Oxford May Morning

Five centuries of tradition

Madrigals at dawn

Serafina was beside herself with excitement. The beautiful Oxford May Morning tradition was returning after three years of pandemic hiatus! Once again Oxfordians young and old could gather below the Magdalen (/ˈmɔːdlɪn/) College Tower, dating from 1509, listening to the choir sing Madrigals celebrating the start of summer.

Serafina would have loved nothing more than to have joined the raucous, all-night partying with the young students. But instead we fell asleep early after a wonderful day, exploring Nature from dawn to dusk.

We woke just before dawn and walked towards Magdalen Bridge where tens of thousands were gathering like sardines in a tin. But rather than join them, we walked below the bridge to the Angel & Greyhound meadow. This is the perfect place to enjoy the morning in peace except for a few canoes.

At six o’clock the noise suddenly stopped and there was a magical hushed silence as the huge crowd of towns and gowns held their collective breath in honour of deep soul music.

On the meadow below, the hymns coming from the sky mixed with joyous birdsong madrigals. Serafina was high above, careful not to fly over the large crowds, and providing stunning footage of this splendid tradition. In all my Oxford May Mornings, I have never seen anything quite like it…

When the choir stopped, we followed the crowd into the city centre, where the feasting continued with more music and Morris dancing. Soon we were whirling like dervishes to the splendid music, celebrating the Green Man and May Queen in the time honoured pagan tradition of fertility and growth.

How wonderful to be alive, to be able celebrate the cycle of life and rebirth – of joy and ever lasting love!