Our Route around Europe

Our Route around Europe

Friday, August 29

... Home, Sweet Home ... well, Hotel ...

Mrs DofM is proud to announce her eventual release by the good people of St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto. No flights on the horizon, however, due to insurance problems and difficulties getting the necessary documents signed by the right doctors within the right time zones. Nightmare.

Here is the only view of Toronto I've managed so far. If you imagine it's a panoramic view from some chic boutique hotel then you'll be very envious....

Wednesday, August 27

A few sights in Toronto

Between visits to St Michael's Hospital, DofM has been around the sights - University, Ontario Legislative Buildings, Royal Ontario Museum (Liebeskind, see photo) Remenyi Music Shop (over 10,000 choral works in stock), and he's even beginning to get the hang of the six storey Eaton shopping Center (five of the storeys are underground). Following a chance conversation in the music shop, he is hoping to meet the composer Dean Burry, who has written a number of successful chamber and children's operas in Canada, before he leaves for New York. This may be a possible avenue for the Church Opera plan scheduled for 2010. The music shop also afforded copies of music by Barrie Cabena and Denis B├ędard, both of whom are very popular choral and organ (respectively) composers in Canada.

Mrs DofM (pictured after most of the wires had been removed yesterday) is planning to get out on Friday morning, and fly back overnight arriving in BHX on Saturday morning.

Tuesday, August 26

Another day in old York

DofM still here in Toronto - which was formerly known as York, making the Tour "from New York to old York". We're hoping that Mrs DofM will be out of St Michael's Hospital on Thursday and hope to put her on Air Transat to Birmingham International on Friday, arriving in Birmingham on Saturday morning, where we hope someone will meet her and drive her the short distance back down to North Hampton (as everyone insists on calling it). She is much better today, back on a normal Isolation Ward, and no longer requiring IV medications or much use of Oxygen (tho' she'll need constant Oxygen on the flight back). Moving from room 14008 (14th floor, room 8) to 14064 has meant a change of view from the West side to the East - both splendid, but the West side has a great view of the lake.

Have spent the free parts of the day exploring many CD shops in the City looking for evidence of Canadian Choral (and Organ) music of worth; not much to report, but Andrew Ager, DofM at St James' Cathedral (where the Dean has been a great help in making arrangements and providing support for me here) is a fine composer and we may think about a commission in 2009? I've spent some more time in the Cathedral, which is not particularly splendid, but does some great work with outreach in the City, and is looking to build a new Cathedral Center (!) to make more of this in the coming years. We were saddened to hear they could not keep their choir of Boys and Men, but looking at the Music Lists for their adult choir, it is clear that they have been able to keep standards very high with this arrangement.

Looking forward to returning home on QM2 - I'll keep you posted!

Another day in Old York

Yes, DofM still in Toronto (the City formerly known as York - our tour thus went from New York to old York), with Mrs DofM recovering well and hoping to be out of Hospital on Thursday, and on a flight back to the UK asap so that she can get back to her medications that are waiting at home for her. The cost of healthcare in North America is frightening and we are hustling the Insurance company to get payments sorted very quickly.

DofM has taken advantage of his free time to explore Toronto a bit further - there really is another city under the ground (useful when the temperatures plunge in Winter). A good deal of time was spent at St James Cathedral where the Dean has been a great support offering everything from accomodation to hospital visiting to help out over the coming days. Hours have been spent in a number of CD stores exploring Canadian Choral and Organ music (and, of course, Opera), but nothing of that much interest has sprung up. The DofM at St James' Cathedral, Andrew Ager, has written some very beautiful things, and perhaps we might consider him for a 2009 commission? If Mrs DofM is bundled back to the UK by the end of the week I'll be taking a train down to Pittsburgh to visit relatives nearby, before moving on to New York ready to set sail back on QM2.

Monday, August 25

They're back

The Choir landed back in Blighty on Monday after two long and hot services in St James' Cathedral, Toronto. The Cathedral is not large, and with a slight acoustic and no air conditioning it was a tiring last day of the tour; the Dean, Vicar and Associate Organist made us all feel very welcome indeed, and provided a good lunch between services. Mr DofM performed a recital of Buxtehude, Franck and Judith Weir before Evensong, and the choir concluded the day with C. H. H. H. H. Parry's "I was glad". Our first true casualty of the tour came during the morning Eucharist when Mrs DofM was rushed to St Michael's Hospital with breathing difficulties. DofM is remaining in Toronto with Mrs D until she is better again and they plan to return together on QM2 early in September.

The previous day was spent on a Coach Tour of Toronto - sadly the second Coach driver was from a different City and could only offer the sketchiest of commentaries. Those on the first Coach were treated to a great guided tour (!) taking us up to Grace Church-on-the-Hill whose choir came and sang at All Saints, Northampton, last Summer. The peak of the day was 96 members ascending up the CN Tower (the world's largest free-standind structure until 2007 when it was trumped by Burj Dubai (under construction) which will be 272ft taller) where many witnessed the spectacle of a glass floor looking straight down nearly 1500ft to the ground below. The afternoon was spent shopping and packing before a final splendid Dinner at the New College Residency.

Many thanks go to all who made the Tour work "on the ground", it is too exhaustive to mention everybody (you know who you are) but Group Leaders (noting Mr Bell's gift for finding food for nearly one hundred should be in the Guiness Book of World Records and Ferny whose first group leadership at only 19 years of age was a tremendous success), Mr Palmer, Mr Dickson, Mrs Masnica who sells tapes like a whirlwind, and particularly Mr Pinel who conducted the Girls' Choir so well and coped with the alternative arrangements in Albany/Rochester and Mr Turner who looked after the Choir so well when Mr Dunleavy was caught up in Mrs Dunleavy's hospitalisation, and who kept the British end in view bringing in CAD$100 along the way (cf: "I feel the winds of God today").

UPDATE : Mrs DofM was released from ITU last night and moved into a "Set Up" ward (like HDU in the UK) where she has stabilised and the Doctors are hoping to release her in 4-7 days.

FURTHER UPDATE : Please can DofM ask that parents bundle up photos of the tour that they are happy for him to distribute and use for publicity on CDs to be given to him upon his return, rather than e-mail photos as his Inbox has already exceeded its limits twice in the last 24 hours! With thanks.

Saturday, August 23

...Water, water, everywhere...

Yesterday we went to the water park in Ontario. It was very good, and there was lots of water! There were a lot of activities for different ages. There were a number of slides, ranging from a mild Cyclone, to an almost vertical drop called Cliff. I went on that about four times. At lunchtime the staff prepared some games for us to settle our food before we go swimming. There was a lazy river, and a pool with a wave machine. Overall, it was a great day for everyone (well mostly), even the people who couldn’t swim had a good day. (A.D. Head Chorister Elect, still considering his cat, Jeffrey. ed: photo not ours as we were advised not to take cameras to this event)

Thursday, August 21

Niagara Niagara - So good they named it, well, once ...

As you can see we've only just reached internet after travelling from New York via Albany, Rochester and the Niagara Falls here to Toronto. The Boys and Men sang a great concert in All Saints' Cathedral, Albany, where we were hosted so very well by The Bishop of Albany, the Dean of the Cathedral, the Director of Music and his Assistant. We were also helped along the way by Dr Howard, a parent of one of their boys, who helped get Mrs DofM to the emergency room and back in time for the coach departure after some breathing difficulties. She also got the DofM back to the Cathedral just in time to conduct the concert - many, many thanks! We also gave an impromptu performance at the 12:05pm Eucharist in the Lady Chapel, and in the State House - Albany is the capital of New York State, NOT New York. Their main staircase has a fabulous acoustic (ed: and was just like looking at Piranesi's "Carceri d'Invenzione") we sang "Verily, verily" from memory, and the National Anthem ... both to "la" so as not to muddy the Church/State divide in this political building. In the afternoon rehearsals were briefly abandoned so that we could ride on the Albany Duck - an amphibious vehicle that took us through the town on land and by the River Hudson.
--- H.T. (Choral Scholar)
Simultaneously (long story, it should have been so much simpler!) the Girls' Choir, under the direction of Mr Pinel with Mr Dickson accompanying, performed to nearly 500 people at St Mary's RC Church in Rochester. They performed a first half of French music with organ from the West gallery, and a second half of English music with piano, including Chilcott's A Little Jazz Mass from the East end. The concert was publicised all over the town and on both local radio and TV. They gave us a great Pasta supper and the Days Inn where both choirs stayed that night was a great improvement from the Hostel in New York. (DofM)

We've spent today at the Niagara Falls - a late morning due to driving restrictions meant a late breakfast, and we were delayed at the change-over in Buffalo as Mr DofM pelted to the nearest Pharmacy to get a Prescription filled for Mrs DofM: $190 for sixteen pills! Niagara Falls was amazing, and we had a fine buffet dinner on the 13th floor of the Sheraton Hotel, overlooking the Falls, and a ride on Maid of the Mist, right into the water - fabulous. Our new Coach drivers (we're now on Greyhound Canada, where previously we were on Trans Bridge Lines from Bethlehem, PA) tell us in great detail about everything we see from the coach - the CN Tower, the Baseball stadium (a game between New York and Toronto tonight really clogged up the roads), the "ER" carved into the lampposts on Queen Elizabeth Drive. The accomodation is student rooms - they're pretty good, but the place is a maze and we're still getting on top of the layout. --- E.J. (Girl Chorister)

Tomorrow we're at the Water Park for a second well-earned DAY OFF.

Brief Pausette in Postings ... US crossing to Canada

Apologies for the delay in posting - sporadic internet access ...

We will get proper blog postings done for all the intervening days, but all now safely crossed the border into Canada, on our new coaches and our new best friend driver John who knows everything about everything and everyone already and onto the home-straight.

Uploading photographs to the website is proving troublesome but we hope to rectify all of this in the near future. If you are reading this later and have photos of the choir on tour, if you have one or two that you would like to share please do e-mail them to mailto:tomusic@allsaintsnorthampton.co.uk but if you have more than a couple please don't clog up his Inbox, rather pop them on a CD and post to him at All Saints' Church, George Row, Northampton, NN1 1DF, United Kingdom. We can refund postage ... with thanks.

In the meantime, please enjoy our bubbles and dig our High Visibility Vests - our Group Leaders had thought we would not like them but they're excellent and glow in all photographs. You cannot miss us in a crowd and we cannot get lost - yet!

[A.K. & M.S., Girl Choristers, pictured]

Sunday, August 17

Goodie Bags, Glad Rags and Great Songs

In the morning the girls sang at a Church called All Saints. It was quite a small Church but the people there were very nice. We sang Missa in simplicitate by Langlais and The Best of Rooms by Wood, and a lot of musical surprises that we hadn't expected. A highlight of being there was the food that we had. We were provided with snacks (bagels, biscuits & muffins). After the service there was also a meal where there were a variety of quiches, salads, chicken and other things. We also had fresh fruit salad which included strawberrys, grapes and different types of melons. Afterwards they gave us ice cream sandwiches and we also all got goodie bags [ed: the Boys and Men sang to a big congregation at St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue where they had sung ten years earlier - you can hear the results on http://www.saintthomaschurch.org/Stream.html].

In the afternoon the girls met up and sang with the boys and men and sang at Grace Church on Broadway. We sang a small concert and I thought it went well. The Lady [ed: Associate Rector] at the Church thanked us when we were finished and bought us all ice creams from the ice cream truck she had arranged to be parked outside. I was thrilled to have ice cream even though the hot climate isn't seeming so bad. They invited us back to sing their Sunday services next time we were in the United States, and their Choir Manager was really interested in what are doing at All Saints.

For dinner the Donaghue family, together with some of the other adult supporters cooked jacket potatos with different fillings, salad and then more mixed fresh fruit salad afterwards. There was also a singing competiton that followed. It was fun because we could choose any piece we wanted so long as it wasn't a "Church" piece. I enjoyed the performance of the group that came first and was pleased that the group I was in - singing Eric Clapton's "Tears from Heaven" - came joint 2nd! C. McK.

Saturday, August 16

...Sun but no sand...

We were pretty good at going to sleep last night, apart from the noisy people upstairs. Today we got up nice and early, had breakfast (we don't like the bagels - I love the big shiny red apples though!), got on the coach (no. 2) for a nice short journey to All Saints Church. Not the Northampton one - probably a bit smaller than All Saints at home. The boys went on coach no. 1 to St Thomas's, Fifth Avenue.

At the church we met a dog - Naila. She was really fluffy and her tail was always wagging! She really loved bread and ate everything we gave her, even the big chunks! We then rehearsed for a bit but it seemed really quick and didn't feel like three hours. We had more food at the church - bagels, poppy seed cupcakes and yummy muffins.

After the rehearsal we came back to the hostel and had lunch in the back garden - it was really hot and sunny after the thunder storm yesterday so we sat outside for lunch on the picnic table - in the middle of the garden there's a pond. Then we went for a long walk in Central Park - there was water everywhere and Sabina nearly went in an enormous puddle! We had to put on lots of sun cream because of the heat and I got lots in my eye - it really stung for ages. In the park we played games - we played a game where two teams raced with a plastic bottle. I was on the winning team! Some of us played rounders although we lost that game - Tilly got caught out by Simon. Most of the other boys played football. Mr Dunleavy has pink sunglasses so we called him Pinky all day.

When we got back to the hostel we had supper and then I played some pool. We got to stay up late and stayed talking to each other in the garden. I've made loads of friends and Honore and one of the boys had a water fight. I started to join in but didtn't want to get wet so retreated to safe ground. Honore lost. Tilly did a French plait for me.

Tomorrow's a busy day so I'm going to bed now.

K. F. (a younger girl chorister)

And God created lots and lots of rain

I woke up at ten past eight, even though breakfast started at eight! There weren't as many options as in the other hotel - bagels, cereal and bits and pieces - nothing fried. Got on the Coach and went down to Trinity Church on Wall Street. It's a pretty nice Church, quite big - we sat on chairs behind the Altar; we rehearsed in a Choir Room and then in the Church, which took just a few minutes. The Boys and Girls sang the service, doing one piece each, and "Jazz Mass" in the concert afterwards. There was a chubby man playing for the hymns and lots of ladies around the Altar, quite different for us. We had lunch in the grounds of the Church, and then went to Ground Zero and St Paul's Chapel where there are lots of memorials - both were very emotional.

We took the Coach up to Central Park and ran around a bit with ice creams and then it started raining. [ed: A.D. takes over here - as part of the Roman Catholic Mass party I went to Mass at St Paul's Church, Columbus Avenue, where Fr. Jamie took a service for lots and lots of Catholics on their day of obligation. The acoustics were good in the Church and the men sang "Ave Maria" by Biebl and Mr Pinel played the organ in his socks too loudly] The outdoor concert went ahead but we were soaked and didn't sit out in the rain and listen to 200 guitars. We stood under a large porch in the Lincoln Center for ages and ages until the food arrived and Mr Dunleavy ran out in the rain to buy a whole crate of Bananas.

Home in the Coach, still wet, and pretty much straight to bed - apart from the older crowd who played in "Down Under", and the Group Leaders who had to do a debrief. My room has five other boys in it, but some rooms have as many as ten in total. The rooms are big enough, but we have to keep them tidy otherwise Fr. Kentigern-Fox doesn't give us a good score when our rooms are inspected. Tomorrow we go to Fifth Avenue to rehearse and then to Central Park in the sun this time! R.M. (Boy Chorister, far right with the medal)

Come again on Washing Day

A brief note from DofM in advance of a chorister blog: yesterday the Boys and Girls sang at a service and concert at Trinity Church, Wall Street, and the men sang a very well attended Mass at St Paul's Roman Catholic Church on 60th, to which all RC boys, girls and parents also went, it being a day of obligation. We were scheduled to hear a performance in an outdoor arena of music for 200 (!) electric guitar, but we were caught in a torrential thunderstorm with wind and rain lashing about all around us.

Once we'd found shelter, Messrs. Adams, Hughes and McGovern took a taxi back to the Hostel, picked up our Dinner, and together with Mrs Freeman brought it back so we could have something to eat whilst waiting in our shelter. A very difficult evening made good by the choristers exemplary behaviour and patience.

Our thanks to the Lincoln Center for providing shelter, and to Officer Trebiano & Harris for helping keep our group together in the pouring rain. Today (Saturday) will be much more straightforward which rehearsals in the morning, and then a return to the Hostel for games in the nearby Central Park.

Friday, August 15

...New York, New York....

We were still a bit tired after getting up really early, but breakfast was great - bacon and sausages again! We had a great score in room inspection, the best you can get!! Then we had a long coach ride to New York. When we got to the hostel we were not allowed in check in as there were some repairs going on. so we had to go straight to the Church in Times Square after dropping of Father Alan at a Convent. It was extremely hot! we had to leave our stuff on the coach.

The Church was really big with a blue starred ceiling. It looked like a night sky. We had to sing from the gallery high up at the back. So we were looking at the back of the congregation. Then a thunder storm happened while we were singing. Sometimes it was louder than us!!! After the service we had a nice reception from the Church people. Then the boys coach had broken down and a new one had to be sent before we could get back to the Hostel to check in. It was about 9 when we got back and got our rooms. I am rooming with Abby, Becky, Emily, Holly, Megan, Sinead, Amy, Aine, Hannah, Sabina, and Kimberley. Hostel is huge but OK. It is quite exciting. Dinner was very late but OK.

Today we are in Wall Street. We will post some Photos later today.

L.A. (assisted by Dad)

Wednesday, August 13

... How far is it to Bethlehem? ... Not Very Far ...

We took two coaches from the Hotel to the Nativity Cathedral, via McDonalds where we ordered Happy Meals for 85 (some Chicken McNuggets, some Cheeseburgers, some Hamburgers) and 13 meals for our Veggies, Vegan and other problem cases. This was the fattiest meal so far and the McDonalds was covered in old-fashioned boards and adverts like the "original" restaurants. The Cathedral was beautiful and the organ made some wierd noises [ed: 32' reed and flue caused the choir stalls to shake rather violently]. We rehearsed for two-and-a-half hours before going to a Pizza place where there was lots of salad, or more importantly pizza and pasta. Mr Bell worked really hard negotiating a great group discount.

At the concert people had to stand at the back, so we think there were about 400 in the audience, and at the end everyone stood up as they were applauding us. The concert lasted 2 hours and I'm shattered. After the concert we had a party in the Hall with the audience who bought nearly $650 worth of CDs!!!! My favourite piece was the Gloria from Missa omnes Sancti which we're singing again on Sunday morning on the live broadcast. "I was glad" was pretty good, too, really loud with the all the girls, boys and men and the organ blasting out. Hopefully a good night's sleep and more good breakfast before we're off to New York. The Rector has cool sunglasses! S.J. (Boy Chorister - I'm in the middle)

[Ed: Many, many thanks for Mr Dean and especially Canon Russell Jackson, Precentor and Director of Music for inviting us - he went to Bethlehem straight from All Saints, where he had been Director of Music. Thanks also to all those who so lavishly fed and watered us at the reception afterwards.]


All arrived safely and got to bed around 11:30pm (5:30am UK time) after a long journey!!! 23 hours!!!!!!!!! [see D.B. below]....
All OK today though and looking forward to the first concert in Bethlehem this evening. The hotel is very nice and spacious with HUGE beds; breakfast was lovely with many options including scrambled egg, which I love, pancakes, which I love, bacon - crispy and American style, which I love. Rooms have TV, microwave, coffee makers, irons, fridge, loads of things and we can call using the 'phone from room-to-room. After breakfast we had our first time with the Rector talking about our journey so far, and a meeting with Mr Dunleavy when we sorted our numbers so that we can be counted on and off the coach quickly - I'm 13, but not unlucky. Then room inspections with the Rector and Fr. Kentigern-Fox, and then the big sort out of music and robes. My Cassock still fits even after the big breakfast.

C.A. (Girl Chorister Parent), S.E. (senior boy chorister) )

Sunday, August 10

... Three Days ... Ten Churches ...

Mr & Mrs Director of Music have safely docked in New York : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75DjbomH0Bs : and have so far visited ten Churches, including all those the Choirs are visiting in NYC. Sunday morning was spent at a Black Baptist Church in Harlem ... Mr Director of Music is wondering how the Rector would fare with the constant background hum of the Hammond Organ, intermittent clapping of the Verger, and congregational whelps, groans and Ay-mens throughout his Sermons?

John Scott (a Patron of FOASM, DofM at St Thomas Fifth Ave., and former DofM at St Paul's Cathedral) wished us good luck before he left for the UK and we also met the Interim DofM at Smokey Mary's James Kennerley, who used to sing with Mrs Director of Music's brother whilst in Cambridge. Small world? Certainly a small choir gallery at Smokey Mary's, but a HUGE organ. All Saints seems very friendly, but St John the Divine is covered in scaffolding, knows nothing about our visit (argh!), and is all over the media for its enormous budget deficit. Still, made good contacts at St Paul the Apostle at the Lincoln Center, and have plans for Choir visit to hear 200 electric guitarists, simultaneously, at an open-air concert.

Hostel is very nice, and has been spruced up in places (esp. kitchen facilities) since we last stayed in 2003. Visited a Farmers' Market and had Bison Meatballs for Dinner. The Choir arrive very soon and blogs will come from choristers from henceforth. Amen.

Wednesday, August 6

12 Hours to Manhattan ...

Mr & Mrs Director of Music are now less than 400 miles from New York City, and are preparing for the 5:00am start tomorrow to watch the passage under the Narrows Bridge, and the view of the Statue of Liberty coming on to the horizon. Life on board has continued smoothly with a couple of black tie dinners being amongst the highlights, and the performance of a middle-aged "pro" in a piano extravaganza where she played the piano after the fashion of Bill Haley with various extremities of her body. Sadly her thigh was much bigger than Bill's and it was a considerable effort to get it onto the treble keys. Lovely.

For the first time today it has both rained and shined. The time has enabled the Director of Music to make a good number of preparations for the Tour and also for music for next term and the Derngate concerts with the stephen Petronio Dance Company and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Former singing teacher, and Chairman of the DofM's other choir - the Northampton Bach Choir - Heather, is cat-sitting and has e-mailed some great photos of Des and Gladys at play. Not long now until the troops descend ...

Sunday, August 3

En Voyage

Since leaving Southampton on Friday afternoon the Director of Music has travelled 1000 nautical miles on his voyage across the great and wide sea (also, but no signs of those creeping things innumerable yet). Memories of past choir Cinema trips came flooding by with the announcement of a 24 hour rolling presentation of Mr Bean's Holiday on Channel 25. Breakfast this morning was with a couple from Pennsylvania, Buck and Nancy, who are now coming to our concert in Bethlehem, PA.

Much of the voyage so far spent reading Voltaire's Candide, marking up scores for Bach Choir, and hoping that Des and Gladys are behaving themselves. Last night's black and tie ball gave us a chance to show off our cha-cha-cha, which is certainly not the Director of Music's strength, even though Mrs Dunleavy is adept.