It’s an event steeped in history, dating back from 1505 when the Great Tower at Magdalen was complete and the college chose to sing in the spring. Oxford’s annual May Morning event continues to be a huge success and this year, I was part of the celebrations again.
Where do I start? I’ve been helping out at this event for the past three years with Radio Cherwell, Oxford’s Hospital Radio Station. We provide the speakers, microphone and personnel to ensure the choristers are heard across the city, especially to the thousands of people who congregate on Magdalen Bridge for the yearly festivities.
Our work starts on the 30th April – we lift six speakers; one amp; one mixing desk; reels and reels of microphone and XLR cable and the microphones themselves up to the bell ringing room in Magdalen Tower (The Great Tower) and equally right to the top where, on May Morning, the choristers will congregate along with dignitaries to bring in the spring.
It usually takes about three hours to set everything up, but to be able to go to the top of the tower is something special. In fact, to even be involved in the event behind the scenes is special year on year.
On May Morning itself, the team arrive around 4am to ensure everything is still in good working order. The bells chime just before 6am, the hustle and bustle of the thousands of people on Magdalen Bridge falls silent, you can hear a pin drop. For the next ten minutes, the choristers sing their heart out, we hear speeches and prayers. 6:10am, the bells start to ring, assisted by the bell ringers in their room. By 7am, everyone’s down from the tower and the pack up begins. We’re having breakfast by 8:30am, home by 10:00am.
It’s quite hard work, but the reward is being able to bring the sounds of the event to thousands of people on Magdalen Bridge and to listeners of BBC Radio Oxford, who take the feed from our mix to broadcast live to their audience.
You’ll find heaps of photos and video on my Instagram, in fact, there’s an entire story archived for it and lots of posts on Twitter.