6th March 2023

A recent two-night stay in Winchester allowed Merry and me to re-acquaint ourselves with the city’s impressive cathedral. Claimed as the longest mediaeval cathedral in the world, it’s worth a visit on any number of counts – the architectural beauty, the wonder of the engineering skills that built it, its own story within the history of our nation, and, of course, that underlying sense of the presence of God in the vast echoing space.

We joined ourselves to a guided tour and discovered that the most visited burial place within those sacred walls is that of Jane Austen. Busloads of Americans are apparently transported from their Cunard liners in Southampton to make their literary pilgrimage, but mercifully on this occasion we had her to ourselves. The tour continued by way of St Swithun’s tomb and on past the Lady Chapel at the far east end of the cathedral where we discovered a lunchtime concert was shortly to begin, three pupils from the nearby Winchester College performing a 45-minute piano recital.

Returning for the concert, I was amazed by the sheer ability, skill and poise of these young men, aged I suppose around 17, 15 and 13. It was the youngest who most impressed me, with his consummate demonstration of mastery over both the compositions and his instrument, including the unhurried way he turned the pages of his music without any interruption to the flow! As someone who demonstrates no natural talent on the piano, I felt humbled and awed by such precocious ability, but later left the cathedral feeling enriched by these encounters with the creative gifts of others, long past and present.

Ken Stewart