Reception in Hadley Hall and Cloister Garden

11:15am High School Youth Group in the Garret and via Zoom

2:00pm Cub Scout Wolf Den Meeting in Hadley Hall and Cloister Garden 

5:30pm Middle School Youth Group in the Garret and via Zoom

Monday, June 6 

5:00pm Prayer Team Meeting via Zoom
6:00pm AA Meeting in Hadley Hall
7:30pm AA Meeting in Hadley Hall

Tuesday, June 7

8:30am Employment Transition Group via Zoom 

9:30am Staff Meeting in the Suter Room
6:00pm Property Committee Meeting in the Suter Room

Wednesday, June 8

6:30pm Children's Choir Rehearsal in Upper Parish Hall

Thursday, June 9

5:30pm Men's Group via Zoom 

7:30pm Healing Prayer via Zoom

7:30pm Parish Choir Rehearsal in the Upper Parish Hall 

9:00pm Compline via Zoom 


For More Information

For pastoral emergencies, please contact Rev. Nick by dialing 781-729-1922 Ext. 5. 
Click to view our Family Newsletter for parents, youth, and children. 
Click to find information on our worship services
Click to learn more if you are new to Epiphany.
Sign-up for online pledge payments here.


70 Church Street, Winchester, MA  01890