0 Day 3: Concert at Virginia Theological Seminary

Here are some photos from the choir’s first concert day. The choristers rehearsed a little in the morning, then romped about on the lawns improvising some very English cricket in the sun. The afternoon was spent in a full choir rehearsal, before the evening’s concert in front of a packed audience in the chapel. (We were particularly grateful for an introduction which clarified that the choir hails from England, not Oxford, Mississippi!)

We will very much miss our kind hosts, the delicious food and the lovely setting at VTS when we leave in the morning.

Day 2: Washington D.C. in the sun

We awoke to another beautiful day here in Virginia, and after a hearty breakfast we all got the bus into Washington D.C. for a day of sight seeing. Whilst the boys went to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, on Washington’s famous National Mall, the men divided up; some went to museums, including the National Holocaust Museum and the National Art Gallery, and some of went for a walk around the city, taking in some of the key sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Washington. These included the Lincoln memorial, the White House (where we were ushered away from the gate whilst President Obama left in a convoy!), the Jefferson memorial, and Washington National Cathedral – one of my personal favourite buildings in the world.

image Washington National Cathedral 

For a few of us, lunch was from an eatery called ‘WTF’, which is apparently a blasphemous acronym used by the youth of today, but which for lunch just meant ‘Woodward Take-away Food’. Despite this name, we took not away, but stayed resolutely in the restaurant to eat our ‘piggly-wiggly’, a sandwich comprising almost entirely pig related components. Healthy it was not, but tasty it certainly was. After more sightseeing, we reconvened to hop on the bus back to Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), where we were joined at long last by bass lay clerk Henry Hawkesworth. Henry had to come out a day later than we, after delivering two Messiahs in Banbury – a feat of which even the Blessed Virgin Mary would be proud.

We then had a short rehearsal in the beautiful chapel at VTS, to get used to the organ and the very resonant acoustic of the chapel, before heading to the refectory for a dinner of great quality and size. There was succulent chicken, soft sweet potato, juicy sausage, wholesome pasta, fresh salad, bread ‘to strengthen man’s heart’ [Psalm 104: 15], then ice cream for pudding. After dinner several of the men headed to the local supermarket to buy a frisbee, and before bed a game of frisbee was had, a game which highlighted significant problems with the group’s eyesight, fitness and coordination: things we have subsequently resolved to work on in the coming weeks. We look forward tomorrow to the first concert here at the Seminary, before moving on to North Carolina on Friday and from there into significantly colder climes…

Day 2: Washington and Alexandria

The choristers, fully committed to American-style breakfasts, began the day much as they ended yesterday: putting away piles of crispy bacon stacked on fluffy pancakes. After a short coach-ride we spent the morning at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, where the devices and gadgets on offer in the shop were so popular that the boys were soon staggering under the weight of bags full of meteorites,games and lasers.

We stopped for lunch at a well-known burger outlet in the museum, where the boys were impressed to find that ordering a cheeseburger meal gets you not one but TWO cheeseburgers – clearly one wouldn’t be enough to sustain a chorister. We took advantage of the glorious weather to walk down the National Mall, taking in the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the cherry blossom and everything in between (including some ice cream).

Refreshed by all this sunshine we headed back to Alexandria to get down to the serious business of why we’re really here: the first rehearsal in the seminary chapel, and a chance to test the acoustics and balance before tomorrow’s concert. Dr Darlington whisked the choir through Rossini, Grieg, Handel and Tallis, but it was very soon time for supper. There is a scurrilous rumour that the choristers consumed courgette, squash, aubergine and lettuce at this meal, and no bacon at all. They’ll have to make up for the omission at breakfast tomorrow.

Arrival in the US

The choir arrived safely in sunny Washington this afternoon. After an hour’s coach ride we reached Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, our home for the first few days of the tour. The choristers were delighted by their comfortable rooms, but even more delightful was the enormous supper on offer in the seminary’s elegant refectory. It may have been midnight in the UK, but pancakes, bacon, oatmeal, waffles and blueberries were exactly what the tired travellers needed. There was just time to explore the grounds, collect sticks and clamber around in the tree-house before bed. The boys will need all their energy for tomorrow’s first rehearsal, not to mention the trip to the Smithsonian…

Day 1: Oxford to Washington

Good morning one and all, and welcome to this blog for Christ Church Cathedral Choir’s tour of the USA, March-April 2016. Over the coming two weeks, we hope to offer you here regular glimpses into our touring life: the highs and the lows, the ups and the downs, the ins and outs, and all manner of things in between.

Today started with a (fairly subdued..) 6.15am coach journey from Oxford to London Heathrow Terminal 5, ready to check in for our British Airways flight to Washington D.C. We were fortunate enough to be flying on an Airbus A380 – one of the newest and biggest airliners to come into service. For some choristers this was their first ever flight, so we were lucky to have clear skies during take off so the views over London could be enjoyed by men and boys alike. A comfortable 7.5 hour flight ensued and we landed at Washington D.C. at 2.15pm east coast time.

From the airport we were taken by bus to Virginia Theological Seminary, a episcopal training college just south west of Washington. This will be our base for the coming couple of days, and the venue of our first concert on Thursday. It’s gloriously sunny here in Virginia, and whilst many of the students and staff here at the seminary can be heard muttering about the ‘cold’, for us it is perfect; balmy breezy and bright. We had a lovely dinner in the refectory this evening, and some of the gentlemen took a nightcap in the bar, just to help adjust to the new time zone, of course. Tomorrow we have most of the day free to explore Washington before rehearsing in the evening, so do expect a full report back tomorrow with what we’ve been doing!

USA Tour 2016

April 2016 sees the choir returning to the United States.

View Programmes (PDF)


Thursday 31 March
1900 Concert at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, VA
www.vts.edu


Saturday 2 April
1930 Community Choir Rehearsal and Concert at Davidson College Presbyterian Church, Davidson, NC
www.dcpc.org


Monday 4 April
1930 Concert at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, La Grange, IL
www.emmanuel-lagrange.org


Tuesday 5 April
1930 Concert at St Paul & The Redeemer Church Hyde Park, Chicago, IL
www.sp-r.org


Friday 8 April
1930 Concert at Hamline Methodist Church, St Paul, MN
www.hamlinechurch.org


Sunday 10 April
1900 Concert at Grace Church On-the-Hill, Toronto
www.gracechurchonthehill.ca

Beijing and the Great Wall

After last night’s exhilarating concert in Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts, the choir spent an energetic final day taking in the sights before flying home. Undaunted by an early start, the gents and boys piled into two coaches and set off for the Great Wall at Badaling. The weather was scorchingly hot, which made the near-vertical climb quite a challenge; it did, however, guarantee us some spectacular photographs. The choristers demonstrated surprisingly impressive haggling skills at the souvenir shops, casting a critical eye over the rows of pandas, key-rings and teapots.

After a lavish buffet lunch at the Wall, we headed back towards Beijing and to the Summer Palace. If possible, it felt even hotter here, so we paused for an essential ice cream before wandering around the lake and visiting the famous Long Corridor (which features over 14,000 individual paintings). The only stylish way to get back to the entrance was, of course, on board one of the dragon-headed boats on Kunming Lake – all the more appropriate since our guide had been telling us stories of Empress Dowager Cixi, the formidable ‘dragon lady’.

The boys were treated to a marvellous evening meal of pasta, barbeque ribs and chocolate cake, and as I write they are busy packing in their rooms. We head to the airport at midnight, and it is very hard to believe that the tour is nearly over. However, we have Hong Kong airport and two flights to navigate before arriving home, so there are without doubt adventures still to be had…!

SB

Shanghai

We have an exceedingly early start tomorrow in order to catch the bullet train (5.45am wake-up call), so this entry might be short! The choristers have been appreciating the slightly cooler temperature here in Shanghai, although once cocooned in the air-conditioned Shanghai Grand Theatre the heat of outside was quickly forgotten. We’ve had a good deal of media attention on this leg of the tour – even our exit from the airport was filmed yesterday – and there were plenty of photos taken on arrival at People’s Square this afternoon. At the entrance to the Theatre’s labyrinth of corridors it was reassuring to pass a television playing images of Christ Church – the cathedral, the meadow, and even Dr Darlington wielding an impressive microphone.

Fortified by spaghetti, sandwiches, Oreos and pizza, the boys performed this evening to a vast audience that once again comprised well over a thousand concert-goers. The Shanghai Radio Children’s Chorus joined the Christ Church team to perform John Williams’ ‘Double Trouble’ from ‘Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban’, which drew delighted murmuring from the audience. On arrival back at our hotel the choir was treated to a buffet meal courtesy of the concert’s sponsors; for the lucky choristers this was supper number three. The frequent waves of food have been a feature of this tour, and the variety has at times been quite spectacular. As you can see from the pictures, the gleeful boys made a beeline for the cakes. Let’s hope they’re just as full of energy at 5.45 tomorrow morning…

SB