UK Tour 2004

The Choral Project’s second international tour was in the summer of 2004, traveling around the UK, including the Choir of the World competition in Llangollen, Wales. Keep reading for the full story, reported live while on tour as my first ever blogging experience!

Almost ready!

25 June 2004

If you don’t already know, I’m leaving in two days for our UK tour with The Choral Project, hence the “anxious” current mood!

I am going to try my best to leave quick updates here any chance of internet access I get, so check back here to see what’s going on!

Here’s the basic itinerary:

June 27th: leave San Francisco International Airport
June 28th: arrive at Heathrow & immediately fly to Edinburgh
June 29th: lunchtime recital in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh
June 30th: concert in St Mary’s Church, Edinburgh
July 1st: leave by bus for Raven Hall Country House, Ravenscar
July 2nd: bus to York, concert in Doncaster Parish Church, York area
July 3rd: concert in St Denys Church, York area
July 4th: bus to Chatsworth House and concert in Baslow Parish Church on the way to Lincoln
July 5th: in Lincoln
July 6th: lunchtime concert in Lincoln Cathedral
July 7th: bus to Leamington Spa, concert in All Saints Church
July 8th: bus to Stratford-upon-Avon, bus to Llangollen
July 9th: 11:30am Mixed Choir Competition begins!
July 10th: bus to Snowdonia (mountains), 7:30pm Prize Winners Concert (hopefully us!)
July 11th: leave by bus for Oxford, after dinner, leave by bus for Havant
July 12th: Concert in St Faith’s Church, Hayling Island/Havant
July 13th: leave by bus for London, farewell dinner
July 14th: leave Heathrow and fly back to San Francisco!

Now back to packing! :)

On our way!

27 June 2004

Well, not quite obviously, but close enough! Melanie & I are currently waiting for Jeff Ouye to arrive to pick us up to get to the airport…not surprising to any of you who know him that he’s the one not here yet when he wanted us to LEAVE by noon… 😉

Anyway, I’m all packed, hope I didn’t forget anything…at least my bags aren’t as heavy as Melanie’s! heehee…(granted, she’s staying for 3 extra weeks, but still!)

Thanks to blackwiidow (Fionna), I have printed out the location maps of the sites in Edinburgh, York & London…but then it’ll be the luck of the draw for internet access the rest of where we’re going… :)

Until next time!

in Edinburgh…

28 June 2004

Well, after a very LONG & cramped flight (my knees were permanently shoved up against the seat in front of me!), we made it to Heathrow without much sleep at all, then the connecting flight to Edinburgh…customs & immigration were nice & easy since our bags were checked at customs for us while we went through the domestic terminal painlessly with our passports & carryons…

After a shower & a short nap for Melanie & me, we all went to dinner at Merchant’s, where we had HAGGIS! Yes, haggis! Not in the traditional sheep’s stomach casing, but a flaky pastry bag…then the main course was excellent moist salmon with new potatoes and carrots…followed by a yummy chocolate cake oddly paired with a bright green applesauce…? Delicious none the less…!

For the geekiest part, though, we are currently sitting in the bar of the Menzies Belford Hotel, sipping port or Guinness, while I’m using Steve Crane’s PowerBook G4 on wifi that I just paid for on my Visa at £6 for 1 hour…we’re going to share the connection, check email, etc, but since I paid, I’m first…can you tell we’re a Silicon Valley choir? hehe! 😉 Check out the pic!

Night 1 (

Tomorrow is our first concert at St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile, with private tour of the cathedral beforhand, then we come back to the hotel, change clothes, then have our tour of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle in the afternoon…

Until next time!

more Edinburgh…

30 June 2004

Sorry I didn’t get to update last night, but didn’t get back to the hotel until after midnight & I forgot there was the internet 9p/minute by the bar until I was already in bed… 😉

Anyway, the concert went very well yesterday at St Giles, with my new DV camcorder & my stereo mic up high in a balcony where one of the stained glass windows was being restored…I’m so glad my wide angle lens came at 4:30pm before I left work last Friday because it was definitely worth it for all the architecture and stained glass inside the cathedral! :)

After the concert was over, it was a whirlwind bus ride back to the hotel, with only 15 minutes to change clothes, then a whirlwind lunch at the St James Mall food court before our guided bus tour of the city with a cute-voiced woman named Jean. The tour ended at Edinburgh Castle, which was great of course…I’ve yet to be disappointed by any castle of course, even though I had seen Edinburgh back in 1997. :) We had been lucky so far with weather, but it started sprinkling as we left the castle, so instead of staying on the Royal Mile because shops were closing anyway, most of us took the bus back to the hotel, then met again around 6:15 int he hotel lobby to leave for dinner…(Melanie left on a train for Glasgow to meet her friend Jo)…

So, Peggy, Sheila, Mark, Asa, Will, Ben, Steve, Michael, Keith, Jack, Johnathon, Galt, Robin, Juanita and I took 3 vans to the Claremont Pub at the east end of the city. We walked in, I looked up at the decorative shelf above the bar to see a Trek commbadge clock, a few starship models (Defiant, Enterprise, Voyager), and upstairs where we ate, there was a whole collection of Star Trek “fact guides!” hahaha…I had a steak pie with “jacket potato” (baked potato) with a pint of Blackthorn cider on tap but I only ate half of each…but I did share some chocolate mousse with Sheila…yummy!

After dinner, we sang (yes, Market Woman) even though Robin was the only soprano there, then moved along to the recommended Newtown Pub on Dublin St. They had these vodka mudshakes, in caramel, chocolate and mint…I had the mint at it was so yummy, Robin decided she had to get her own…Peggy, Sheila & Keith left us soon after…since some of us wanted to dance, CC Blooms was recommended, but when we got there, we realized that we were the whole party, so we left pretty soon…but what would you really expect on a Tuesday night anyway? 😉

Even though I knew it would be a long walk, it hadn’t been raining since the afternoon, and it was a nice night, so I suggested walking through town down Princes St so we could the the castle and other nice buildings lit up at night…it was quite a long walk, about 45 minutes, but it was almost balmy – for Scotland anyway! 😉 Many photo ops were taken by Robin, Juanita and myself (both still & video for me), and the tenors took the opportunity to have a walking sectional on the Vidu section of one of our competition pieces…boy were there strange looks from passersby! hehe…

As for this morning, I slept in, making it to breakfast at 9:20 when it closes at 9:30, had haggis & oatmeal with a small piece of black pudding, too…then off to the Royal Mile with Daniel, Keith & Keith’s mom Joan…since Joan had knee surgery not too long ago, we took a cab to the castle, then proceeded to make our way leisurely down the Royal Mile, but only about halfway…Dan bought a nice cashmere turtleneck (“poloneck” here) cable-knit sweater on sale, and I found some tartan remnants for 99p each…I got red & green ones for my Christmas decorating, since I already have some Oglvie tartan I still haven’t figured out what to make…

Only 8 minutes left of my half-hour, so I’d better make sure this posts to LiveJournal…we’re leaving in an hour for Haddington (1.5 hrs outside Edinburgh) for our next concert…if we get back early enough tonight, some of us might try a late-night haunted city tour…I took one back in 1997 that was very cool, and in the years since, there are TONS more tours now, so obviously I’m not the only one who enjoyed them… :)

Until next time!

P.S. Yes Tracia, if I had not been with a tour group where I’d often have to leave my own laptop at the mercy of hotel or bus security, I’d have been more tempted to get it fixed in time to leave… 😉

Night 3…

30 June 2004

We got to Haddington in record time, nicely without any drizzle, rehearsed for 2 hours (ugh!), then had dinner across the street at a hotel…then back to St Mary’s church (acoustics were fabulous!) where we did our almost 2 hr concert with intermission for about 10 guests, not including our “groupies,” bus driver, & tour courier. Ah, well…! We still gave it our all, and here’s the best compliment from courier Nick about Graham the bus driver…”Graham usually listens to the first half of ACFEA concerts, then leaves at intermission, but this time he STAYED!” Haha! Shenandoah was Graham’s favorite song ever and he loved our performance of it! :) Nick said he was very impressed at what an energetic performance we gave for such a small audience, which was good to hear, since we were trying our best. Daniel said he had to choke back tears of overwhelmed emotion three times, and several choir members also were moved to tears…awwww… :)

St Mary’s is a beautiful stone church, which a very large graveyard in front…those of you who know me well enough of course would guess what I did next…photos of gravestones for Halloween research of course! There were quite some impressive & intricate stones, so I am already inspired to make more gravestones for this coming Halloween… :)

We got back too late for the last of the Edinburgh ghost tours, alas, and now it’s a question of the hotel bar or venturing out elsewhere…since we must be packed & checked out by around 8:30am to leave by 9:30 for Ravenscar, it can’t be too wild a night…but you never know…at least no concerts tomorrow so our voices have a break! 😉

Until next time!

July 1st & 2nd, plus some of July 3rd…

3 July 2004

I had no chance to update until free time today in York, where I’m now at an internet cafe that has 6 old-school iMacs, a new iMac, and only ONE Windows machine…haHA! 😉 (Too bad they’ve locked down the hard drive so I can’t find a copy of Terminal so I can ssh to my email…)

We left Edinburgh early, bleary-eyed after a late night at the hotel bar (no, I actually did not have whiskey in Scotland, but seeing as I have not liked any whiskey before since it just tastes like lighter fluid to me, I didn’t spend my time in the Whiskey Heritage Center on the Royal Mile…sorry Robert!), then stopped for lunch in Durham on the way to Ravenscar. Poor Robin has caught a cold, and she forgot her umbrella in the Pizza Hut where we had lunch (hey, we only had an hour and it was quick with the salad bar & buffet!) so she & I ran back and luckily it was there!

After many, many winding roads taken at quite a quick clip, making several of us a bit carsick, including Daniel, we arrived in Ravenscar at the Raven Hall Hotel around 5:30pm after an all-day bus ride from Edinburgh, so we had daylight until about 10pm, then had to leave early in the morning again for York…Of course the hotel had no internet access, being on the eastern coast in the North York Moors, so no chance to tell you how I was enjoying it…too bad we didn’t have more time there, since it was beautiful, with our large hotel room on the corner overlooking the North Sea…a “battlement wall” had been built around the grounds with nice gardens, so copious photos were taken of those overlooking either the rolling moors or the sea…

Britta and Melanie at Ravenscar (

The hotel dinner was fine, standard British fare I guess, potatoes, boiled veggies and chicken with a custard tart for dessert. While the basses & tenors had a sectional rehearsal, Kristin, Melanie & I went for a swim in the indoor heated pool, where Denise just chatted with us since she didn’t bring a swimsuit. After the swim, Melanie tried to get an early night’s sleep, but I went back downstairs & sat in the bar with a decent crowd of choir members and our courier Nick..but the night did not end there… 😉

Todd was drooling over the hotel golf course on the coast, and played another 18 holes until it got too dark to see the ball! He ended up in the bar around 11ish I think, when he mentioned to Nick there was a snooker table in the hotel and suggested a game…The table was occupied, so a bit more bar chat, then the snooker match started…oh boy! You thought _I_ was competitive? hehe…well, let’s just say that snooker is MUCH more complicated than pool, and Nick lost and was really not pleased about it at all…I’ll have to tell you about the suspected poltergeist and the water balloon later, since I’m running short on time here…anyway, Todd 1, Nick 0, and this will be continued… 😉

After a decent hotel breakfast in Ravenscar – no more haggis or yogurt, alas! – we left early again on the bus, this time for York…we arrived at York Minster (the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe) for a group tour at 11:15, since we couldn’t check into our hotel until later in the afternoon anyway. We acquired special permission to sing for 15 minutes inside the Minster, so we sang Sicut Cervus (Renaissance), the Aquilanti Ave Maria (contemporary but sounds ancient), and Hail Gladdening Light, which was absolutely glorious in there! We ended up with a crowd of tourists about 100 or so!

Robin, Jack, Johnathon, Juanita, Ryan, Ben, Nat, Ben, Steve, Melanie & I decided to be brave and climb all 275 steps up the Minster tower…little did we know that since it is a tiny circular stone staircase, it was murder on all our legs, especially thighs – even for black-belt kung fu Robin! But the view from the top was beautiful, since the sun had decided to emerge just in time for us to reach the top, then the clouds came back over as soon as we started back down…thankfully down was MUCH easier…but during rehearsal that night, I was feeling it in my thighs… 😉

Ben & Steve left to tour the crypts under the Minster while the rest of our little band looked for food, finding Betty’s Cafe on Stonegate…Nat & I split a Yorkshire cream tea so I wouldn’t miss out on a scone with Yorkshire clotted cream, plus I had a sandwich…cute little Victorian place, but all of us felt it was somehow Disney…something about being just a little too perfect…? 😉

We were supposed to meet back at the bus to leave at 2:15, but Barbara & Joanne weren’t there…this was our first tension this tour, because we have been told repeatedly that the bus WILL leave without you if you are not there! Nick and Graham the driver decided to be nice enough to circle around twice, and just before we were pulling away, they showed up…they had gotten turned around…thankfully it ended up okay, just a bit of stress for our afternoon…

The hotel is modern this time, the Novotel just outside the city walls, and we just barely had enough time to drop off our stuff & get back on the bus for Doncaster…5:30 rehearsal, 7:30 concert in beautiful Doncaster Minster, but this time an audience of 17…ah well…the 3 older ladies in the front row more than made up for the quantity though! They were the cutest ever! One woman kept clapping enthusiastically out in front of her body, and her friend next to her was sobbing after Shenandoah, then bouncing & singing along with Jamaican Market Woman! We all spoke with them afterwards saying what a joy it is for us to have audiences like them! :) They promised to come to our concert tonight in York and bring their friends, so hopefully they’ll make it.

We had a “curry” (Indian food) in Doncaster after the concert, so we didn’t get back to the hotel until midnight, where there was a pool table, so a rematch was in order…it was then, after losing the first round to Todd, that Nick admitted to being a very bad loser! Good for him that he ended up winning the next three games…I told him, “Now that you’re ahead 4 to 2, you can finally sleep, eh?” 😉 Nick, Kevin, Melanie & I stayed up chatting until 2:15, getting up at 8am for breakfast…hehe!

Now I’m due for a women’s sectional rehearsal at the hotel at 4pm, so I’ve got to cut this short (walking tour & lunch was about it for today so far at least)…we leave tomorrow for Lincoln by way of Chatsworth House and a concert in Baslow, so Happy 4th of July everyone! :)

Until next time…

in Lincoln already…catching up from York & 4th of July…

5 July 2004

Here I am at the Sun Cafe in downtown Lincoln, just around the corner from the High Street. Ancient Win98 machines this time, probably why it’s only £1 for 30 minutes vs. the in-hotel terminal at £3 for 15 minutes! 😉

Anyway, let’s back up to catch up a bit…this helps me not forget what happened myself you see… :)

Back to the morning of July 3rd…Melanie & I decided since breakfast would probably be crowded right before our walking tour was scheduled, we ate before getting ready, so glasses & tied-back hair for both of us. 😉 Then it was off on the walking tour of York…we got the younger tour guide John, who was very funny and loud enough to hear, which was excellent for my taping…he had some hilarious stories worth saving! Weather was sunny, mixed with showers out of the blue that stopped as suddenly as they began – typical British summer weather of course! 😉

After the walking tour, Melanie left to have lunch with two of her local friends, while Ryan, Jack, Johnathon, Robin & I looked for a vegetarian place in our guide that ended up not existing…so we ended up at Oscar’s Cafe – obviously touristy since they advertised “french fries” with their sandwiches – when who walks in but Melanie & her friends…hehe…no room at our table though…Johnathon, Robin & I split a pitcher of Pimm’s punch, a traditional summer garden party drink…in Nick’s words, most memories of Pimm’s punch is of getting sunburnt and plastered at garden parties, since the alcohol sneaks up on you…but don’t worry, we didn’t have that much… :)

After lunch, Robin went back to the hotel for a nap since she was still fighting her cold, while Ryan, Jack, Johnathon & I went to tour the York Minster crypts that we missed the day before…that went until 3pm, where you found me at the internet cafe for my last update, so now we’re caught up… :)

Our concert at St Denys in York went very well, with a bit larger audience, but still sparsely attended…the warmest & kindest people though! One of the elderly men narrated the entire church for me, including the 12th century stained glass windows, and he even unlocked the safe to show me the silver communion plate…he was so proud showing everything off! When I said I was running out of tape and would have to stop, he even pulled the bells to ring them for me…hehe!

Britta, Ben and Jenie eating Thai in York (

Melanie’s friends had come to the concert and really enjoyed it, but they went to dinner by themselves…Ben wanted a break from the gigantic mass of people descending on restaurants, so he, Jenie & I wandered around York ourselves until we found something that looked good…we ended up at a Thai restaurant, where I had pad thai, but no Thai iced tea that is so common back in the States…we had told the large group we would try to meet them at the bar on Gillygate they planned on going to after dinner, so on our way we walked by York Minster all lit up at night and took copious photos and video like the AV geeks we are… 😉 When we reached Gillygate, there was a bar at the address, but not the bar they expected, and it was closed anyway, so we just went back to the hotel at 12:40am and went to bed…Melanie had just gotten in herself, which was good because we were only given one room key at that hotel…

Sunday morning was July 4th, but since our luggage needed to be on the bus before 8am, on the road at 9am, most of us had forgotten until Nick came on the bus microphone & wished us “Happy 4th of July!” We stopped for “elevenses” at Bakewell, of Bakewell Tart fame, a well-known dessert. Of course, we all had Bakewell Tart (called Bakewell Pudding in its hometown though – pudding is a generic term for any dessert) and tea, except Melanie was good & didn’t even try a bite…it had been nice when we arrived in Bakewell, but by the time we got back on the bus it was already drizzling…again TYPICAL… 😉

We had received special permission to sing inside Chatsworth House, the Duchess of Devonshire’s grand estate (the Duke has just passed away about 6 weeks ago, otherwise we were originally supposed to meet both of them)…it was featured as Darcy’s house in the most recent film of Pride and Prejudice, so you might recognize it…We sang There Will Be Rest in honor of the late Duke inside the chapel, which was beautiful, then we sang the Vasiliuskiate (sp?) Agnus Dei on the grand staircase. Since we wore our Choral Project polo shirts, in our wanderings looking at the house people kept noticing our shirts, realizing who we were, and complimenting us…nice to hear… :) The house and gardens are beautiful, and we had sun peeking out from the big fluffy clouds, with only a couple drizzles…it reminded me a lot of Blenheim Palace actually…

The Choral Project at Chatsworth House (

You think that was a busy day already? Heh! We still had a concert to perform AND get to Lincoln before we could sleep! 😉 Our concert was in Baslow, a small village near Chatsworth, so thankfully we got there a bit early. The parish had provided a very tasty buffet for us, with elderflower cordial to drink and a wonderful peach & raspberry tart with custard for dessert…with tea of course. I ate quickly enough to take photos of the absolutely beauitful gravestones in the yard before we rehearsed…and the vicarage calico cat Millie was very friendly and photogenic…yes, we have a LOT of cat people in this choir!

The concert was at 7pm, and it was a tiny church, but it was packed! Nick knew at least 50 tickets had been sold, since this was a charity concert fundraiser for Village AiD, a charity for helping underprivileged areas become self-sufficient. We felt bad for the people in the front row since they were so close to us we thought it would be too loud for them, but they all said it was wonderful!

As of 9:30pm we were on the bus for Lincoln, about an houf & a half away. Melanie had finally text-messaged Andy in Didcot, so he called back just as the bus decided to be patriotic and belt out the Star Spangled Banner, so I couldn’t hear him at all…but Andy said, “ah, it sounds quite good”… 😉 He still hadn’t even looked at our itinerary I’d sent him, but he decided he would come to the concert on Wednesday night at Leamington Spa, near Kenilworth and Stratford. Since the phone kept cutting off, we still have yet to discuss if we’ll do dinner in Oxford on Sunday, but I did tell him to extend the invitation to Marcus, even though I understand if Marcus doesn’t want to come…

So, we reached the hotel around 10:30pm, checked in, then a bunch of us went to the hotel bar…I chatted with Nick, Maly, Allen, with sometimes Kevin, Anna & Melanie, until 1:30, an hour after the bar closed and the bartender left…at 12:30 Nick said, “I am a bit tired, but I’m enjoying chatting with you all, so how about another round?” :) Good thing we were the only ones in the bar, because Maly, (the Episcopal priest in our group!) found innuendo in everything, leading to Nick’s “fine organ” story about meeting the Queen Mum…needless to say, the story had us laughing hysterically, but I won’t repeat it in its entirety here… 😉 I finally got to bed around 2:45am…whew!

This morning in Lincoln at the Marriot now, Melanie suggested the same plan of breakfast before getting ready, so we were the only ones there…nice when I’m in my glasses… 😉 Then it was off on the bus to meet our guides for the walking tour of Lincoln, which just ended with us continuing down the High Street until finding this internet cafe…Melanie is off on the train this evening to meet another friend of hers, so I’ll meet up with some others in the group & find something to do…very odd to have a completely free day, but very nice to be able to rest…

Tomorrow is our concert in Lincoln Cathedral at 1pm, so wish us luck!

Until next time…

more Lincoln…

6 July 2004

After the last trip to the Sun Cafe for internet access, Melanie and I went back up Lincoln High Street to eat lunch at Walkabout – as Melanie said “The only Australian place and I find it!” 😉 Then we walked back to the hotel by way of the train station so she would know where it was when she had to leave later in the afternoon…we both took a short nap, then she left for the train and I went to sit outside in hopes of catching some people for dinner…

Robin, Juanita, Jack, Johnathon, Lori & Kat were leaving, so I went with them, and we acquired Ryan, Kevin & Mark on the way…after a few false starts (everything closes so early here on a Monday evening!) we ended up at the Green Dragon pub…the food was great and they had plenty of space for us…I had shepherd’s pie for dinner, but I was brave and ordered spotted dick with custard for dessert, another traditional British delicacy…it’s bread pudding with raisins, so nothing scary, but everyone else at the table wanted me to try mine before they risked ordering any for themselves… 😉

After dinner, since it was still early, we wandered a bit, meeting up with Sheila, Peggy, Ben & Galt coming through the Glory Hole (the small staircase between houses that leads to the riverfront access)…by 9:30pm we were back at the hotel…room 203 was doing facials again, so I went by to say hi & to tape Carolyn “unpeeling”…heh! Then it was on to the bar, where I found Allen & Maly, then Nick showed up telling us “I figured I’d find you here”…then Kathy, Anna & Kevin, too…all of us chatting until 11:30 when I announced I should try to find a phone to call Melanie, since her train was due in at 10:30, and even with the walk, she should have arrived by then…but in the next minute or so, she walked in – whew! About 12:15 people started going to bed, leaving Anna, Nick & me until about 12:45am…an early night compared to some of the other nights! 😉

This morning, Melanie & I had breakfast at 8:30am before getting ready again…we were all on the bus in concert dress leaving for Lincoln Cathedral at 10am…we had a nice guided tour from 10:15 to about 11:15, then rehearsal until about 12:30 before our 1:10pm concert in the “Retro Choir” (aka the “Angels Choir”)…after rehearsal the sun was streaming through the stained glass creating wonderful colored patterns of light on the floor, so I took my camcorder off the already setup tripod so I wouldn’t miss my chance…I’m sure glad I did since by the time we were lining up for the concert, the sun had gone away…

Our Lincoln Cathedral concert went very well…the acoustics were amazing! The official audience was sparse but very appreciative, but since people were still touring the cathedral, I’m sure many more heard us…after the concert, it was just a whirlwind stop at the gift shop, then back on the bus to get back to the hotel to change into our “civvies”…we were back by 3pm, which didn’t give much time for any lunch before our 4pm rehearsal, so Melanie took a nap while I went to sit outside on the wall by the river overlooking the swans and canal boats…

After rehearsal, it was Robin, Jack, Johnathon, Kevin and me again, this time with Melanie, Daniel, Keith & Keith’s mom Joan, and we picked the Green Dragon again since we knew it was one of the few places still open for dinner! Yummy again, of course, then it was off to the Sun Cafe, where about 5 of us are using terminals at the moment…what Silicon Valley geeks we are, eh…?

Tomorrow is a couple more hours in Lincoln, then on the bus at 12:30 for Kenilworth, where we’ll get to check into our hotel before going to Leamington Spa for our concert, then a trip to Stratford Shakespeare territory the next day, and Wales after that for the competition on Friday…Andy, you’re still coming to the concert tomorrow, right? We’ll call you tomorrow afternoon from Melanie’s mobile to remind you… :)

Until next time!

in Kenilworth…

7 July 2004

So, right now I’m at Cafe Clix across from our hotel in Kenilworth in Warwickshire “Shakespeare Country” as it says on the sign, with about 45 minutes until we leave for our concert in Leamington Spa nearby…

Last night after dinner and the internet cafe in Lincoln, I went back to the hotel by myself since Melanie & Daniel were still merrily online, so I took my book & went into the bar to read…Melanie came in about half an hour later & said Dan, Keith & she were going to have room service dessert – some yummy toffee pudding Dan & Keith had the night before, so I went upstairs & hung out with them until about 10:30…then Melanie decided to repack her bags, so I went back downstairs to the bar, where by then a whole bunch of the choir was there…I chatted with Jenie & Anna, then Carolyn came by too…(no Nick since he caught something and was feeling awful all day, so he was rightly sleeping)…we all left around 12:30am…

This morning it was bags on the bus by 9:15, so Melanie & I got ready, brought our bags down, then ate breakfast, so we had plenty of time between breakfast and leaving for the cathedral/castle at 10am…the cathedral vergers yesterday had offered to give 28 of us a tour of the cathedral rafters, so I went on that since how many chances to you get to see that up close! The climb up the stone steps wasn’t nearly as bad as up the York Minster tower, thank goodness, and our guide was very knowledgable and obviously enjoyed enlightening us…realizing that these huge oak beams were felled and shaped without saws, only by splitting them along the grain and using adzes, is truly amazing!

We had to leave on the bus at exactly 12:30, and the rafters tour lasted until just after 11:30, so I just barely had enough time to do my own personal whirlwind tour of Lincoln Castle, including filming myself with the cathedral behind from the top of the Astronomy Tower on the castle walls…heh! 😉 One of the four original copies of the Magna Carta is inside the castle, so I saw that as well (extremely tiny handwriting!), and the prison chapel from when the castle was used as a Victorian prison, when the prisoners weren’t allowed to see each other, but they were expected to attend chapel…interesting…

Poor Nick is still feeling awful, but stiff upper lip & all that I guess…he quoted Monty Python with “It’s only a flesh wound” so he can’t be all that bad if he can still joke about it…but he admitted that he hasn’t eaten since yesterday breakfast…poor guy…

The reason I’m slightly “annoyed” is that our room at this hotel is on a weird inbetween floor, with no direct stairs or elevator access! We took the elevator to the 2nd floor for room 231, then followed the signs for 230-233, and ended up going down another flight of stairs! All this with carrying our big luggage, mind you…we already investigated and there are two stairs that go down from our “floor” but only to the kitchen or for emergencies only, so they’re not practical, especially for carrying luggage downstairs tomorrow morning…we did find stairs going down from the 2nd floor, but remember that means going back up to the “real” 2nd floor first! Some of the others who got stuck with us in those 4 rooms already got theirs changed, but since we’re here only one night, Melanie & I decided it wasn’t worth it…

We text-messaged Andy earlier, but he hasn’t answered yet…sure hope he really comes to the concert tonight! At least we get a buffet dinner provided by the parish before the concert tonight…hope it’s as yummy as the last one in Baslow… :)

Until next time…

more July 7th…Leamington Spa

7 July 2004

(no, your computer didn’t miss anything…I’m just backdating posts to keep everything straight, since it’s been a few days…)

When I last left you, we were on our way to Leamington Spa for our concert there. We finally heard back from Andy that he couldn’t get someone to cover his oncall time, so he couldn’t come to the concert…oh well…he’ll hopefully meet us for dinner in Oxford on Sunday…the buffet dinner provided by the parish in their in-church “Cafe Within” was excellent, but due to our rehearsal time, we didn’t have time for tea & dessert until after the concert. The concert went very well in another absolutely beautiful church, even though we had another sparse but appreciative audience…some of the problem might have been the weather turning nasty…we’re being told this is more like October or November weather, howling wind with some heavy rain, so I’m sure that prevented some potential audience from attending…

Since the weather was still pretty bad, most of the choir chatted in the hotel bar, but we missed Nick, since he was “trying to be good” since he had just begun to feel better…I chatted mostly with Juanita, Denise, Mark, Jenie, Maly, then Allen and Carolyn until about midnight…finding my way back to our room was a challenge, since I did actually get lost once…heh! Someone came up with the “Winchester Mystery Hotel” and I think that pretty much fits…the annoyance is past, and it didn’t really last that long…just the timing was bad on the last post since we had just arrived.

P.S. On the way back from the concert, Nick was requested to tell his “fine organ” PG-13 story for the whole bus, so I was lucky enough to catch the entire story on video…that will definitely be an easter egg for the DVD…hahaha… 😉

Next: leaving Kenilworth for Wales via Stratford…

July 8th…Stratford and Llangollen…

8 July 2004

By 9:15am, we were wheels rolling for Wales via Stratford upon Avon…we arrived in Stratford at 10am, had a guided tour for an hour, which was excellent, then an hour at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, which has been a tourist attraction since the early 1800s. One of the things I most remembered about Shakespeare’s Birthplace from my last trip was the graffiti on the windows…I couldn’t imagine ever engraving my signature on a tourist attraction, but some famous people have done it, and now that’s also part of history! Interesting…they can also tell by the guidebook when Mark Twain and others visited in the past…when I was there last time, the window was still in place, but they have since removed it and put it into a protective display case…

(During our walking tour, Nick fielded a couple calls about the Sac City Chorus’s tour which he also organized…a few people from my home church are with that choir, and I tagged along myself when they did the Verdi Requiem in Carnegie Hall back in 1995…)

At noon we were on our own until the bus was on its way at 1:30pm, so I found Jack, Johnathon, Juanita, Robin, Melanie, Ben & Ryan…I tried Welsh Rarebit (pronounced more like “rebbit”) which is mustard cheese on toast…pretty tasty actually…Stratford is pretty touristy of course, so we looked in some shops on the way back to the bus…I found a chocolate shop & splurged on a chocolate owl, hedgehog & frog since they were so cute… :) We were stuck in traffic immediately after leaving Stratford, so I got a couple postcards written finally…I’m sure they’ll arrive after I do, but c’est la vie…

Around 4:45 we arrived in Llangollen at the Eisteddfod itself first, where we checked in, got our “Overseas Competitor” passes, had some of the provided dinner (not the greatest, but they are trying to feed a veritable multitude), all in the mud & constant drizzle…yes JULY! heh…well, everyone did tell us this has been unseasonable weather, but we began to fear for our long black dresses since as a performing group, we are required to wear our concert attire whenever we’re on the Eisteddfod grounds…this is to foster the international flavor of the event, like the Olympic Village, I’m told…

We got back on the bus to follow our Eisteddfod guide in his car to Ellesmere College, a boys boarding school where we’d be staying in the dorms about 15 miles and a 45 minute bus ride away from the competition, back across the English border, actually! :) When we got there, absolute chaos, since the Eisteddfod organizers would not tell Nick anything in advance, so he couldn’t check on things ahead of time, and it was quite a mess…but we finally did all get rooms, but then it was really cold and the heat didn’t work in most rooms, and the morale was pretty much shot for the evening…Daniel went straight to sleep, Nick went off not to be seen until the morning, but the rest of us congregated in the first floor common room, while some played games, others ironed their concert outfits, etc…To warm myself up, I took a nice shower before bed, since our heater in our room didn’t work and the provided blankets were thin…to be fair, since the weather is not normal summer weather for here, they probably weren’t expecting us to need the heaters…I wasn’t as cold as others were, but that’s probably because I’m used to keeping my own house cold in the winter…or perhaps I channeled some of my Scandinavian roots…? 😉 At midnight my thoughts before going to sleep were “Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day…”

Next: Competition Day!

Competition Day…

9 July 2004

Ah, what a difference a day makes! :)

We got up this morning to bits of blue amongst the clouds, which immediately made things better…got some breakfast, then got ready with concert makeup & hair, had about an hour-long rehearsal, then left on the bus back to Llangollen…we arrived at noon, supposedly needing to be backstage at 1:10 to compete, but they were running late, so we had some time for me to annoy people up close with my videocamera while we were waiting…”Are you ready?” etc, etc…hey, gotta capture the moment! 😉 We were allowed one video pass, so I passed my camera to Kevin, Kristin’s husband, and he taped our competition performance for us…thanks Kevin!

So, the tension mounts…there were originally 10 choirs including us, then 9, then one Ukrainian choir had to back out at the last minute for some unknown reason, but we were always scheduled last, so we didn’t get to hear the other choirs in our category. Probably just as well for nerves’ sake, actually. Once we finally got onstage, everything went flawlessly! I was not the only one who felt that we really did give the performance of our lives…we did the best we ever have at all 3 pieces, and we have no regrets…it was quite a rush, and the audience absolutely loved the Karlsens at the end…

We had to wait about half an hour before the results, so as we were walking towards the food tent to get our free sandwiches, we were approached by several strangers who complimented us nicely…all our supporters who have heard every concert on tour agreed with us that we did our absolute best…

For the adjudication, they read off all the judges commentary in choir performance order, then the point scores for each piece, before announcing the winners. Waiting until the end for our commentary and scores was excruciating! I hadn’t been nervous before, but as I was filming our commentary, my hand was starting to shake too much to keep it zoomed in on the judge! By the comments compared to the other comments, we thought we might have it…

Alas, as the points were read out, we knew we had missed first place by a single point…argh! The Swedish choir who has won about 10 international competitions won first place, but we did have the highest single score with 95/100 for the Karlsens (Vidu!), which we’ve been told is almost unheard of…

I just heard that Nathania watched the entire webcast (sorry I didn’t know it was to be webcast until we were backstage when I saw the cameras and the link on a poster – darn!), including performances and the adjudication with comments, and she thinks we were robbed…ah well…

Now the Llangollen library is closing, so I’ll have to leave…probably next time I can post will be Oxford on Sunday…

Until next time…

catching up a bit for July 9th…

9 July 2004

(Another day with free internet access! This time in Portsmouth on Monday at the library next to the university…I missed my chance in Oxford because I had to meet up with Andy & Marcus…more on that later…)

First I want to catch up with the rest of Friday, Competition Day…I didn’t get the chance to tell you that before our Friday morning rehearsal before we left for the competition, we finally heard Nick play the organ! (Have I mentioned he was an organ scholar at Cambridge?) Pretty awesome, but he said he had no music so couldn’t do a proper job for us…then the headmistress or whoever she was came & told him off for not getting proper permission even though he had asked and was told there was no problem…ah well…at least we had one chance! He’s hoping to be able to play for us on Monday when we get to Maly’s friend’s church in Havant, so we’re all really looking forward to hearing him play… :)

Now back to post-competition…here are some comments from complete strangers that were heard by choir members:

– Marco was told “Oh, I heard about your choir and that ridiculous one point!” said in disgust…

– The audience member sitting next to Maly and me during the adjudication said “These judges never give a 95!”

– Mariakoren, the Swedish choir who beat us and were sitting near us during the adjudication, told Peggy and Carolyn that after they heard our performance, they were sure we had won.

– Other members of Mariakoren told Ben that they had done their research in advance, much like we did, and based on, they knew we were the choir they had to beat.

So, those comments are nice to hear, albeit bittersweet…what put it all into perspective for me personally was when we were all leaving the tent after the adjudication…some of the members of Fullerton College said “Congratulations” and inside my head I said “What for?” then immediately realized that Fullerton College didn’t even place in the top three, whereas we had still placed 2nd in our very first competition. Personally I am ready to move on, but not everyone in the choir has gotten over it yet, so I will leave it at that right now and not go into who is the most bitter…

Since we were SO bored Thursday night stuck in the dorms with no munchies nor alcohol, and we REALLY really needed to blow off steam after our “loss,” we begged Nick to let us stop at a store or something to pick up supplies…I’ve never seen such a long line of people in concert blacks buying so many different kinds of alcohol! haha…so yes, there was a PARTY back in the common room that night! Much drinking to be done…I personally was drunker than I have been in recent memory (“smashed” was the term Nick used to describe me?) seeing as I finished the whole bottle of Archer’s peach schnapps that I bought with a little help from Sheila, Robin & Kathy… :) Ah, but it was fun! We even got Nick dancing which was quite an accomplishment! It’s never an accomplishment to get Robin, me, Peggy & the gay guys dancing, so we all had a lot of fun…yes, the music was iPod-generated hooked up to the common room stereo…

But, the most fun actually was that there was a Romanian folk dance group staying in the same dorms, so some of them came by our party, and the clarinet/woodwind guy was truly awesome! He played clarinet, wood flutes, just about anything, and it was great fun. We tried singing a couple pieces for them, but I think we were pretty drunk to do a good job – heh! To me, this international camaraderie is what Eisteddfod should be about, not worrying about the competition. The Romanians even brought some home-distilled “fire” they called it…I only had one sip and it was pretty much lighter fluid! We asked if they made it themselves, but no, their grandparents made it! haha… :)

The party started dwindling about 12:30, and I left about 1am to get some sleep…since we had to leave by 9:30 for Powis Castle and breakfast only was until 9am, I had about a good 6 hours of sleep, so I was a bit tired, but not even hung over…nice…! 😉

Next: Powis Castle and the Choir of the World Concert…

July 10th…Powis Castle, etc…

10 July 2004

We left on the bus for Powis Castle at 9:30, since we were scheduled to sing there as an Eisteddfod outreach concert (sorry, forgot that we did sing from 3:50 to 4:05 on Friday afternoon as another outreach concert, but since we only did 3 pieces & were cut short, I kind of forgot about that!)…We got to the castle in the drizzle at 11am, then were told that the gardens don’t open until noon and the castle doesn’t open until 1pm…so why did we need to be there so early? I won’t go into the utter chaos that was the entire “courier” job the Eisteddfod did…needless to say, we all know if Nick had been allowed to be in charge, things would have been much, much smoother in Llangollen!

Thankfully the sun started peeking out as we wandered the absolutely beautiful gardens, then we sang on the steps of the courtyard to quite a decent audience who loved us. Carolyn was a bit afraid of her high D-flat since she had partied with the rest of us, but it sounded fine to me. The sound seemed to carry well even though we were outisde, and we even heard a final chord echo back to us from across the valley! We sang the Karlsens, Shenandoah and Ezekiel while Kevin was kind enough to tape again…thanks again Kevin! We had some pre-made sandwiches, some ate in the tea room, then toured the inside of the castle and left at 2pm to go change out of our concert blacks (yes, they insisted on our formal wear for singing in the courtyard!)…

Back to the Eisteddfod in our Choral Project polo shirts…the biggest shame was that we weren’t going to be able to perform Ah El Novio or Ezekiel for anyone at the Eisteddfod, so we decided we would go ahead & sing them at the Friendship Tent at 5:45 (early enough not to compete with the Choir of the World concert itself), which was for spontaneous performance…we collected a decent little crowd, and the barbershop group was clamoring for more… :)

Since the provided food wasn’t great, Ryan, Ben, Jack, Johnathon, Melanie & I had Indian food from one of the food stands in the festival area, with nice hot Welsh cakes for dessert (fried biscuits with raisins), then we got in line for the Choir of the World concert. Since it is a paid-admission concert with only an area at the back for festival competitors to sit, they had told us to get in line to be able to get seats, especially together. Most of the choir watched, but Daniel didn’t want to, and Nick stayed with Daniel to keep him company. They heard some of it still over the loudspeakers.

Mariakonen was first up, they are the ones who beat us, but we hadn’t heard their first round repertoire…but based on what we saw then, they weren’t expressive enough to reach the back of the tent, and their sound was pure tone and nice, but a bit boring choice of rep…yes, this made many people bitter… :/ The Swedish chamber choir was a bit more expressive, but still just okay…then the barbershop! We knew if we had made it into that round, the barbershop would be hardest to beat, which is why we had chosen our rep accordingly…the first two pieces were flawless barbershop, but just okay…but their final piece was absoultely hilarious! A whole parody of familiar tunes making fun of the Welsh, with outstanding choreography that left us all in stitches! We knew there was no way they wouldn’t win. The winning mens chorus (92 voices!) from Wales performed last, and they even had tuning issues that somehow gave Melanie a giggling fit since she thought they were so badly out of tune…Our Romanian friends from the night before were the performance to entertain us while the judges were deciding, so we loved hearing them again…needless to say, the barbershop group rightfully won and we cheered mightily for them!

We got back to the bus in record time so we beat some traffic getting out and back to Ellesmere…most of the choir was tired & went straight to bed (Melanie included), but some of us weren’t tired, so we went to the common room, not expecting much excitement…however, the other Swedish choir who came in 3rd below us was also staying at our dorm, so they joined us! That was even more fun than the Romanians the night before! Erik, who was talking with Peggy, Denise & me for a bit before we introduced ourselves did a double-take when I introduced myself…haha! He was not expecting a non-American name obviously! Before he had the chance to ask, I said I was mostly Swedish, but from immigrants who came to the USA over a century ago and I have not yet had the chance to visit Sweden myself…We traded songs for quite awhile, and yes I got it all on video this time…with only 2 sopranos (Maly & Carolyn) & 3 altos (Peggy, Denise & me) but plenty of men, we did amazingly well balance-wise…It was a real shame everyone else was so tired they couldn’t enjoy this…we gave them one of our sampler CDs, and at breakfast the next morning, Erik came over and gave a CD to Denise…

I finally got to bed around 2:15 after my shower, but I was so paranoid about waking up early enough I woke up at 5am, then 6am, then 6:30, then since we were only one door away from the bathroom, people kept accidentally opening our door since they were so tired! haha…needless to say, I slept on the bus on the way to Oxford…

Next: onto Havant via Oxford…but since now there are others waiting for the library internet, I’ll have to wait until later to tell you about meeting Andy & Marcus for dinner with Melanie…at least they said they will come to our last concert in Havant tonight, so I hope they make it! 😉

Oxford to Havant…

12 July 2004

(I got 15 more minutes, so I’ll see what I can do!)

We reached Oxford by 1:25, early for our 2pm walking tour, so Melanie & I ran off to try to find an internet cafe since Andy had mentioned a couple, but they were full with a line out the door. Melanie voted for internet rather than a tour, but since I’d been to Oxford many times but never with an actual tour, I tagged along…we sang a couple times in various college chapels, which was fun…Andy and Marcus said to call them when we were available and they’d meet us…since my tour got out late, I walked my fastest back to the Martyr’s Memorial, and they were already there chatting with Melanie, Dan, Keith, and Sheila…that was a bit of a weird shock when I haven’t seen Marcus since 1999! Yes, he’s my ex-boyfriend for anyone who doesn’t know…

Anyway, since Andy & Marcus don’t actually go out in Oxford that much, we wandered looking for somewhere…we ended up at the Kings Arms for drinks first, a famous pub the students frequent after their exams, where Mel & I had cider while the boys had beer of course…Andy couldn’t figure out his new digital camera even with help from Marcus and me, but then we eventually got some pix taken…since we had to be back at the bus at 7:30pm sharp, we needed to find somewhere for dinner…3rd time’s the charm, since the first place had stopped serving before 5:55 (!), then no one really wanted anything at the Cock & Camel pub, so we ended up a Zizzi’s for Italian since Marcus had eaten at a Zizzi’s in London…great food, good merlot, but the dessert Melanie wanted took 15 minutes to prepare and it was already 7:10, so she & I split some chocolate mousse cake (sooo good!), then got back to the bus just in the nick of time…literally, since Nick and that crew was just reaching the bus from their dinner as well…haha…sorry bad pun… 😉

Marcus has Monday off and Andy thinks he can leave work early enough to get to Havant tonight for our concert at 7:30, so I sure hope they make it…I think they will be surprised and impressed since our rep is so varied…I just got my 5 minute warning here in the Portsmouth library, and the bus leaves to get back to Havant at 12:30 anyway, so I’ll just say that Anna, Nick & I again chatted in the hotel bar in Havant last night until about 2am…seems to have become a tradition… 😉

Until next time!

Havant, the final concert…*sniff*

12 July 2004

After I left the Portsmouth library, I high-tailed it back to the bus, but I made it in plenty of time. We had taken the bus into Portsmouth instead of Havant since Nick found out there wasn’t any internet access in Havant (or much of anything else, it’s such a small town), and he said he knew we had to “feed our addiction”… 😉 After getting back to the hotel, while Melanie worked out in the hotel gym, I had enough time for a shower and a nap before leaving for Havant at 2:45…

We were getting to Havant an hour earlier than originally planned because Maly’s friend had arranged for the local bell ringers to give us a tour and demonstration of the bells in the tower, which was great! Too bad I elected to go on the second tour so I could wander around taking photos and video, since that’s when Nick got the organ keys and started noodling around…I heard it inbetween bells from up in the tower…darn! The bells and bell ringers were quite impressive…I think I finally might have maxed out the camcorder mic since I was standing directly in front of one of the gigantic bells while they rang it! LOUD! :)

Dinner was excellent, provided by the parish again. We gave them such a roaring thank you that the vicar said he didn’t think the ladies ever been thanked that well before! 😉 Nick sat between Denise and me for dinner, giving our whole table an excellent view of him turning beet red when the older lady clearing our table took advantage of a quick approximation of a hug by reaching around him with both arms and leaning into him! haha!

The concert went very well – a fitting final concert for the tour. Daniel kept crying after songs when he’d realize that was the last time we’d peform as this exact group. Marcus & Andy got caught in the same bad traffic we had the night before, so they came in about 15 minutes late during The Rose, but they heard most everything and were quite impressed – hooray! :)

After the audience had mostly gone, Nick had found music for Charles Wood’s O Thou the Central Orb for choir and organ, so we sightread while he played – awesome!!! We had told Marcus & Andy to stay around for that if they could – they were impressed that we’d never seen that music before! After that nice extra performance high, we all went to a private club next to the pub across the street from the church for a quick pint, then Melanie & me hugging Marcus & Andy goodbye before getting on the bus back to the hotel.

About half the choir went to the hotel bar when we got back, so I wasn’t the only one with that idea! Nick had been chatting with others at the bar before he came over to where Denise, Nat, Carolyn, Jenie, Kevin, Anna, Ryan & I were still sitting around 12:30. Denise was feeling the several double whiskeys she had, and Nick wanted to watch her Market Woman dance, so we sang while Denise danced with her hips directly in Nick’s face! hahaha! After we completely butchered Sicut Cervus since a man from Belfast requested we sing again, Nick gave up on us at 1am. Carolyn, Kevin, Denise, Anna & I went to room 37 where the facials were, and Jenie was teaching Lori, Kat, Daniel, Keith & Michael a game – right next door to Nick’s room, so I wonder if he heard Carolyn’s laugh? 😉 Another 2am bedtime for me…

Next: London, then home!

Whirlwinds of London…

13 July 2004

To maximize our time in London, which wasn’t much already, we left Hayling Island by 9:30am, arriving on the outskirts of London just before noon. We had 45 minutes in Covent Garden for lunch, so Melanie ran off immediately to find McInternet (she actually found it inside a McDonald’s!), but I just had a Pria bar & went shopping by myself. I bought a small watercolor of London at the street market to keep my travel art collection going. Unfortunately, Lori, Kat & Mark weren’t back at the bus on time, so we had to leave without them. Lori had her cellphone so she called the ACFEA office and left a message that they’d just meet us at the Tower of London at 3pm, but Nick didn’t get the whole message, so he was quite stressed since this was the first time anyone had actually been left behind.

Doris was our guide for our whirlwind bus tour of London. The only stops were a quick photo op at Buckingham Palace then the Tower of London at the end. It is hard to see properly from inside a bus, especially Big Ben, but it was better than nothing. I felt badly for those who hadn’t been to London before and didn’t have the chance to extend their tours. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, which was very nice!

Britta and Melanie at Buckingham Palace (

At the Tower of London, Doris was very informative, but it took 45 minutes for just her Tower tour, so that only left 45 more minutes to explore on our own. Since we’d seen the crown jewels before, Kat, Kristin & Kevin, Maly & I went through the Medieval Rooms, then the gift shops, getting back to the bus just in time. At least we were all back together by then, so Nick was back to being his chipper self. :)

We checked in at 5pm at the Thistle Kensington Gardens on Bayswater, not to be confused with the Thistle Kensington Park or Thistle Hyde Park! 😉 Since Graham was just dropping us off for dinner, and so many people weren’t going on the bus to the airport in the morning, while he was unloading our bags, we stopped him, gave him an Americana CD (with Shenandoah on it – remember that’s his favorite!), a tour t-shirt, tips collected from all of us, and we sang Shenandoah for him. Graham’s eyes got a bit misty, which started Daniel crying, and I saw Kat and Melanie crying too…awww…Graham got on the mic himself on the bus & genuinely told us “I don’t want this tour to end”…so sweet!

Melanie didn’t want to wake up so early since she was extending her tour, so we traded roomies with Peggy & Sheila so only Sheila & I would be the ones getting up at the crack of dawn. Sheila & I had wanted to go to Harrods “just across the park” but we realized there was no way we’d get there & back in time to leave for dinner at 7pm, so we decided we’d walk in Kensington Gardens until we had to start back. We went by Kensington Palace, former residence of Princess Diana, then we had just enough time to reach the brand-new Diana Memorial Fountain. There is no official sign for the memorial, only a yellow paper warning that pets and children are your own responsibility. I was hoping for an explanation of why it was an irregular oval shape. I figured the fact that pets and children were allowed to play in the fountain felt like Diana’s spirit. It did feel welcoming and friendly to me.

We made it back to the hotel with 10 minutes to spare, then we all left on the bus for dinner at the Farmhouse Table on Shaftesbury near Soho. We had our own room, but the tables were situtated around a corner so it was a bit difficult to see everyone. I ended up sitting with Todd, Kathy, Anna, Kevin & Nick, which also gave me a good vantage point for the videocamera. We had an excellent salad, with the first salad dressing we had yet on tour – heh! Nick had chosen lamb for the entree for everyone except Robin. It was so tender it just fell off the bone, but I still could only eat half since that was just too much meat at one sitting for me. However, the ice cream and chocolate fudge cake squeezed in just fine – delicious! Daniel gave speeches galore thanking everyone, then he got Nick up there, raved about how great he is which is absolutely true, making him blush of course, gave him a CD, tour t-shirt and tips we collected for him, then we sang his favorite for him…Ubi Caritas by Durufle. I didn’t see anyone cry this time, but the usual criers were around the corner from me so I can’t say for sure… 😉

Melanie & I had discussed earlier that we didn’t really feel like following the other crowd in search of gay bars in hopes of staying up all night, so we asked Nick if there was anywhere near our hotel to go. Since we were staying practically in his own neighborhood, he suggested his own local pub the Windsor Castle in the Notting Hill area. Nick had to lead the group of everyone who wanted to go back to the hotel first anyway, so we all got on the tube (I was “deputized” to keep the group together while Nick bought our tickets), but Anna, Kevin, Melanie & I stayed on for one more stop to get to the pub first to meet Melanie’s friend Gareth. Gareth had just arrived at the hotel to pick up Melanie’s suitcase for her and called her, so since the timing was perfect, we had him meet us at the pub first. We thought that a few like Maly, etc, might come along with Nick from the hotel, but it was just Nick so it was just the six of us. Very nice pub, but Nick had warned us of the very low doors inside – “the Mind Your Head signs are posted at the height of your navel” I think was the quote…? 😉 There was a large beer garden in back, and it was still a nice night, so we waited out there until a table opened up – very busy for a Tuesday night! The cider they had on tap (Addlestone’s?) was the best I had the whole trip – infinitely better than the Strongbow everywhere else!

Since we arrived around 9:45, we only had time for two rounds before we were kicked out at 11:20, since the pubs all close at 11pm. While chatting up a storm, we got some good and silly photos, but not with my camera, so I’ll have to wait – darn! It was walking distance back to the hotel, but Nick said he’d take us on a bus instead…but since Gareth still needed to get Melanie’s suitcase anyway, he offered to take us in his car, so we all piled in. They all offered me the front seat for leg room, but it would have been much more fun as one of the four squished in the back seat! I did get pix of that – haha!

Mel, Kevin, Anna & Nick squashed in the back of Gareth's car! (

While Melanie & Gareth took care of her suitcase, the rest of us went straight to the hotel bar. I opted to sip Absolut on the rocks this time. After Gareth left, it was Melanie, Kevin, Anna, Nick & I chatting for awhile, then Keith, then Daniel, then Carolyn, Will, Ben, etc, came back, disappointed in the Tuesday night gay bar scene. Around 12:30, they all left, with big hugs for those we wouldn’t see in the morning when we left at 6:30am. Around 1ish we noticed they had closed the bar without even offering last call…hrmph! Kevin was pretty much crashed out on the couch by then, Melanie had gone to bed, leaving Anna, Nick & me still talking, but Nick claimed tiredness by 1:15 or so, so we all went to bed…a very nice final evening!

Next: going home…

home again…

14 July 2004

Thankfully I hadn’t woken Sheila up when I came in late the night before, and thankfully again I didn’t hear her getting ready until 5:45, just in time for me to wash up & get my stuff together to load onto the bus by 6:20. I had decided just to wear my glasses on the plane so that made life easier. I didn’t feel like the cornflakes with the boxed milk, so I only had the muffin and the orange juice from the boxed breakfasts the hotel provided for us (we were too early for the hotel breakfast). Nick was proudly wearing his new Choral Project tour t-shirt and yawning every other minute like most of us were. Too bad we all (including me!) forgot about taking pictures with Nick until the morning we were all bleary-eyed! ah well…

We were off to Heathrow by 6:45, which was good since I heard Graham mention that rush hour traffic would be starting in 20 minutes. We checked in as a group by 8am, where I was almost the end of our line anyway, but I was very last to finish checking in since my checked bags were fine for weight, but they were insisting my carryon was too heavy, so I had to try repacking twice…argh! Robin also had the same problem and only finished a minute or two before me, so I didn’t feel quite so bad, but Nick did quip “Causing trouble again, Britta?” hehe… 😛 Since we were all checked in, Nick could finally leave us and go to his office, but not without goodbye & thank you hugs from us of course – We love you Nick! :) Let’s hope we really can work out that Choral Project organ concert Daniel insisted we do so we can have Nick come visit us!

Our flight wasn’t until 11am, but we had no gate assignment even scheduled to be released until 9:45, so we wandered. Maly & I went to Starbucks for coffee for her & a cranberry juice and cheese pastry for me, then she wanted Burger King. Maly went off to use an internet kiosk while I finished a couple postcards and filled out my customs declaration form. When 9:45 came around and we still had no gate assignment, we decided to go through security after exhausting all the shopping areas there. Still no gate assignment after smoothly getting through security, so since we found Lori and Suzanne, we set up “camp” and wandered around the duty-free shops. I never did find a Harrods shop to get some of the raspberry tea, but I saw others with Harrods bags when we landed – darn! No Archers in the duty-free area anyway, so just as well I bought my bottle at the Welshpool Safeway! 😉 We didn’t get a gate assignment until 10:40 when it said “final boarding” too! Ack! A massive herd of people all walked the 20 minutes down to our gate and got directly on the plane. It had gotten in late, hence the delay, so we didn’t take off until 11:37. I watched the Office Christmas special again, then since I was lucky enough to get the odd window seat where the tail started to taper, I had enough leg room I could doze for a few hours. I wandered a bit getting more wacky “going home” footage while giving my tailbone a break, watched Scooby Doo 2, then we were landing on time per the original schedule, making up time on the way. Customs & immigration were smooth for me at least, then Jeff picked me up around 3pm, and I was home to a very vocal kitty by about 4pm…where now this evening I am already having tour withdrawals *sigh*…I haven’t really been all by myself since before the trip, and there is only so much you can talk to your cat…although I was very pleased that I stayed exactly the same weight as before I left, even with all the alcohol I never usually drink! Good thing we were always walking everywhere… :)

Thanks for a fabulous tour everyone, and thanks to those of you who read the goings-on here! It was great to be able to read your comments before I wrote the next update each time…thanks!

Signing off for now…

Life Goes On

28 July 2004

Several people have asked me if I plan to keep updating this blog now that we’re all back from tour? So, I figured, why not? I originally signed up to be more of a traditional blog anyway, so here goes… :)

I mentioned “tour withdrawals” in my last tour entry…boy have I had it bad! I’m not usually one for getting all emotional (channeling my Vulcan alter-ego?), and this didn’t happen after the last Choral Project tour to Costa Rica, but this time it hit me hard that I had been with people constantly for almost 3 weeks, then I was back to just my cat at home…luckily going to eat lunch at Apple HQ with Jen to get my laptop back really saved me the day after I got back! (Thanks, Jen!) Finally getting emails and YM chat with Melanie still in London has helped, and so has the spontaneous potluck BBQ party Nathania organized for my birthday yesterday, complete with delicious homemade chocolate cake! :-9 Thanks so much, Nathania! I do feel blessed to have such friends! :)

Now the daunting task of editing all that video footage from tour is staring me in the face…I have actually now started importing, so far getting through about 1.5 hrs of almost FOURTEEN, but at first I was reading the Final Cut Pro manual (1600 pages of PDF – ack!), then my weekend was unavailable because my father’s aunt Helen passed away from liver cancer last week, so my parents & I flew up to Oregon for the service on Saturday…I sure didn’t expect to be on another plane so quickly…I offered to sing in honor of Helen because I knew what it would mean to her for a family member to sing, and her family really appreciated it…the happy side was that I got to see and hold my cousin’s new baby born in May…so cute! So the last of the elder Peterson generation has passed, but the newest generation of our Peterson side has appeared…stop me before I start singing from the Lion King… 😉

I’ll leave you today with one last tour blog comment from Nick via email:

“How did you get so much information down in those few moments when we weren’t on the bus or in a bar?!”

heehee… :)