Despite being a very different trip to those I’ve taken over the last few years, my preparation for visiting somewhere new remains the same. I’ll do Google Map searches for street art, record shops and interesting architecture, before making up a layer of pins with things to see.
My new found interest in field recording means that on this trip, I wasn’t only looking for cool stuff to see and photograph, but also things that might sound interesting. I believe that listening to the sounds of a place can add hugely to looking at pictures when either trying to imagine being there, or recalling a visit afterwards.
The Sunday before we left for the Seychelles, I’d recorded a catholic mass from outside the church in our village in Ireland, and had been interested by the way that life went on around the service, despite it being broadcast on loudspeakers outside the church. It also struck me as being quintessentially Irish!
So as I researched the place we were going to be staying, I noticed a catholic church very close by and kept in mind the idea of a visit to it on the Sunday morning of our stay.
It was low tide on Anse l’Islette, meaning that I could walk across the bay with the sea level barely reaching my knees. As I arrived at the church of Saints Peter and Paul in Port Glaud, I could see it was unlocked and a couple of people were waiting around outside. It seemed like I had been really lucky with my timing.
I spent the next hour and forty minutes watching the world (or at least this tiny part of it) going by. Buses, driven in the customarily terrifying ways, stopped outside and dropped off worshippers in their Sunday best. Many of the women, the majority of which were of East African descent, wore fantastically patterned dresses and headscarves.
Across the road, the beach boys and Rasta men prepared their coconuts to sell to the tourist, and got their boats ready to shuttle people across the channel to Île Thérèse.
As the church filled up, a group of teenage choirgirls dressed in immaculate white robes, tied with green ribbons, chatted in the doorway. I say chatted – it actually sounded like they were all talking at the same time, all the time.
The sunshine, the view and the sounds of the exotic Seychellois Creole language were magical.
This pale, European was sticking out like a sore thumb as he waited outside until the final people entered the church. As they did so, I scurried up the steps and sat outside (such is the climate, there was no need for glass in the windows, and the main doors stayed wide open throughout), and started getting the recorder ready. I wasn’t quick enough to capture the sound of the bells which rang out just above my head, frightening me half to death.
What you can hear are the first few minutes of the service – the greetings, the choir leading a hymn and the priest.
It felt like a world away from home, but just like in Sixmilebridge the Sunday before, you can hear the sound of the world going on outside of the service – the birds, the buses and the wind in the trees.
The mass seemed to follow the pattern that it does around the world with singing, sitting, standing, kneeling, more sitting and a guy telling you what he thinks. On this occasion though, I’m not sure if the sermon was also about “The COVID”, although I guess that it probably was…