Phase 3 Begins!

This week Phase 3 of our restoration works began, which will see more of our roofs repaired and made watertight, and work to important windows. In particular, the Schoolroom’s roof will be repaired: it is currently in a very sorry state, but will eventually cover the entrance and main part of our Visitor Centre. The cloisters will also be worked on, including the windows which face on to the Garth. The Garth having been restored in the past year, Pugin’s original windows which look on to it will be repaired.

Roof_removed1

Work has begun with the removal of the roof over the ‘yard’ between the Schoolroom and Sacristy.

The East Window – one of the glories of the site – will be removed to be repaired and cleaned before being carefully replaced. It is one of the windows that Pugin himself put in the church and catches the visitor’s eye with its intricate designs.

 

With St. Augustine’s Week coming up 25th-31st May, the work has been carefully planned to present as little disruption as possible. The cloisters will remain accessible even whilst work is being undertaken on the windows. The church will also be open as usual.

 

Phases 1 and 2 have secured the future of the church itself and its tower by repairing those roofs – often using Pugin’s original tiles and techniques. The tower had a completely new roof put on, after making do with a leaking temporary roof for many decades. The Garth was also re-done, with ground-level lighting installed, turf put down, and the well head capped with the original stone. A major project was undertaken on some of the windows to repair and replace some of the glass (in particular in the Lady Chapel and the windows of Saints Stephen and Lawrence), as well as the stonework and Pugin’s clever drainage system to remove condensation. These phases were completed at the beginning and end of 2013 respectively.

Roof2

The leaking ‘temporary’ roof from Phase 1

Roof1

Pugin’s tiles – and one missing!

 

We are looking forward to working with our new contractors, Universal Stone, and securing the future of more of site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holy Week at St. Augustine’s

The week before Easter is known as Holy Week. It begins on Palm Sunday – celebrating Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem – and from Thursday to Sunday the story of the Passion is commemorated with special liturgies.

This year, for the first time since the 1960s, St. Augustine’s Holy Week liturgies will be entirely in the Extraordinary Form – one of only eight places in the country to do this and the only one with every service being sung. Therefore it is not only special for the liturgical significance, but also culturally for the quality of the music which is being sung in the context for which it was written.

The music is being sung by the Victoria Consort, who are well known at St. Augustine’s for filling the church with beautiful music for liturgies and concerts throughout the year. Its director, Dominic Bevan, has compiled a tremendous amount of music for these few days, as well as a booklet with all the liturgical music and psalms.

Holy Week is being celebrated with the full Triduum, complete with Tenebrae, on Palm Sunday, Wednesday evening, Thursday evening, Friday afternoon, Saturday evening and Sunday morning. The times are on the poster above.

St. Augustine’s is very grateful to Fr. Nicholas Rynne, from Australia, for agreeing to celebrate the liturgies. The parish Triduum will be celebrated at the parish church, St. Ethelbert’s, in the Ordinary Form by Fr. Marcus.

Every Day Opening – 1st Week Success

On 1st April, St. Augustine’s began opening to the public every day, 10am-4pm. This is a major step forward, as our purpose is to be visited. St. Augustine’s audience is varied: religious pilgrims, Pugin fans (of all degrees of knowledge), architects and architectural historians, schoolchildren, families… many people fit into more than one category, and we try to accommodate them all. Therefore being open every day of the week is a very important step.
In the first week we welcomed approximately 100 people – an incredible number considering the amount of publicity and expected numbers. The number of people who must previously have walked past, or travelled especially expecting the place to be open, must be very high. We are pleased to be able to serve them every day and allow them to see the unexpected glory inside.

Daily Opening: Volunteers Meet for the First Time

On 25th March all the volunteers who will watch St. Augustine’s during the new opening hours met for a briefing session, get-together, and introductory tour. The new opening times are 10am – 4pm every day, which is a huge leap up from Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday. For this a rota of 30 volunteers has been drawn up, and almost everyone on the list was able to come on Tuesday.
The group began by assembling in the nave where Fr. Marcus addressed the group. The group contained several people who had not had direct contact with St. Augustine’s before, and several people who, whilst helping at The Grange next door, have not been involved with St. Augustine’s opening before. Therefore Fr. Marcus informed everyone of the latest progress in the project at St. Augustine’s; he told them how important it is to open St. Augustine’s to visitors; the group were shown plans to understand the plans for St. Augustine’s as it develops.
There was some time in the Schoolroom for relaxation and for people to chat. Then Fr. Marcus gave another brief address, and John Coverdale affirmed that this is an exciting project that should engage with various communities, from the local people, to tourists, to pilgrims, to Pugin experts, and also international visitors.
After this a short tour was conducted by Fr. Marcus. He showed the impressive stained glass, the details of the St. Joseph and St. John chapels, the stained glass, various architectural features, and the special Pugin items used in the church. The Volunteers were impressed and interested, and, it being a sunny day, the stained glass looked particularly impressive.
A photo was taken in the Garth of the volunteers, all looking very cheery!
St. Augustine Ramsgate volunteers 2014-3

New Neighbours! Divine Retreat Centre UK opens in former St. Augustine’s Abbey

The site of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Ramsgate, (across the road from St. Augustine’s Church) has been bought by Vincentians from India, part of the Marymatha Province of the Vincentian Congregation, Angamaly, India, who plan to turn the former Abbey into a retreat centre.

The new project was inaugurated with a Bible Convention, culminating in a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Peter Smith at 3pm on Sunday 16th March. St. Augustine’s provided many of the liturgical items and vestments, as well as the serving team and choir, for the Mass which was held in a large marquee in the grounds of the Divine Retreat Centre UK.

It was a truly spectacular occasion, with approximately 2,000 people coming from across the country to the Mass – coachloads of people were parked on Royal Esplanade and more came in their own cars. The event had been advertised on the Vincentians’ own television channel – DivineTV. The Mass, celebrated by Archbishop Peter Smith, was concelebrated by Monsignor John Armitage (Vicar General, Brentwood), Rev. Dr. Paul Puthuva VC (Provincial Superior, Marymatha Province), Dom John Seddon and Dom Thomas Kolangaden of St. Augustine’s, Chilworth (formerly St. Augustine’s, Ramsgate), other Vincentian priests, and several local priests. Dom Benedict Austen, also of St. Augustine’s, Chilworth, attended too, making up the three monks representing the former custodians of this site.

The Mass began with a large procession, in which Dom John carried a candle, lit at St. Augustine’s Cross the night before, and it was solemnly given to the Archbishop who entrusted it to Fr. Paul Puthuva, symbolising the transfer of the site to the Vincentians. After the Mass there were various speeches by the clergy and by local dignitaries, and a traditional Indian lamp was lit. As the photos and videos show, the weather was perfect and one of the warmest days of the year so far.

Very nearly everyone – probably 2,000 people – visited St. Augustine’s Church that day. St. Augustine is an important figure for the Vincentians’ mission, as they seek to preach the Gospel in England just as St. Augustine did over 1,400 years ago. Therefore it is very good for them to be so close to the Shrine of St. Augustine, and they encouraged their pilgrims to make the pilgrimage across the road to St. Augustine’s Church. The candle stands were ablaze throughout the day and the site was full of people marvelling at the Stations of the Cross, in the various chapels, at the Relic of St. Augustine and in front of the Blessed Sacrament. It was a truly holy day.

The Vincentians are charismatic Catholics who have had great success in India. They are establishing their European base in Ramsgate as the basis of providing an evangelisation and retreat centre for the whole of the UK and Europe. St. Augustine’s is very pleased to have been able to help in such a groundbreaking occasion and hopes to have very good co-operation with our new neighbours into the future.

More photos of the occasion can be seen here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rcsouthwark/sets/72157642554566444/

Pugin Concerts 2014 – Thames Chamber Choir series finale

To mark the 202nd birthday of AWN Pugin, the celebrated architect of the Gothic revival in the 19th century who was born on 1 March 1812, the Friends of St. Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate organised a series of three concerts to take place during late February and March 2014. The stirring finale came on Saturday 15 March with the Thames Chamber Choir playing to a full and appreciative audience.

After a solemn entrance, they sang a marvellous plainsong Gloria, which was entirely appropriate for the magnificent setting of Pugin’s church and which set the mood for the whole evening.  The first half opened with O Magnum Mysterium by Tomás Luis de Victoria and afterwards featured works by Palestrina, Lotti, J.S. Bach, Taverner and Gabrielli.   It closed with a memorable musical setting of I give thee thanks O Lord, based on Psalm 138 and set to music by Andrew Campling, the choir’s musical director.

The interval itself provided further example of the choir’s versatility.  Having discovered that it was Fr. Marcus Holden’s birthday, he was treated by the choir to a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ which was doubtless more in tune than any previous version he had ever heard.

The second half opened with three motets by Anton Bruckner, followed by a beautiful musical setting of The Spirit of the Lord from Isaiah, again written by Andrew Campling.  Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen (Seven Magnificat Antiphons) by Arvo Part followed.  Almighty Father by Leonard Bernstein came after this, a work which Jacqueline Kennedy had asked him to compose for the opening in 1971 of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.  The evening closed, as it had started, with O Magnum Mysterium, this time written by Morten Lauridsen, a Grammy nominee of 1998, and this setting is now one of his most-performed works.  The audience left in uplifted mood.

The Thames Chamber Choir is a vibrant group of about twenty singers, who have performed together since 1999.  The choir’s repertoire is mainly drawn from Renaissance and twentieth century a cappella music, and they occasionally collaborate with orchestras and other artists for special projects.

They can be followed on Twitter @TCCLondon.

 

Thames Chamber Choir

Pugin Concerts 2014 – Victoria Consort at St. Augustine’s

The Victoria Consort performed a concert on Saturday 8th March of Passiontide music associated with Rome’s Sistine Chapel. The audience spilled from the nave into the south aisle; the choir performed in front of the altar.

The theme of the concert was to progress through the ceremonies of the Easter Triduum, in particular Good Friday. The Rector of St. Augustine’s, Fr. Marcus Holden, introduced each piece of music with sentences about the composer and a translation of the Latin words. As the Stabat Mater finished the choir rearranged themselves for Victoria’s Lamentations, associated with Tenebrae. Fr. Marcus explained that traditionally this is sung before the ‘banging of the books’: with the church in darkness the books would be banged to represent thunder and shaking of the earth at Jesus’ death. The music was haunting, and one could almost hear the weeping and sorrowing that it represents.

After more music, including Palestrina’s Adoramus Te Christe, the choir splitting in two – one part standing in the Lady Chapel, hidden from the audience in the nave, and the other part of the choir remaining at the altar. The music echoed down the south aisle from the Lady Chapel, joining the full volume of the main choir. Then Lotti’s Crucifixus was sung, which Fr. Marcus noted is almost visual in its representation of the Cross being raised higher and higher. Finally, Allegri’s Miserere crowned the evening with each top note hit perfectly.

Before the Miserere, Fr. Marcus thanked the Victoria Consort, who are well known at St. Augustine’s as they often provide music for Masses at the church. They will be singing a concert at the start of St. Augustine Week in Ramsgate on 25th May, as well as for St. Augustine Week Masses on 26th and 29th May. At the end of the Miserere, Victoria Consort left to enthusiastic applause.

The last of the Pugin Birthday Concerts 2014 will be this Saturday – 15th March – at 7.30pm, given by the Thames Chamber Choir. Tickets are £10 (£7.50 concessions).

Pugin Concerts 2014 – Quodlibet transports the audience back 400 years

Pugin Birthday Concerts

On 22nd February 2014, the audience at St. Augustine’s was transported back almost 400 years to 24th February 1622, in the secret private chapel of Ingatestone Hall, Essex, by Dr. Peter Giles and his choir Quodlibet.

The evening began with Dr. Giles setting the scene, before everyone enjoyed wine and sweetmeats, followed by the concert. The audience – or was it a congregation? – were all to become recusants: Catholics who, during the Reformation, broke the law by refusing to attend Church of England services. They were meeting at the home of the recusant Lord Petre to hear Mass. To be at a Mass or even to be a Catholic priest was illegal, and so this clandestine gathering met under significant threat. Dr. Giles took on the voice of Lord Petre: “Did you tell anyone why you were coming here tonight? Did you make sure you came by quiet winding roads? Did you keep your lanterns low? Were there shadows at the gatehouse? Young boys cannot be trusted, so the boys’ parts of the music will be sung by women. The renowned composer William Byrd, a friend of the Petre family and recusant who, for his musical talent, has had positions at the royal Court, is here to provide the music. This is a clandestine gathering, meeting under threat of the King’s Men, and in great peril. And so, if anyone asks why you were here, we meet only for sweetmeats and madrigals.”

22 - Quodlibet side

Following this scene-setting the audience moved from the church into the schoolroom, where all were served with wine and sweetmeats. This jolly part of the evening filled the schoolroom, and some people stood in the cloister, with much discussion, though perhaps under the slight apprehension felt by the recusants that the audience members were unwittingly playing!

Back in the church, the audience listened to a couple of madrigals, one a lament and another declaring these recusants’ secular loyalty to the king, for many recusants were loyal to the king, even if they could not join his religion. Taking the role of William Byrd, Dr. Giles announced that the priest for Mass – the Jesuit Fr. Henry Floyd – had arrived. The nave church was lit only with candles, the audience becoming secrets even to each other in the shadows.

So the madrigals ended and the music became the music for Mass. Mass was not celebrated; the music was intended to evoke it. Many of the pieces were by Byrd, including his Mass for Four Voices, with other pieces by Morley, Kirbye, Philips and Tallis. Richard Pond (tenor) read out the English meaning of the pieces, and Dr. Giles explained either the moment of the Mass each piece corresponded to or the relevance of the piece to the setting. For example we heard Morley’s Nolo mortem peccatoris – “I wish not the death of a sinner; this is the word of salvation,” around what would have been the central point of Mass, and Tallis’ O Nata Lux – “O nascent light of light” –  filled the dark space as Mass would have come to a safe end.

Back to the present, the choir received warm applause, and St. Augustine’s is very grateful to Quodlibet for providing such an entertaining evening.

22 - Quodlibet across

 

Quodlibet is a chamber choir established in 2000 by Dr. Peter Giles, singing concerts in the south east and London as well as for weddings, private functions, and charities. They specialise in the diverse and rich repertory written for small mixed-voice ensembles around the Renaissance.

They consist of: Ruth Hoskins (soprano); Jane Farrell (mezzo-soprano); Peter Giles (countertenor); Richard Pond (tenor); Jon Williams (bass-baritone); Neil Richards (bass).

 

The second concert in the series will be on Saturday 8th March at 7pm. Victoria Consort will perform “Allegri Miserere by Candlelight: Passiontide Music from the Sistine Chapel”