Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I'm a Master of Music! And I'm heading to England!

I'm delighted to report that I passed my doctoral qualifying exam!  And with that, I've earned my master's degree, so I can call myself a Master of Music (it sounds so official, doesn't it!)  What's next?  I have two semesters of coursework left, including this one - I'm taking classes on early music notation and Martin Luther and the German Reformation, an independent study on English Reformation sacred music, and am serving as the TA for a freshman seminar centered around the musical performances happening on campus this semester.

With the qualifying exam out of the way, I can now start thinking seriously about my dissertation topic, and to that end, I'm heading to England this summer!  I went once as a child when my mother wanted to visit her old school friends (she did a semester at Oxford in college), but I didn't much care about cathedrals or libraries on that trip.  I'm ridiculously excited to have a whole summer to do pre-dissertation research and try to find both a dissertation topic and the resources to support it.

To that end, I have some questions for you, my dear blogging friends, many of whom are in England or have been there recently.

1) What should I be sure to do?  I'll be based in London but also doing a lot of traveling to various archives and cathedrals.  What's worth seeing, and what's free or nearly free?

2) What are the tricks to packing for a few months abroad?  I know I'll need plug adapters, but beyond that I'm still rather unprepared for this trip, and could use all the advice I can get!

3) If you're in England, would you like to meet for tea and bookish conversation?  I'd love to meet any bloggers in person!

4) If you live near one of the big academic libraries - like Oxford or Cambridge or Canterbury or Durham - might you consider letting me stay with you for a night or two?  Or do you have friends who might be willing to help out a young musicologist dying to see some music manuscripts in person?

13 comments:

  1. Well done and hope you have a wonderful time planning your trip and then making it!

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    1. Thank you! I'm really looking forward to the trip!

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  2. Congratulations. That's very exciting news!

    As for London, I've never lived there, but I've visited several times, and there's a lot to do that's free or close to it. Most of the major museums are free and worth visiting. Groundlings tickets at the Globe are also very cheap--and the seats are uncomfortable anyway, so you may as well pay less and stand. And the TKTS booth in Leicester Square is great for reduced-price theatre tickets. Not everything is available there, but I've had extremely good luck with it.

    One really fun way to see the city is through London Walks (www.walks.com). I've been on tons of their tours, many of them literary themed and/or in out-of-the-way neighborhoods I'd never explore on my own.

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    1. Thanks so much for the recommendations, Teresa! I'll make sure to put all of these things on our list. A tour would be a great way to see things I wouldn't otherwise think of!

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  3. I don't have any England tips or connections but wanted to wish you a big CONGRATULATIONS! That is very exciting! Good luck on your dissertation!

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    1. Thank you very much! I just got an email today about how to actually fill out the paperwork for the diploma - how exciting!

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  4. Congratulations! Will you continue a wee bit of blogging while in England? I would certainly enjoy hearing about your experiences there.

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    1. Oh, I do hope so! Perhaps this'll turn into a bit of a travel blog while I'm away...

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  5. Congrats on the Masters! I envy you - so many nice old books can be got cheaply in England. Check out Any Amount of Books in Charing Cross Road, London. I'm going there for my Masters in September anyway, so it's nice to know a fellow-blogger is going there as well.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation! And how excellent - is this a research trip in September, or will you be studying at a London institution?

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  6. First, congratulations on your MM.

    Second, let's talk Evensong. Not sure if you are familiar with it, but Evensong is a Church of England service held most evenings at most cathedrals. IMHO it is the pinnacle of English choral music. In most places you can sit up in the choir/quire so you can be right at the heart of the action. Plus it keeps you separated from the tourist hoards who continue their idiotic ways during the service.

    I have been to about 20 cathedral cities and each of them had pretty fantastic singing and rep. If you are there in the summer just make sure it isn't some visiting choir from the US or other place. Not that they aren't good, they just aren't the real deal.

    In London, you must of course go to Evensong (or Sunday morning services) at St. Pauls and Westeminster Abbey. This also allows you to see the churches without paying an entrance fee. You just have to tell them you are there for the service.

    BUT, while in London on a Sunday evening, you MUST also check out St. Bride's Church on Fleet Street, not far from St. Pauls. They have a fully adult choir (with women not boys) and the sound of the choir and the acoustics are amazing and slightly different than what you will experience in the big cathedrals. Once or twice a month, instead of the shortish sermon, they have a "sermon in music" where they do one or two extra anthems. It really is a wonderful, wonderful experience. Whenever I return to the UK I always make sure I am in London for at least one Sunday so I can go to evensong at St. Brides.

    As far as other cathedrals go, Ely, near Cambridge is really beautiful and off the beaten path.

    The weekly TimeOut guide has tons of listings of free concerts. The Royal Academy of Music has great free concerts. You should also check out Wigmore Hall--repeatedly. Prices aren't too bad especially if you go to the lunch time concerts or to hear artists that are less famous. And while you are over near Wigmore and/or the Royal Academy check out Daunt Books on Marleybone High Street and he Wallace Collection-an interesting art collection well off the beaten tourist path in a grand old mansion.

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    1. Also most cathedrals and st. brides will have listings on their websites for upcoming music during services (as well as concerts).

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    2. Thanks so much for the wonderfully detailed recommendations! Yes, I know about Evensong - I've worked for many years as an Anglican staff singer, and actually my research as a music historian is in early Anglican church music. I definitely plan to attend Evensong as often as I can! Yet I didn't know where the must-hear services were, so this is a fantastic and valuable list. Thank you so much!

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