Tour Blog #6 – Owain sums up our summer
After concerts in the beautiful towns of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Elora, we were almost taken aback by the towering architecture as we approached the bustling metropolis of Toronto. A highlight of this tour has been the personal connections we have made along the way, but here was a connection already forged, in the form of our founding second tenor, Robert Busiakiewicz, who is now director of music at St James Cathedral. Having someone who knows the area so well was invaluable – Rob picked out some of his favourite sites, including an amazingly packed bookshop with a seemingly endless supply of fascinating titles. After the usual re-caffeination, we headed to the cathedral to try out some of our repertoire, with the aim of answering the perennial question of where exactly to position Sam.
Having failed in that task, we headed to an Indian restaurant a short walk from the cathedral, where we were treated to a delicious array of dishes, paired with Canadian beer and wine (and yes, Mike, it’s fine to have wine with a curry.) Naturally, the next day got off to a dozy start, but with our final performance within our sights, we courageously ploughed on and finished on a real high, with our seventh standing ovation of the tour. On our final day in Canada, Joseph visited a really big organ, Mike stayed in bed until after midday, and Josh was left behind. Miraculously, we all made it on the last WestJet flight of the day, and arrived at Gatwick the next morning, red-eyed and bushy tailed.
Our first international tour was fantastic for so many reasons, but none more so than the wonderful people we met; those who came to concerts, and those who kindly let us stay in their homes. I knew Canada would be a great place to tour with this group, but I think the tour exceeded our expectations on all fronts – so we are looking forward to the next with great anticipation!
~ European update ~
After two weeks in Canada, we thought it would be a good idea to continue the fun, and found ourselves in the Netherlands for a concert at the Delft Chamber Music Festival. The Oude Kerk was one of the largest venues we have performed in, and it was fantastic to have a crowd of around 500 people at our concert. Our programme centred around ‘powerful love stories’, with works by Gesualdo at the fore.
I write this, thankfully, with my suitcase now returned, but when we arrived in Świdnica both Alex and I were without our bags. So, with iPads fully charged and a new set of concert clothes duly purchased, we gave our Polish debut in St Joseph’s Church, and with that, our summer adventure was complete!
There is plenty to look forward to in the coming months, as we embark on European debuts in Kosovo, Belgium, Switzerland and Slovenia. Elsewhere, Joseph is working towards the inaugural Boxgrove Choral Festival with his choir, The Beaufort Singers, which takes place in Boxgrove Priory from 26-29 August. He has kindly programmed several of my pieces, which also feature on the first album of my choral works, released next month by Trinity College Choir on Hyperion Records. Our next performance takes place at the Ripon International Festival on 8 September. All of our future dates can be found on our Concerts page, with further information and ticket links.
Joe Blogs… #5 about our time in Elora
The penultimate stop on our tour was the rather quaint riverside town of Elora. We were driven by the ever-delightful Al, who has taken us around Ontario in his Dodge Caravan, allowing us to relax and catch up on some much-needed sleep!
Elora is a place that several members of the group have visited before. It was particularly wonderful for Guy and Owain to remake their acquaintance with Stan & Elizabeth, their hosts from recent trips with Trinity College Choir. The whole group enjoyed two delicious meals at their quite amazing home – an old wooden cottage with modern extension – set in acres of diverse greenery and woodland a little way out of town.
The concert we gave was part of the prestigious Elora Festival, several events of which take place in a barn normally used to store road salt. Our concert took place at St John’s Anglican Church, which turned out to have a near-ideal acoustic for us. We enjoyed exploring its possibilities for processing to different spaces, something which lends particular bits of our programme an extra special aspect for both us and the audience.
I’m sure the group’s abiding memories of Elora will be two-fold. Ken, the son of Mike’s host, kindly took us out on the river in his very own punt, giving us a fascinating tour while telling us about the history of Elora. We had an amazing look at a coral reef that had been formed several millions of years ago and which contained an enormous number of fossils. Guy enjoyed sticking his hand out and tasting the rock as the punt hugged the shore…
…as well as tasting some truly excellent local produce at the Elora Brewing Company, another of our Elora highlights. Not only did we enjoy an excellent meal there on the first night, we also headed there after the concert with some wonderful members of the Elora Singers who were so welcoming and jovial. Thank you to them, and to all at the Festival for having us!
I write this from central Toronto, our final stop on this tour, and am not looking forward to leaving this country on Sunday evening. We have been welcomed so wonderfully and warmly by each and every place we visited, and it’s been a truly fulfilling discovery for me. I hope we will be back soon!
Tour blog #4 – Niagara-on-the-Lake by Josh Cooter
The second half of our tour takes place in Ontario, a province that is larger than both France and Spain combined. The first stop was the rather gorgeous Niagara-on-the-Lake, which just so happened to coincide with our first (and only) rest day of this tour. As Owain had visited this region previously he dutifully volunteered to be our travel guide.
In Canada, we’ve so far managed to travel in a variety of vehicles including planes, cars, ferries and even a canoe. Bikes would be our latest means of transportation, and led by our trusted guide we set off on our route of the local vineyards for tastings. My memory of the afternoon’s events is somewhat hazy, however personal highlights of the day would be my first experience of the local ice wines and the impromptu football match played amongst the grape vines.
The next morning we were treated to breakfast by one of our hosts at the the oldest golf course in North America, situated right on the shores of Lake Ontario. Enthused by the nearby sports, in classic G6 tradition we decided to go on a quest for somewhere to play cricket. It turns out, however, that Canadians are not as cricket mad as certain members of the group, and with the midday heat approaching we had to abandon our quest and head to a nearby café to source a well needed iced coffee and some shade before our rehearsal.
Our fifth concert venue was in St Mark’s Church, a lovely church built in 1804 which included 7 different keyboard instruments much to the delight of our keyboard enthusiasts Joseph and Sam. It also provided us once again with ample of opportunity for some more choraleography including at one point singing from both pulpits for a duet by Orlande de Lassus. We were really pleased with the turn-out and with another successful concert done we made our way back to one of our very kind hosts for a post-concert reception.
Next, we travel to the nearby town of Elora for our sixth concert, with the end of this tour sadly getting ever closer.
Tour blog #3 – Vancouver & Victoria by Mike Craddock
Arriving in Vancouver airport, we were met by our old friend, jetlag, having retreated back in time a further three hours. This meant that we were headed into town at what felt like midnight to meet our hosts. However, this did not dampen the incredibly warm welcome from PJ and co from St James’ Church, who we identified in baggage reclaim from the massive concert poster sign they were brandishing.
The next day brought with it a further journey westward; indeed, as far west as any of us have ever ventured. We got a bus to the Spirit of Vancouver ferry, a beautiful 2 hours spent criss-crossing islands in the balmy sun on placid seas. Our final destination was Victoria, and its fabulous Cathedral. Plenty of nooks and crannies for patented G6 choraleography®️, and a tremendous acoustic. Sure enough, the concert was both incredibly well attended and received, with the idyllic surroundings and friendly residents once again making us incredibly sad to leave after less than 24 hours!
Back on the ferry again the next morning, but not before GJ, OP and my host took us out for a little speedboat adventure. I was a terrible driver. Fortunately they didn’t let me at the ferry. In any case, straight from the bus depot to a rehearsal at St James’s in Vancouver, a very stylish Gilbert Scott-designed building with a similarly classy sound to it. The concert was a warm affair, but again was packed out, and it was a particular pleasure to meet Gerda Blok Wilson, and perform her piece to a hugely appreciative audience. It has been a truly wonderful discovery.
Our BC adventure comes to an end this morning, and has been far too brief. It will be nice though to have two days off, with some exciting plans being made for gastronomic adventures in Niagara-on-the Lake!
Tour Blog #2 – Our stop-off in Québec by Guy James
It’s a very great pleasure to be writing my first blog of our Canada Tour from 36,000 feet above the Great Lakes. We’re on our way to Vancouver tonight and Victoria early tomorrow, travelling between the two by ferry. Leaving the incredible Music Centre at CAMMAC on Lake MacDonald this afternoon was a wrench as we have had such a fantastic 24 hours there.
Picked up from our hotel in Ottawa in the familiar G6 tour sight of the 7-seater (albeit the capacious North American equivalent) we weren’t sure what to expect when we arrived at CAMMAC in Québec. CAMMAC is a former hunting lodge and for 8 weeks of the summer or so they host a selection of music courses with different specialities. We were greeted by the most friendly group of keen and driven musicians imaginable, and there was already quite a buzz about our performance. Settling into Counterpoint Week was a joy and the centre proved capable and generous hosts. The setting on the banks of the lake was picture perfect under clear blue skies and opportunities for swimming and some new filming locations soon crystallised and the fruits of these labours will be available very soon.
Leaving the warm waters of the lake barely half an hour before our concert, we were delighted to perform to a very appreciative audience in CAMMAC’s cool and resonant Lucy Hall. Enjoying dinner afterwards with the course attendees, it was wonderful to share our passions for music and its rich history and to learn more about the musical history and ‘set-up’ in the towns and cities of our Canadian friends. A workshop with the a cappella class in the picturesque CAMMAC boathouse followed dinner, which centred on ‘The Banquet Fugue’, a comic work about a restaurant by John Rutter. There was also a new discovery for the team in the form of a pair of Italian madrigals, featuring a cat, dog, cuckoo and an owl improvising over a figured bass. For reasons that may perhaps be apparent, as the sole participating countertenor, I was given the role of the owl.
Rising early the next morning, Mike and I went for a swift jog to the centre’s perimeter before meeting Owain for an early swim. A quick explore of the centre’s music library and shop later, we were sight-reading a motet from Mantua over cookies and coffee, before we headed corporately to put CAMMAC’s canoes to the test. Mike and I launched first, followed by the tenors. Having made it a few yards into the lake we were presented with the sight of the underside of the third canoe sinking slowly into Lake MacDonald and the further two (unnamed) group members scrabbling to recover personal belongings from the depths. That photographic evidence does not exist of this event serves only to highlight the intense will and efforts of those singers still afloat to aid their unfortunate colleagues, and should in no way be considered the result of a period of considerable mirth.
Belongings salvaged and canoe restored, the team spent a very enjoyable and relaxing morning exploring the lake and sharing stories with the course members over lunch. Well-fed and returned to the warm embrace of our trusty 7-seater stead we then headed back to Ottawa, and thence to where you now find us, bourne aloft over the Rocky Mountains.
I’m tremendously excited to visit the western seaboard of North America for the first time tonight; we have heard a lot of wonderful things about Vancouver and Victoria already and we can’t wait to explore ourselves between our two concerns over the coming two days!
Tour Blog #1 – ‘A whole lotta Ottawa’ by Sam Mitchell
We arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on a warm morning at Gatwick airport, making our British farewell known in the form of a Wetherspoons breakfast. After a most comfortable flight we arrived in Halifax to make our connection to Ottawa, a further 90 minutes of travelling. Despite a small matter of the bus breaking down, we soon made it to our hotel, where we were pleasantly surprised to find what can only be described as spacious suites – most of which dwarfed our own flats back home! After some R and R, our stomachs needed filling and Mike led us to Fraser Cafe – a restaurant which certainly did not disappoint with its eclectic menu and excellent wine – proving to be a great distraction for the oncoming jet lag.
Still getting used to the time differential, the next morning some of us rose early and enjoyed some swimming in the hotel pool before exploring the incredibly friendly city of Ottawa, primarily in search of breakfast. After fuelling up, it was time to meet for rehearsal in the very spacious (and very warm) church of St Matthew in the Glebe district. After a sweltering concert, we were grateful to welcome some incredibly refreshing Margaritas before heading for a feast in a heavily hip-hop themed restaurant. Later that evening, we paid a visit to the Canadian parliament and its historic ‘Northern Lights’ Lumiere display, which provided a perfect cultural end to the evening before we head off to neighbouring Québec.
Ottawa has been the perfect start to this exciting tour – the people are incredibly friendly and welcoming and I for one can’t wait to visit again one day soon.