What goes on tour…

English: Frauenkirche Dresden Deutsch: Frauenk...

English: Frauenkirche Dresden Deutsch: Frauenkirche Dresden (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And we’re off! This time it’s a whistle stop tour – Hannover tomorrow night, Dresden the night after and Paris next Saturday. After Tuesday’s great performance of Britten’s War Requiem (it wasn’t just me that thinks it was good, check out what the Telegraph has to say) I am really looking forward to performing it again in different venues.

Now, while I have been known to organise the odd event at work, I balk at the logistical challenges of a tour. There are so many things that can go wrong…

One conductor caught the Eurostar by the skin of his teeth, only to discover that in his haste he was travelling on his young daughter’s passport. Cue much hilarity from the choir. Fortunately they let him back in the country.

Last year’s CBSO tour seemed like it was cursed, with striking airlines meaning that members of the orchestra were arriving right up until the advertised concert time. Which was somewhat delayed when the conductor fell ill. I’m told that Simon Halsey was a hero that night, not only entertaining the crowd by chatting to them in German, but also conducting editing highlights of whatever music the orchestra and choir could lay their hands on. Not exactly what was planned, but it’s amazing what you can do in a pinch!

So far, the mighty CBSO team seem to have solved the logistical challenges of a cancelled flight (half of us flew out this morning) and a change of soprano soloist, so fingers crossed those are the only issues we encounter this time.

The tours put on by one of my former choirs, the London Oriana, had a bit of a reputation. It’s a very, ahem, sociable choir. I realised what high standards there were when on the Eurostar out, one of the tenors produced not only all the ingredients to make cocktails, but also crushed ice to serve them with. Crushed ice! That is a level of dedication to tour drinking that I’d never seen before. Then there were the legendary after dinner forfeits on the last night. Really not for the faint hearted.

On the way back on yet another Eurostar (Eurostar passengers beware of touring choirs) unsuspecting travellers were serenaded in the buffet car with a medley of hits. Beethoven 9, Mahler 2, all the classics…

Now you may wonder if we actually fit any proper singing in. We do, honest. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of taking a piece and creating a performance in a new space, a different acoustic, a different viewpoint. It can be fun, it can be incredibly difficult. I’ve been moved to tears in a rehearsal of remembrance music in a church in the Netherlands, the venue lending atmosphere to the music. In other acoustics, where you can’t hear the parts you usually can, and the orchestra sounds like it’s playing a mile away you can spend your time hanging on the every gesture of your conductor, hoping the sound coalesces into something wonderful for the audience.

I don’t know yet what challenges this tour will bring, musical or otherwise, but you can be sure that we will be trying to create that musical magic that makes the travelling worthwhile.

Oh yes, and there may be some socialising too. Who’s bringing the ice?


The CBSO and CBSO Chorus are performing Britten’s War Requiem in Hannover, Dresden, Paris and London.



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