Timely banquet

by
20 September 2013

THE guests were piped through the darkened Newcastle Cathedral by a 16-year-old Northumbrian piper, Tristan Seldon, to their candlelit and decorated table in the nave. They were there for a medieval banquet, and the meal began with a 16th-century grace by Thomas Tallis.

The cathedral staff and volunteers, all in costume, served an "authentic" medieval menu, to be eaten using fingers, which included Cathedral Pottage, Vergers' Pickled Vegetables, and a variety of roasted meats. While the guests ate, they were entertained by the Northumbrian branch of the Clarsach Society, playing traditional Northumbrian airs, as well as more pipe music, and a mandolin. The clarsach, I am told, is a small Celtic harp; and the Northumbrian pipes, unlike Highland pipes, are a "sweetly toned bellows-blown set of bagpipes designed to be played indoors".

Among the diners were many who had never been inside the cathedral before, and they went away impressed by both the building and the hospitality.

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