A tradition dating back 500 years still draws in thousands of people, both town and gown. An early 6am rise is required to hear the Choir sing from the top of the 44m high Magdalen College Tower and this year the crowds were treated to some excellent sunny weather, if not a little cold at 40C as the sun rose.
Once the Choir had performed the 17th Century Hymnus Eucharisticus, the bell ringers rang out a celebratory chime. This signalled the end of the Choir’s performance and the crowds headed down Oxford’s High Street following local bands and the Morris Dancers, who danced away to ancient English folk music clothed in white, with bell pads on their shins and sticks, swords and handkerchiefs being wielded in the air. Half way down the High Street, local street band ‘Horns of Plenty’ played an enjoyable and upbeat mix of jazz, soul & reggae music.
In years gone by as the bells rang out, inebriated students would jump from Magdalen Bridge into the River Cherwell, but given that the water is less than a metre deep, many ended up in the A&E department of the John Radcliffe Hospital! So the practise was stopped in 2005.
There’s an amusing atmosphere amongst the crowd. Tradition has it that the student population take advantage of late pub openings and then continue with the drinking marathon until the cafés and pubs re-open at 5am. Meanwhile the local families come out to enjoy the festivities sober, but in high spirits.
As the Morris Dancers went off for a well-earned breakfast, the crowds drifted off to the local cafés, pubs or went home to start their day. The city started to resume normality with city centre workers drifting in wondering why there were so many people about!
Oxford City Break
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