As autumn gathers around us we thought it would be a good time to think back to the summer and share some thoughts and thank-yous from our third Summer Tour.
We kicked off with a live appearance on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune. Our third visit to W1A got off to a glittering start when we realised they were filming for Strictly Come Dancing right in front of the famous façade! With Josh still air-bourne on the way back from Australia it was a real pleasure to welcome Gopal Kambo for his first performance with the group. Gopal is a choral scholar at St John’s College in Cambridge and so is very used to singing with Joseph and although we threw him in at the deep end by performing some difficult repertoire live on Radio 3, he did a fantastic job.
With Josh restored to England, the next day we travelled to Cambridge, with Owain picking up the now familiar 7-seater rented car on the way. It’s always special for the group to return to our spiritual home in Trinity College Chapel. We last performed in the chapel in May 2015 and it was wonderful to be able to perform in the space again, and see some familiar faces in the audience. We hosted a small gathering in The Mitre, one of the local pubs afterwards to catch up with some of the audience, many of whom have been following the group since its inception. The next morning, a mercifully relaxed start allowed us to enjoy a long brunch in team-favourite Hot Numbers Cafe.
Soon after, we arrived North Luffenham in Rutland for the second concert of the tour. The town is home to the beautiful St John the Baptist church. It was a happy return to the church for Owain, who had performed there earlier this year with the Cambridge Fundraising Choir. An immensely successful dinner with our home-stays in the local Fox Inn followed our concert, and again allowed us to thank in-person some of the local musicians and friends whose hard work helped us put on the concert.
Mike and Guy’s host emerged to be a great cricket fan, and head groundsman for the adjacent cricket pitch so a plan was quickly hatched play the next morning in bright sunlight. Alex Chance’s huge six into a neighbouring garden from one of Guy’s less-pitched deliveries would make the highlights, as would his catch to dismiss Owain from one of Guy’s better balls to leave the 1st’s three runs adrift of the 2nd’s total.
With the roof-rack packed and various baggage and headphones retrieved from the pub, we were ready to press on to Northampton for our third concert in All Saints’ Church. We were warmly received by the local vicar and Jem Lowther, in whose beautiful country house we were fortunate to stay following the concert. All Saints’ was a lovely setting for Owain’s ‘A Sequence in Parenthesis’, which sets a medley of tunes from a memoire about the great war and features Sam in the unusual role of narrator. Always a very emotional piece to be involved with, it struck a particular chord with the audience in Northampton.
The fourth day of our summer tour started with a quick tour around the grounds of Jem’s family home in more lovely sunlight. Guy was particularly excited to learn that scenes from the somewhat infamous ‘Biggles’ movie were shot in the mews in the 80s. With a long journey ahead we set off to Hampshire and another church for All Saints in Odiham. The local parish obviously value music highly and have gone to great lengths to make the church an effective concert hall. We were pleased to be able to explore using various different acoustics during our concert and in celebration, Joseph was let loose on the new organ in the church as an impromptu encore for those who had stayed behind to lend a hand with staging.
The penultimate concert in our 2017 Summer Tour was in Bristol, at the huge and resonant church of St. Mary, Redcliffe, where Owain spent his formative years as a chorister. None of us shall soon forget starting the concert from the back of the church with Ego Flos Campi by Clemens non Papa, and then processing to the front of the church through the plainchant of Tallis’s Loquebantur. Renaissance polyphony is one of our favourite genres of music to sing, either in concert, in services or simply in rehearsals, and Lobo’s sublime Versa Est in Luctum made a perfect triptych for us to remember lush acoustics for the concert in Bristol. This was also Joseph’s last concert of the tour with us as he had to start his duties at Truro Cathedral the next day.
Rejoined by the unflappable Gopal the next day and refreshed by some more yard-cricket near Owain’s house, we set off to complete our little pilgrimage to St. James in Dursley, where Guy was a chorister. Delicious stew (well remembered by Michael Craddock from our tour in 2015!) met us in the Cotswold market town, at Guy’s family house and he was especially pleased to see a packed church of musicians and supporters enjoying the last concert of our 2017 Summer Tour. Complimentary pilgrimages to the local Old Spot pub and Dil Raj restaurant complete, the familiar 7-seater could be seen whizzing seven very tired but elated young men back to London through the September rain.
We’d like to once again thank enormously everyone who worked so hard to help us make our third Summer Tour such a success. It’s hard to think back to how far the group has come since our first tour in 2015 and it’s been very much aided by the dedication of our supporters and the enthusiasm for music wherever we go. Here’s to the next one!