Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Schola Tour Part 2

Difficulties finding an internet connection made it impossible to write anymore about the Schola's trip whilst it was going on but now that we are all back here are some details about the rest of our trip. 

On the Tuesday morning of our trip the boys were brought by their new homestay families to Xavier University where the Cincinnati Boychoir holds its Summer Camp. We spent a happy couple of hours taking part in activities with the Cincinnati boys, singing for them and they for us, plus learning some of their songs. We also rehearsed our joint piece for the concert later that day.

We then traveled into Cincinnati and to the wonderful St Peter in Chains Cathedral, the venue for the evening's concert. This Cathedral is very highly regarded for its amazing acoustic and we were able to enjoy this in our rehearsal. A rather spectacular storm had broken whilst we rehearsing so we filled the time whilst we waited taking pictures on the sanctuary steps.

Once the storm eased we walked to downtown Cincinnati, heading to the National Underground Railroad Museum, a museum that looks at the history of slavery and the events surrounding the US civil war. The boys found this very interesting and spent a great deal of time reading the information alongside the exhibitions.

Following a tacos dinner kindly provided by one of the Cincinnati choir parents we returned to St Peter in Chains for our concert, given jointly with the Cincinnati Boychoir. They sang beautifully to open the concert and we then sang our programme, before coming together to sing Panis Angelicus to finish. This was a lovely evening, full of excellent music-making.

The following morning, Wednesday, we were on the move once again, heading to Akron before flying to New York, on an excellent Southwest service. At La Guardia we were met by our fifth coach company of the week who took us into New York and to St Thomas Choir School which was to be our home for the next five nights. St Thomas is one of only two schools that exists purely for the members of a choir in the world, the other being Westminster Abbey Choir School. It was good for the Schola to be back together again. Dinner in Times Square was followed by the first of many games of table tennis before we all retired.

Thursday morning was special as we had been invited to a private tour of Carnegie Hall. Our guide showed us the three performance halls that they have, plus the museum which includes things such as Benny Goodman's clarinet and Ella Fitzgerald's glasses. In the smaller of the halls the Schola stood together and sang - so we can say that we have sung at Carnegie Hall, if not for an audience!

Lunch was eaten in the Food Hall at Grand Central Station before we travelled out to Stamford for our evening concert. The Basilica of St John the Evangelist was our venue, a church that we had no links with as such, and so I was concerned that the audience might have been small. In fact we drew what was our largest audience of the trip and the boys sang a very lovely concert that drew a standing ovation from the many people in attendance.

Friday was a rest day (other than a rehearsal first thing!) and was spent exploring New York. We went to the top of the Empire State Building and then to the Statten Island Ferry to see the Stature of Liberty. We visited Ground Zero and the new Freedom Tour before going bowling on Times Square.

Saturday morning was spent exploring the amazing National History Museum and walking through Central Park before we had lunch at the Rockefeller Centre. Then we headed to St Thomas for our rehearsal for the following day's service. This was our first chance to sing in one of the most important and famous churches in the US and it was good to have plenty of time to get used to its particular challenges.

Following our rehearsal we went to Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral (which is currently being cleaned and is covered in scaffolding, which is why we did not perform there) and then for a final dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Returning to the Choir School, the boys gave gifts to the staff and awards to each other!

The following morning we were up early as we had to be at St Thomas Church by 9 am. There, we rehearsed and were then taken through the decidedly complex processions and other bows etc required by the service. The boys did their best to take this all in! The service itself went very well overall and there was some lovely singing, especially from our soloists in the Mozart Mass.

You can hear the service on St Thomas Website HERE.

Following the service all that was left was to finish our packing - a quick pizza lunch of real New York pizza and a drive to JFK. We flew out that evening and landed first thing on Monday morning, arriving back at the Vaughan just fifteen minutes late (the coach driver from Heathrow went the wrong way!).

Many thanks are owed to all the people who made this trip possible. We were helped greatly by Christopher Berry in Milwaukee and Christopher Eanes in Cincinnati. Many thanks are owed to the wonderful host families in both cities who were so very generous towards the boys. Thanks are also owed to the clergy and staff of the cathedrals and churches where we sang, in particular Monsignor DiGiovanni in Stamford and Ben Sheen, Assistant Organist of St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue.

Huge thanks are owed to the staff who accompanied the boys on the trip, Miss Lawley, Mr Brennan, Fr Dominic Allain, Mr Jackson and Mr Evans (who played beautifully for the choir as always). Many thanks to the boys as well who worked very hard and were wonderfully resilient throughout the trip, singing to a very high standard at all times. They were also great company and a pleasure to lead. The tour brought to a close a wonderful year for the Schola and indeed was paid for in part from the money they have earned singing for operas and films. I hope that they felt their efforts were justly rewarded  - they certainly seemed to have a pretty good time!


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