Day 3: New York

The choristers enjoyed some down-time this morning. The weather was rather gloomy, so we stayed indoors for a bloodthirsty session of Wink Murder after breakfast. The rain had stopped by mid-morning, so we made a dash to the Time Warner Center just around the corner. After some judicious browsing the boys ended up in the basement, where the free samples available in Whole Foods – specifically the ‘healthy candy’ – provided ideal entertainment.

We brought sandwiches back to the Choir School, and then set off on the increasingly familiar route to St Thomas Fifth Avenue. In Oxford just one road separates school and cathedral, and our choristers stop traffic four times a day when they process across for rehearsals. A fifteen-minute trek across bustling Manhattan streets is a much more athletic experience – and no-one stops the cars with a lollipop!

The choir worked hard throughout the afternoon to prepare for this evening’s performance. At 7.30pm the concert opened with soaring Renaissance polyphony, whilst the second half included thrilling accounts of Handel’s ‘Zadok the Priest’ and Walton’s ‘The Twelve’. Written for Christ Church Cathedral Choir in 1965, ‘The Twelve’ features a fiendish treble duet which was performed tonight with exquisite precision by two eleven-year-old choristers. Thunderous applause from a packed audience ensured that this was a very special evening indeed.

Tomorrow: we must pack and travel south…

Day 2: Why do the (United) Nations so furiously rage together?

Our first full day in New York began, as all the best days do, with a hearty breakfast. We ate at a charming little place near our accommodation on the Upper East Side, where one was charged according to the weight of one’s plate – this was particularly unfortunate as one of the available options was the heaviest slices of French toast we had ever seen. Revitalised, some of us set off for a walk through Central Park (one of the most central parks I have ever been in), while others visited Ground Zero, the High Line, and Little Italy. The below video should give you a rough idea of the day’s events (a lot of walking around mainly).

Later on that day, some of us were fortunate enough to be able to visit the United Nations Building – bass choral scholar Noel Li (who seemingly has friends in every city in the world) had kindly arranged for us to be given a tour with a family friend, for which we were all exceptionally grateful. We of course couldn’t let such a marvellous photo opportunity pass us by – as you can see, some of us look a little more statesmanlike than others.

All too soon it was time for our first rehearsal of the tour. We dusted off our voice boxes and proceeded to St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, where we will be performing tomorrow night for Stephen to rehearse the items we would be performing that evening at a dinner at the Harvard Club. We then returned to our accommodation to dress for dinner; your correspondent had an unfortunate mishap whereby he could not find his bow tie, messaged the choir WhatsApp to ask if anyone had a spare one, and then burst uninvited into bass lay clerk Thomas Lowen’s room only to be told he was in fact already wearing it. I can only put this down to jet-lag; I have since been eating as many carbohydrates as possible in order to rid myself of it.

The evening’s performance was a great success; we were given a warm welcome by the American Friends of Christ Church and had an excellent dinner with them. The lay clerks were in fact so encouraged by the enthusiastic applause at the end of their close harmony set that we performed (for better or for worse) an encore, but fortunately this was equally well received. In all – a very productive day!

Day 2: New York

 

The cathedral choristers were delighted to land safely in New York yesterday, especially after a rather bumpy landing courtesy of the blustery weather (we thought Chicago was supposed to be the Windy City!). The boys are being hosted at St Thomas Choir School, which – with its dorms, dining room, TV room and table football – already feels very much like home. There was just time for takeout pizza, some tinkling on the piano and a few rounds of table tennis before bed-time.

 

The time difference doesn’t seem to have fazed the boys, who all reported having slept extremely well in their new quarters. After a breakfast of cereal and muffins (and some much-needed showers), we headed up to the American Museum of Natural History next to Central Park. Its labyrinth of rooms held a seemingly inexhaustible store of artifacts, from Native American spears to dinosaur skeletons. After visiting the Planetarium to find out how much they’d weigh on Saturn, the boys sat down to a hearty buffet lunch at the food court. There was just time to dash back to the choir school and change into uniform before the first rehearsal of the tour.

 

The choristers are currently at St Thomas Fifth Avenue running through repertoire for tomorrow’s concert. Your author may be a little biased, but the sound is terrific and you’d never guess the choir had slogged all the way across the Atlantic just yesterday. Tonight the choristers will perform at the Harvard Club of New York City, so you could definitely say they’ve hit the ground running. Many thanks to Daniel Hyde and the team at St Thomas for making us feel so welcome – we’re very excited to be in New York!

 

 

 

Day 1: We came flying upon the wings of the wind (London – New York)

Welcome to the tour blog for Christ Church’s 2018 tour to the USA; there will be separate posts detailing what the choristers and choirmen get up to over the next eleven days.

We met early in the morning at Albion Place, overjoyed to see each other after having been separated for the previous two days post-Easter. For perhaps the first time ever on a Christ Church Cathedral Choir trip, every single member of the party was on time (despite rumours that choral scholar Aidan Atkinson had in fact initially been under the impression that the tour began on the previous day). We soon found ourselves at Heathrow Terminal 2 for check-in, where tenor lay clerk William Anderson was grilled by airport staff about his travel plans, and, more unusually, his hobbies and favourite celebrity chef (Nigella Lawson, for anyone wondering). After hearty breakfasts (and the making of the below video, which details our hopes and dreams for the tour), we boarded our United Airlines flight to Newark Liberty International Airport; a large number of the choir were delighted to find that they had been unexpectedly upgraded to Economy Plus seating, with lay clerk Edward Woodhouse in particular having an obscene amount of legroom. Eight uneventful hours later, we landed in New Jersey, and, a mere two and a half hours after landing, we boarded the coach to our accommodation – Chris Rocker (our generous tour sponsor) nearly being hit by a bright yellow New York taxi as he flagged down the bus. ‘Don’t Rocker the boat’ remarked a nameless choir member (this is the quality of humour we have come to expect from each other).

As it was now midnight UK time, the boys and chaperones were deposited at St Thomas Choir School, where they will be based for the next few days, while the clerks continued to their accommodation at the House of the Redeemer. Some of our number dashed off to the Metropolitan Opera to see Phelim McDermott’s production of Cosi fan tutte (a show which came highly recommended by Moira Darlington, who had beaten us to the punch by seeing it in the cinema the previous week), others headed out to have their first taste of the nightlife in the Big Apple, but all had (relatively) early nights. Tune in tomorrow for news of our exciting adventures during our first full day in the USA!

USA 2018

Welcome to the blog for the choir’s USA tour! The cathedral choristers have been hard at work today, singing at Easter services in Christ Church Cathedral, but they’re getting very excited about flying to the USA on Wednesday.

Luca (Form 5): “I’m looking forward to the trip to the Skydeck in Chicago. My mum is terrified of heights, so it will be good to go there with my friends.”

Orlando (Form 5): “I’ve never been on a aeroplane before so I am looking forward to the flight – that will be really exciting for me. I’m also looking forward to the concerts, as I enjoy performing.”

Gaspard (Form 6): “Apart from the great music I am looking forward to staying in hotels… especially if they have a swimming pool!”

Isaac (Form 8): “Last time we toured in the USA we didn’t go to New York, so its very exciting to be able to go there this time. Its going to be very special as it is Dr D’s final US tour with the choir and also mine, as a Year 8.”

Three days to go!