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  • "My heart is inditing of a good matter : I speak of the things which I have made unto the King.
    My tongue is the pen : of a ready writer"
    Psalm XLV The Book of Common Prayer

    When I was nine, I used to sing psalms in church. I was in the choir of our local parish, and we wore blue cassocks with little blue caps, held on with hair grips, and white collars. We were a mixed choir, adults and children, boys and girls.

    I didn't understand them, of course, but I was hypnotised by the sound - it's not so much singing, as chanting. A form of meditation, I would think, much later.

    I was more or less brought up in the tradition of the Church of England, but my parents were not practitioners (though they appreciated the break that sending us to Sunday school on a Sunday morning allowed them) and my grandfather, who had been in the Royal Flying Corps in WW1, was a fanatical atheist and despised all religious nonsense.

    The tradition of Choral Evensong (when psalms are sung) is dying out in many small churches now, as they no longer have the resources. Children don't sing in village choirs any more, so the only place you're guaranteed to hear it is in cathedrals and Oxford and Cambridge colleges.

    Most cathedrals and some colleges have schools for their choristers, which offer a fantastic education in return for the performance of the small boys (nearly all of them are for boys only) at the regular services, usually three on a Sunday and a few during the week.

    My nephews attended the school at St John's, Cambridge (one of them is in the photo) and with the choir they travelled the world. There are a lot of choir groupies in Japan, I was surprised to learn.

    Singing this stuff, even when you don't understand it, is, I believe, an introduction to what religion is all about.

    Picture credit, and further information about the choir of St John's:
    There are also links to webcasts on the site, if you're interested.
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