Student Reflection: Jonathan White

Schola Cantorum’s 2015 Tour

by Jonathan White

As a Brit, arriving at Heathrow airport is normally an unremarkable affair; since relocating to Yale almost a year earlier, it had become a regular event for me. Yet this trip home was different – the familiar North American cadence of my friends and companions, which had become so familiar over the last nine months, suddenly seemed somewhat out of place. Maybe it was the jet-lag, but I was having a lot of difficulty in reconciling the nostalgia of being on home territory with the sight of an equally jet-lagged and disoriented Yale Schola Cantorum eagerly awaiting the arrival of our guide.

Thus began the whirlwind that was to be the 12-day tour of England and Paris, initially with a two-day stop in the historic city of Winchester. Deposited by the statue of King Alfred, we were fed and watered, and led straight into the cathedral – yes, this is still the same day! – for our first rehearsal. I can safely say that we sounded a lot better than we looked.  For me there is  a very personal connection with Winchester, as indeed there was with most of the venues on the tour.  Years ago this had been the first cathedral in which I had conducted choral evensong as a “boy” of only 19, while Schola’s current conductor, David Hill, was organist and master of the Choristers there. 

Following two rather relaxed nights in sleepy Winchester, we were transplanted to London, stopping en route for an evensong at the Old Royal Naval Chapel, Greenwich. From our London base at Russell Square, we then spent the next few days shuttling to various venues, including two performances at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, where we were given dressing rooms in “The Dungeon,” had a privately guided tour of the chapel, and the opportunity to explore the ancient and historic castle buildings.  It was there we discovered that Her Majesty’s royal bands were familiar with Disney repertoire (I am reliably informed that one of the pieces performed during the changing of the guard at the castle – an historic and very formal affair – was a medley from Frozen!). We also gave performances at Westminster Abbey and St. John’s Smith Square (a church tucked right behind the Houses of Parliament).

Rehearsing in the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, OxfordAs a native of Oxford, however, the highlight for me was our concert with Juilliard415 in the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford. Our tour concluded with a visit to Cambridge (“the other place” for Oxonians) for another joint evensong, a live concert broadcast on BBC 3 Radio, and possibly the shortest trip to Paris on record – little more than 20 hours in the city of love—for our final concert at the Church of St. Sulpice.

When I first discovered that I would be going on tour to my homeland, I had mixed emotions. However, this Schola tour turned out to be one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my educational career to date. I was able to reconnect with places that had been formative in my own musical life to date, while experiencing my country once again as a “tourist”, all while being able to share it with my friends from Yale.




Jonathan White is a candidate for the M.A.R. at the ISM and Yale Divinity School