From April 29 to May 5, 2019 the ONENESS-DREAM choir toured the south of England and experienced the powerful relationship between ancient holy places, churches and cathedrals, and modern spirituality through the songs of Sri Chinmoy.
During our tour we sang in the magnificent cathedrals of Ely and Wells; we were privileged to sing in Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, surely one of the most beautiful buildings in the world; appreciated the perfect acoustics in two of Sir Christopher Wren’s churches in London; performed in some charming village churches in Lavenham, Axbridge and Steeple Ashton and sang at the ancient sacred sites of Avebury and the mystic Glastonbury Tor.
The above video is a short summary of the whole tour. You can find below a description of each location where we sang including some photos and video clips. Finally, at the bottom of the page is a gallery of photos from the whole tour.
Monday 29th April
St Peter and St Paul Church in Lavenham, Suffolk
Lavenham is a very picturesque village that became very wealthy in 15th Century, prospering from the wool trade. Most of the buildings in the village date from that period and are timber-framed and leaning in all manner of directions! The church is very large and impressive for the size of the village and was the perfect place to start the tour. After the concert we treated to tea and cakes.
St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Bury St. Edmunds Abbey was once one of the most significant Benedictine Monasteries in England. It was a centre of pilgrimage since 869 as the burial place of the Anglo-Saxon martyr-king Saint Edmund. That is until Henry VIII had most of it destroyed in the dissolution of the monasteries. It was a huge complex which now lies in ruins except for one church which has been immaculately restored and is now the cathedral. After an enthusiastic introduction we gave our second performance of the day, followed by lunch in the cathedral cafe.
King’s College Chapel, Cambridge
King’s College Chapel is world-famous and it was a real privilege for ONENESS-DREAM to be able to give a short, private performance here. Not only is it a beautiful place to sing, but it holds a special significance for us because Sri Chinmoy has performed here and his teacher, Sri Aurobindo, was a student at King’s College. We sang a song that Sri Chinmoy composed dedicated to Sri Aurobindo and another song honouring Cambridge University. For many of us it was the highlight of the tour.
Tuesday 30th April
Soaring majestically above the flat fenland plains, Ely Cathedral is one of England’s finest cathedrals. Founded in 672 by St. Ethelreda, it was originally a small abbey church, which over the years has been rebuilt and extended. The most celebrated feature of the cathedral is the central octagonal tower, an architectural wonder of the age. We gave two performances: one in the presbytery (with a wonderful view of the full length of the cathedral) and another in the Lady Chapel, which we enjoyed because of the lengthy reverb.
St Michael’s Church, Cambridge
St. Michael’s church was originally part of Michaelhouse College in the University of Cambridge. However, now the church has been split into an inner chapel (where we gave a concert to a full audience) and a busy city-centre cafe, which was a convenient place to have lunch!
Wednesday 1st May
St Mary-at-Hill Church, London
St. Mary-at-Hill is one of the many churches in central London to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren (his most famous church being St. Paul’s Cathedral). His style is unique – a high dome with central lantern – creating the feeling of space and light. We enjoyed singing here – the acoustics were wonderful.
St. Stephen Walbrook Church, London
St. Stephen Walbrook is also designed by Sir Christopher Wren and considered by some to be his finest church. It has a beautiful, light interior and one of the best acoustics we have sung in. This church is well known for music and singing. We enjoyed our time here immensely.
Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square, London
Holy Trinity is a large, wide church set just off bustling Sloane Square in central London. As soon as you step inside it feels peaceful. We admired its beautiful stained glass windows and impressive organ.
Thursday 2nd May
Dorchester Abbey, Oxfordshire
This abbey is in the small village of Dorchester but once had a diocese that stretched as far as the Humber in the north of England. It was founded in 1140 by Augustinian monks, although there was an earlier wooden cathedral built here for St Birinus by the Saxon kings Cyneglis and Oswald around 650. After the concert we were delighted to see in the audience an old friend Revd Dr Marcus Braybrooke. He is the joint President for the World Congress of Faiths and has achieved much with the interfaith community.
Wesley Memorial Church, Oxford
We gave our second concert in the Wesley Memorial Methodist church in Oxford, the city where John and Charles Wesley began the Methodist movement.
St. Michael at the North Gate, Oxford
Our third concert was in St. Michael at the North Gate. This Saxon church is Oxford’s oldest building.
Friday 3rd May
The Stone Circles of Avebury, Wiltshire
Avebury is a remarkable neolithic site that contains the largest megalithic stone circle in the world. It is amazing to think that these stones have been here for 5000 years. It was created in the same period as its more famous neighbour, Stonehenge. However, at Avebury you are free to wander (and sing!) amongst the stones.
St Mary’s Church, Steeple Ashton, Wiltshire
In the village of Steeple Ashton, with its many thatched houses, St. Mary’s church is beautiful and impressive. It has been described as an architectural gem and one of the finest examples of Perpendicular Gothic architecture in the country. We gave a lunchtime concert here to a surprisingly good audience, given the size of the village. The vicar, Oliver Learmont, must have done a very good job encouraging the local population.
Wells Cathedral has been called the most beautiful of the English cathedrals and it is difficult to disagree. That was certainly the feeling amongst the members of ONENESS-DREAM, many of whom also visited the cathedral the next day. We walked up the worn, stone steps to the exquisite chapter house and sang there for 30 minutes, enjoying the long acoustic reverb.
Glastonbury Abbey now lies in ruins but it was once one of the most powerful monasteries in the country. Glastonbury is full of the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. In the abbey grounds you can see a grave that is marked as that of King Arthur. Another legend has it that Joseph of Arimathea came to Glastonbury. It is certainly very peaceful in the abbey grounds and it does feel like a special place. We sang in the Lady Chapel which felt like the nicest (and most sheltered) place to sing.
When visiting Glastonbury you have to climb the Tor. So, although it was the end of a long day, that is exactly what we did. The Tor rises up dramatically from the Somerset levels and can been seen from miles around. It is not difficult to see why this place would have had great significance for thousands of years. Some identify the mystic Tor as the Isle of Avalon in Arthurian legend. It does feel quite special to be on top of this ancient Tor with great views in all directions. It is certainly a special place, but due to the strong winds our performance was kept fairly short.
Saturday 4th May
Church of St John the Baptist, Axbridge
Axbridge is a charming market town at the foot of the mendips. Just off the medieval square if the church of St. John the Baptist. It is a beautiful setting and the church was a favourite amongst the members of ONENESS-DREAM. The unique blue ceiling gave the church a light feeling. On our way to the church we bumped into two friendly ladies at the market who made up most of the audience for this performance. We enjoyed singing here very much.
The Lord Mayor’s Chapel, Bristol
It is quite easy to miss this hidden gem at the heart of Bristol. Many people just walk past the unremarkable front of the church, however, once you step inside, you find yourself in a unique church full of character and history.
ONENESS-DREAM sang in the Lord Mayor’s Chapel on Saturday and Sunday, recording many of the songs from this tour.
This picture shows the founder of the choir, Snatak, with his assistant Nirbhasa, listening to Oneness-Dream singing in the Lord Mayor’s chapel. Snatak would often make comments on our singing and offer suggestions on how we could improve. This was the final performance of the tour and also the last time Snatak heard Oneness-Dream sing. He passed away only a few months later. He attended many of the concerts on the tour and despite his fragile condition, frequently surprised his helpers by insisting on being present at the next performance.