No, we’d never heard of it either. All we knew was that it was a city in northern Wales and we’d been asked to sing there. Enticed by some good music and lovely friends, we agreed – and then realised that it was rather a longer drive than we thought; about 4.5 hours from London [urgh]. So, we decided to make a weekend of it and go up early, spending Friday night in a hotel nearby.
St Asaph is the second smallest city in Britain [it was only awarded city status in 2012], but the cathedral has been a cathedral for 1,400 years, while the building itself dates from the 13th century. Musicians may recognise Mathias’s name – a composer of considerable renown, he was buried here with his wife upon their deaths.
The cathedral is simple in design, but with a historical feel to it:
And some pretty touches, such as this classic eagle lectern.
With friends in the right places, we were taken up the stairs to the roof (not usually open to the public), which gave us a bird’s eye view of the graveyard below.
There is history everywhere, like this weathervane from 1752.
We did have a great time with our friends, and a good singsong, with a special premiere of a piece written in memory of William Mathias, whose family came to hear it. We had some excellent fish and chips nearby, and the cathedral clergy and staff were exceptionally hospitable and kind to us. However, overall, there’s not too much to do in the town other than the cathedral itself [other than a little riverside walk] – as a result, we probably wouldn’t recommend the trek for a weekend away! But if you’re passing, do check out the cathedral – it’s lovely!
P.S. Do you know St Asaph’s secret? The Powell brothers (writers of the famous ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ wartime song) were choristers here – and Felix was said to be so talented he was organist by age 12…