Chris Rocker reports on the USA & Canada Tour 2014

The choir’s return to North America was made possible by the generosity of Robert and Ann Ronus, and a number of other House alumni. Berenika Schmitz (2005), a music graduate of the House, kindly organised much of the first part of the tour and arranged for the boys to be accommodated in Casa Romantica, a 1927 mansion in San Clemente, only 50 yards from the beach, and a true California venue, right down to the sign saying: “Please do not feed the sharks!”.

The choir sang to a full house in Casa Romantica for their first performance, performing works by Vaughan Williams, Tallis, Purcell, Handel, Parry, Walton and Tippett, which would be the staple of concerts to follow. The next day we performed at St. Edwards Church, Dana Point, which was filled to capacity with an audience of 800. We did a slightly different programme of John Blow and Handel, including Zadok the Priest and the Hallelujah Chorus, and were accompanied by Berenika’s Dana Point Symphony.

Our third concert was at the Ronus’s church, St. James, Los Angeles. The tireless Jim Buonemani both arranged the concert logistics and found family accommodation for the boys, including among the stars in Beverley Hills and Hollywood! The concert encore, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, brought the house to its feet.

Robert and Ann kindly sent us to Disneyland on our rest day, where a day of parades and roller coasters was enjoyed by all. Then, back in San Clemente, Stephen Darlington did a workshop for local choirs. This was a hugely successful new idea for this trip, and was repeated later. That evening we performed on board the Queen Mary, now a floating hotel in Long beach, where we sang in the Art Deco furnished Grand Salon.

On our last day in San Clemente Berenika organised a fund raiser dinner and auction, with the main prize being a three night stay at Christ Church, including dinner on High Table and behind the scenes tour. The whole evening was a great success and enjoyed by all who participated.

The second leg of the tour took us back to Charlotte, North Carolina, where we had struck up a great relationship with the local classical music station, WDAV, who did a live broadcast of a concert, and negotiated special rates at the local Hampton Inn. We especially owe thanks to Lisa Gray, a former WDAV employee, who made it all happen.

In amongst visiting owls, eagles and snakes at the local Raptor Centre, Stephen Darlington and one of the choir boys, Mikey, were interviewed on WDAV in preparation for the concert that evening at the Covenant Presbyterian Church. But on their return the choir was stranded as the bus broke down in the rush hour. Lisa saved us by finding three minivans, but there followed the quickest sound test by WDAV and the most rapid rehearsal by the choir. However, in spite of all the tension, the concert proceeded without a hitch and the resulting wonderful broadcast can be heard HERE.

The hectic pace continued the next day as Clive Driskill-Smith gave an organ master class in Winston-Salem in the morning and Stephen conducted a choral master class for 3 local choirs in Davidson College Presbyterian Church in the afternoon. A concert followed that evening, attended by friends and family of the 3 choirs in which we performed works by Taverner, Byrd, Gibbons, Purcell, Handel, Tippett, Faure, Grieg and Matthias.

Rob Paterson, another alumnus on our organizing team, masterminded our visit to Toronto, where all the boys stayed with families of the Grace Church congregation. We had visited Grace Church on-the-Hill on our last visit to North America and were delighted to be back. Following a visit to the newly opened Toronto Aquarium, the evening was devoted to another workshop conducted by Stephen, this time for individual choir members as opposed to fully rehearsed choirs. Stephen rose to the occasion in a masterful fashion and had the disparate group singing as though they had been performing together for years. On our last day in Canada Rob organised a visit the Toronto Science Centre, and then the final concert of the tour was another sell out, and ended with a prolonged standing ovation: It was a wonderful way to end the trip.

We had been away for 15 days; we performed 10 concerts, sold over 250 CDs for just under $4000, and earned $55,000 in performance fees. It felt like a great couple of weeks. So many people deserve our thanks, not just those mentioned. Such tours are a vital part of the Choir’s work and could not happen without the various types of support which we are very lucky to receive and for which we are hugely grateful.

Chris Rocker

The lost boys

Thanks to IHOP for feeding the lost boys at midnight

What troupers they are

Here is an email from Frank Dominguez from WDAV about the epic journey to Charlotte NC.

Tonight’s broadcast was extraordinarily smooth, in spite of a rocky afternoon – the poor boy choristers were first stranded in Mooresville when their bus broke down, and when a replacement hadn’t arrived in a timely way, had to hop cabs to get to Charlotte, only to contend with traffic on I-77. The youngsters made it to Covenant with barely enough time to do a sound check, never mind have the dinner the church had prepared for us. You’d never know the stressful circumstances from the performance they gave, though – it was stupendous!

Kudos to veterans Bob, Jim, Larry, Bruce, and Matt for making it all run smoothly, and to Theresa and Kendra for their impressive debuts in one of these productions: Theresa provided poised and knowledgeable continuity, and Kendra was the den mother of our dreams, shepherding the choir to and from their calls with authority and tact. It was so much fun to have Will and Kali among us, posting and tweeting away to share the excitement of it all with our social media fans. And Joe held down the fort back in the WDAV studios with his usual unflappable polish.

The only sad note was not having Josh with us – he’s been sidelined with an illness, but was with us in spirit and listening online, bless him. Send your good thoughts and wishes for a speedy recovery his way, please.

Can’t say thank you enough to Stephen Darlington and Chris Rocker of the choir; the brilliant Lisa Gray, who helped coordinate so much of this; as well as Stephen Talley and the warm, lovely people at Covenant Presbyterian who were so helpful and cooperative.

Very proud of all of us tonight – my heart overflows!

Days 6,7 and 8

Day 6, 7 and 8

Apologies for the recent silence. Our last couple of days in CA were extremely busy with various singing events and a nice side portion(!!) of socialising to go with it. So I write this now from my hosts’ house in Charlotte, NC. (Warning! This seems to have turned into a rather long post…)

As I mentioned in the previous post, it was our second official ‘rest day’ of the tour and we went en masse to (where else?!) Disneyland. Our day in “The happiest place on earth” certainly lived up to expectations. From what I could tell most of us (Boys and Gents) headed straight for the Space Mountain ride which is known to be the most thrilling among the rides Disneyland has to offer. This turned out to be Mr Kimber’s first ever rollercoaster so it was interesting to see his photo at the end of the ride…From here we went our separate ways and seeing the photos uploaded so far it seems everyone had a fantastic time. The Gents all met up in the Big Thunder Ranch Barbeque to have lunch together. It just so happened that this establishment only served all-you-can-eat ribs and chicken wings. Unfortunately for some this reminded us all too vividly of the Lay Clerks and Scholars Annual Pizza Eating competition which takes place every December. (For those interested, this academic year’s competition was won by Mr Kimber who clocked an almighty 30 slices…!). After this, an air of lethargy fell on a few of us and we decided that we’d prefer to have a gentle stroll around the park finishing up by watching the parade.

The following day the boys had an early bus journey back to San Clemente where they took part in a Vocal Workshop for the general public and members of Casa Romantica. After this the boys got back on the bus and headed to Long Beach, CA for our concert on-board the Queen Mary. The Gents had spent the day sightseeing in LA and made their own way to Long Beach – amazingly they all made it there on time even if there were some hit and miss metro changes. The Queen Mary is a fascinating tourist attraction. We performed in the Queen’s Salon (previously known as the Music Room) which is an Art Deco masterpiece – something straight out of a Jeeves and Wooster novel. The concert was very well received and afterwards we hopped back on the bus to Casa Romantica where we met our hosts. This (to me, at least) felt like ‘coming home’ as I was hosted with such a fantastic family who were so welcoming, kind and generous.

The next evening we provided some musical entertainment at a fundraising dinner in the Casa. The event was started with the Christ Church grace and was followed by two sets of music which were interspersed between courses. The event was apparently a success and afterwards we went back to our hosts for our final evening in CA.

There was an extremely early start yesterday from Casa Romantica for our flight to Charlotte from LAX. En route we had a very entertaining pilot from North Carolina who kept us amusingly-informed on the flight path and other various bits of information. We touched down safely in Charlotte last night at around 7.30pm (local time) and made our way to the Covenant Presbyterian Church where the gents met their hosts and the boys carried on their journey to where they were staying.

We’ll be singing a concert tonight here in Charlotte at the Presbyterian Church and then afterwards we head on the bus to Davidson College where we’ll be performing a concert and a choral workshop.

Many thanks for reading!



This is a bit tough on all the mums.

The Good the Bad and the Ugly?


The Good – we are trying to feed the boys well


The Bad – what they want

And the Ugly? They may have to go on a diet when thy come home 🙂