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St Bavo, Haarlem

In case it’s useful to know, I discovered that there are three churches in the Haarlem area named after St Bavo. The one I was meant to be visiting is the Catholic Cathedral, an enormous early 20th century basilica, neo-romantic, neo-everything, but inside full of beautiful detail, stone, tiling, ironwork. My reasons for visiting were musical ones, and indeed as I walked in before the Sunday service I heard the organist doing some tuneful practice, which I slowly realised was my own composition, The Tree of Peace.

Notably, the Cathedral has a full-time choir school, with both girl and boy primary school pupils, who can then continue to study music under the church auspices during the years of their secondary education. St Bavo’s boasts a full range of all the cathedral options we know here; boy-and-men choir, girls included in that, an older girls’ chorale and so on. Alas all of these people were having the week off when I visited, but I had the pleasure of meeting Sanne Nieuwenhuijsen, the lively ‘Magistra Cantus’, who keeps up close links with the English choral tradition.

On the very day of my visit I had been reading about the Church of England’s admirable ambitions to become carbon neutral, and I couldn’t help noticing that my fellow worshippers in the laudably energy-saving environment of St Bavo’s were all sensibly wrapped in polar gear, something I will remember to do on future visits.

Pictured – St Bavo, not unappreciated in Haarlem.




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