Choral Arts on Tour!

Photos & Timeline

 

Tour Photos & Timeline

 *Click on photos to enlarge*

 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Friday evening, 101 singers and guests arrived at BWI airport to prepare for their long journey across the pond. After checking in their luggage, distributing custom "Choral Arts on Tour" sleep masks, and laughing over a quick airport meal, we boarded our plane for a 6.5-hour flight to London.

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Saturday, January 11, 2020

We landed at London Heathrow airport early Saturday morning after a long trip (thankfully the two babies in our tour party slept soundly), and immediately hopped onto two coach buses to see the city. Our absolutely delightful and incredible ACFEA Tour Couriers Marianne Swienink-Havard and Ann Daley guided us on a wonderful bus tour of London.

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Blake and Leo greeted us in their typical concert dress, having already been in the country attending the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) rehearsals.

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After grabbing lunch and checking into the hotel, we then all went to Covent Garden where we had our tour welcoming dinner at Browns Restaurant.

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Sunday was our first free day, where the group departed on separate adventures and explored London. So many historic and renowned sights to see, including the British Museum, the Churchill War Rooms, the Tower of London, and the iconic London Bridge. It would be shocking if none of our chorus members sang the nursery rhyme at least once on this entire trip!

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Monday, January 13, 2020

What a busy day of singing Monday was for the chorus! We began the day with our first performance of the tour, our recital at the U.S. Embassy in London. You can watch the full recital hereThe singers gave a stellar performance and got a chance to speak with Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson.

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Afterwards we rushed off to our next performance venue: the gorgeous and acoustically-phenomenal St Martin-in-the-Fields. St Martin holds daily lunchtime concerts, hosting performers specially selected after an arduous application process. To be able to sing at St Martin-in-the-Fields was such an honor, and the chorus received a raucous applause and standing ovation. You can watch some videos of our concert here.

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We bade farewell to London and took a 2.5-hour bus ride to the city of Birmingham (pronounced "hum," fitting for the whole choral, singing theme...). If singing a concert in both the morning and the afternoon wasn't enough, our singers also attended their first Mahler 8 rehearsal with CBSO conductor Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla that night at Symphony Hall. This rehearsal was exclusively for the singers, no orchestra included. That being said, there were still about 500 people in the hall!

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Tuesday began with a guided sight-seeing tour of Birmingham (affectionately nicknamed Brum) led by the brummiest person of the entire tour group, Maestro Blake Clark. Blake did his graduate studies at the University of Birmingham, so he is very well acquainted with this charming city. Walking through the canal system was fascinating. Did you know that Birmingham has the most canals in the world, more than Venice? We also visited the breath-taking Birmingham Cathedral and visited the Bull Ring shopping district. Even the rain couldn't stop us from this thrilling excursion!

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Later that night, our group went to watch the London Symphony Orchestra perform works by Alan Berg and Beethoven's 7th symphony. In preparation of the concert, Executive Director Jack Fishman hosted a pre-concert lecture on the LSO and their history, as well as the works performed that night. It was the tour guests' first opportunity to hear the incredible acoustics in Symphony Hall. Not a bad introduction at all!

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Once again, we boarded our two coach buses and explored Worcester. A lot of great sight-seeing for everyone, including all the historic Tudor-era black-and-white buildings, and the original building where Worcestershire Sauce was made (it has now been turned into a pastry shop)!

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The Worcester Cathedral was a true sight to behold. The pictures speak for themselves. To gaze at King John's tomb was a truly surreal experience.

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We also visited The Firs, Elgar's Birthplace Museum. An eclectic man and a genius composer, self-taught and driven by a strong love of the craft.

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We returned to Birmingham through the hectic traffic that night for the chorus' second Mahler rehearsal, now with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

We traveled to Oxford for our third performance on tour, singing in Merton Chapel at Oxford University. Another stunning venue with an extraordinary organ! You can click here to watch Leo giving it a test run. You can also watch clips of the performance. Don't worry, he did NOT perform standing. The chapel was built in 1292, before modern heating. Most of the audience wisely kept their winter coats on.

 

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The concert was followed by a brief walking tour of Oxford University, then a bus ride back for more Mahler 8! This time, the guests were allowed to attend this open rehearsal, followed by a brief meet and greet with City of Birmingham Chorus Director Simon Halsey. To say this rehearsal was epic is an understatement! The singers spilled into the side balconies of the hall, as all 650 performers blasted the hall with an enormous sound.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Another free day for the tour group! The Birmingham Museum and its Edwardian Tearoom, shopping at the Bull Ring Cotswold tours, Gin Cocktail-making Class, you name it, our group probably did it!

 

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Whilst the daytime was spent at the tour group's leisure, that night our singers teamed up with the CBSO, CBSO Chorus, University of Birmingham Chorus and CBSO Youth and Children's Chorus to perform Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand, under esteemed conductor Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla

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The performance was followed by a singers reception hosted by BCAS!

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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Round 2 of the Mahler double-header! Blake led a pre-concert lecture for singers and guests on Mahler's 8th, and all the intricacies to listen for in the wall of sound. To be in Symphony Hall for that concert was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

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We concluded our tour with a farewell dinner at Bank Restaurant, where laughs, (happy) tears, and words of appreciation were shared amongst the group. Even a funny song written by a quartet of singers was performed (despite the 90-minute marathon that is Mahler) summarizing the feel-good nature of the tour. You can watch the Choir Ground parody video here. To quote board member Richard Dellheim: "We came, we saw, we sang, we conquered!"

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Monday was very bittersweet. We boarded our coach buses for the last time, headed back to London Heathrow airport. We bid farewell to Marianne and Ann, who were nothing but extraordinary throughout the entirety of this journey. We then got on the plane, flying back to Charm City. Thank you to all who made this tour possible, to all our tour sponsors and donors, The Sheridan Foundation, ACFEA tour consultants, ACFEA Couriers Marianne and Ann, Baltimore Choral Arts singers, spouses, guests, and babies Mary-Ann and Rowan, Blake & Leo, and Jack, Julia, and Karena of the BCAS staff. Until the next trip!

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