National Carol Service Chichester 2016

A train strike, traffic delays and fog did not deter members from going to Chichester in West Sussex for the National Carol Service on Tuesday 6th December.

The green copper roof and spire rising above the small city showed us where to find the cathedral. It is close to the sea and is said to be the only mediaeval cathedral which can be seen from the sea and has been used as a landmark by sailors, including Sir Francis Chichester whose pennant from his round the world trip is hung there. Those who got there early had a chance to look at this and the other interesting art work, including a window by Mark Chagall and a painting by Graham Sutherland.

Originally a Saxon church was built here but it was on a site used in earlier days by the Romans for a town and a piece of 2nd century mosaic can be seen in the present Norman Cathedral which was started in 1076. Among the monuments and graves in the Cathedral is that of the composer Gustav Holst and we were looking forward to the music in the service in the afternoon.

There were concerns about Her Royal Highness, the Princess Royal, being able to get to the service due to the weather and there was a collective sigh of relief when she walked down the aisle at the start of the service, easily seen in a vibrant red coat which we were delighted to see had her Townswomen's badge pinned on it.

She was accompanied by the National Chairman, Jenny Rideout and the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, Mrs Susan Pyper. The Lord-Lieutenant, whose main duty is to uphold the dignity of the Crown, is Her Majesty's personal representative in the county. This is an ancient office, dating back to the reign of Henry Vlll.

The current National Trustees were all able to attend and they were accompanied by two former National Chairman, Margaret Key and Sue Smith OBE, plus the Mayor and Mayoress of Chichester, Councillor Peter Budge and Mrs Philippa Budge.

The service started with the choir from The Prebendal School leading us in singing the first carol. The school has ancient origins as the medieval cathedral 'song school' based close by in the thirteenth century school house.

After we were welcomed by the Dean of Chichester, The Very Reverend Stephen Waine, the service continued with the Christmas story being told in familiar readings, modern versions focusing on the hands of the main people in the story read by some of the current National Trustees and past Chairmen, well known carols sung by the members and some by the school choir.

Before Princess Anne's reading, the members sang 'I am a small part of the world' and the children in the choir were obviously interested in this song which they had not come across before, and could be seen glancing at the members as they sang and seemed fascinated by the holding of hands at the end of the song.

The Dean of Chichester gave his address which included references to the value members gained by joining TG and our continued campaigning.

At the end of the service Princess Anne mouthed a 'thank you ' to the children in the choir and she seemed to be relaxed and was smiling as she left, holding a pretty posy which we had presented to her. The National Trustees were on hand to give season's greetings to members as they left the service and they enjoyed having a chance to catch up with old and new friends who were there.

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