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669: Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland
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Christ Church cathedral, Dublin
Mystery Worshipper: Succentor.
The church: Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland.
Denomination: Church of Ireland.
The building: This building is an imposing granite edifice of ancient foundation, but added to and altered over centuries, with significant Victorian restoration. It has a very pretty 19th century interior; the magnificent tiled floor adds to the beauty of the place.
The church: Dublin is unique in having two Anglican cathedrals. Christ Church is the diocesan one, and St Patrick's – which is just down the road – is the national cathedral.
The cast: No names were listed however the cast included the Dean, a Canon, the Precentor and the Dean's Verger.
What was the name of the service?
Choral evensong on the eve of All Saints day sung by the cathedral choir.

How full was the building?
There were roughly twenty people scattered around a building that could seat several hundred.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
The cathedral was locked when we arrived and there were no lights on to illuminate the dark churchyard. When the cathedral was opened and we went in, we were handed a service sheet. The greeting, shall we say, lacked warmth...

Was your pew comfortable?
No pews. Wooden chairs with cane seats fixed to spacing bars. Very little space allocated per person. For those of us with ample upholstery it was a most uncomfortable experience.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
When we arrived, the organist was giving the fine three manual 1984 instrument a good going-over, which was most enjoyable. However, he soon packed up and scurried off to the vestry. The place was very quiet. Very few people spoke to each other. However, the two vergers were having a good chinwag at the west end, so silence was not total. Another organist arrived a few minutes before the service and gave us the usual "shooby-doo" pre-evensong busking. I must say I enjoyed listening to and watching him grind his way through several awkward modulations.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
"O Lord, open thou our lips," intoned by the precentor.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
None – we had a laminated card with the words and rubrics for evensong. We were also given a printed booklet containing the words to the psalm, anthem, etc.

What musical instruments were played?
Very nice pipe organ – extremely well played.

Did anything distract you?
Three things distracted me: 1) Fireworks exploding outside the Cathedral throughout the service. 2) Annoying American tourists behind us talking all the way though about the cost of their accommodation. 3) A bass choral scholar positively shouting his way through the music. I had to stifle the urge to get up and shout, "This is a four-part choir you know!" In addition, I enjoyed watching the verger making a meal out of verging the dean approximately three steps from his stall to the lectern and back again, Also the place was freezing and my bum was sore sitting on that wretched chair.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
The service was firmly cathedral tradition prayer book choral evensong. It was beautiful.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
No sermon, but had it been warmer, I would have welcomed the chance to hear the dean preach.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music was exquisite. The psalm singing was spot on, although I thought a change of chant in the long psalm would have been nice. The anthem, Harwood's "O How Glorious" was perfect for All Saints eve and sent a shiver down my spine on several occasions. The dean reading the first lesson was absolutely beautiful. The fabulous concluding voluntary showed off the skill of the player and the wonderful quality of the instrument. A real treat (although a 32' pedal reed to finish it off would have been the icing on the cake).

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
There was an unfortunate moment during the canticles where a keen soprano made her entry a tad early. All her colleagues turned to glare at her. Having been in that situation myself on more occasions than I care to mention, I felt my toes curl for her.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
We were all herded towards the door, so there was no chance to hang about. The precentor said good night and smiled warmly.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
9 – I have been a cathedral person since I was seven years old and I love the dignity and beauty of the cathedral tradition. I would be happy to make this my "local" if I didn't live in another country.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. Some people find the cathedral tradition cold and stiff, but I rejoice in the beauty of the words and music and the history of the tradition.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The thrilling sound of the choir and organ.
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