USA & Colombia 2024 Blog

It has been only three months since we returned from our last US tour, and we are off again for another bite of the (Big) Apple, coupled with an exciting first for the group: South America!

We will be writing a blog to share behind-the-scenes stories from our travels. For video updates and other exclusives, head to our Patreon. You can also find out more about our concerts.

Miami to New York: Mike

Our journey began as it often does, headed to Heathrow Terminal 3 wearing/carrying a peculiar selection of clothing. Joseph, as ever, was sporting his stylish and appropriate travel wear of NASA hoodie and  tracksuit bottoms (science casual is so in this year), I was in my outrageously warm winter parka, and Ali took the bold decision to refrain from taking any coat whatsoever. On this trip we were set to grapple with temperatures from -2 to 37°C, so preparation was key.

After checking out check-in, we settled in to the lounge to prepare for the long flight over to our first US destination, Miami. Joseph and I completed our Barbenheimers on the plane (JW watched Barbie and I did Oppenheimer – both tremendous), and we landed early evening into MIA. It was only a quick Uber from the airport to our hotel, and the site of our concert: Aventura. This is a suburb north of Miami which is its own little city, replete with malls, restaurants, and naturally for this part of the world, beautiful beaches. Since it was past sunset by the time of our arrival, we headed out for dinner rather than a swim, and gorged on tasty Asian food, including such fascinating delicacies as “French Fries” and “Buffalo Chicken Wings” in addition to our Pad Thais.

The next day was basically our own, save a short rehearsal in the hotel conference room (which inexplicably only contained 4 chairs – I didn’t know Florida was so anti big-business). I spent the morning beavering away on some work I needed to finish, before heading with the boys to the beach. In the short time I had left Ali unsupervised he managed to flambé his lower legs, but the general seaside experience was A1. Beautiful sand and warm(ish) water for us pasty Brits to frolic around in. After drying off it was time for a pizza and the aforementioned rehearsal.

Evening plans were complicated somewhat by it being Valentine’s day. Fortunately we weren’t looking for 3 tables of 2, and we had a hankering for indulging in one of the most romantic of pursuits: 10 pin bowling. We managed to book 2 lanes for 2 hours. A word to the wise: for 6 people this is TOO MUCH BOWLING. When we were 90 minutes deep everyone was in a kind of jetlagged stupor, and the >100 balls I bowled gave me trouble in muscle groups I didn’t know I possessed. Still, a good time had by all, especially bowling fanatic and pin demon Owain Park.

Concert day was a wonderfully relaxed affair. The Aventura area has a large Jewish population, so we went for breakfast at a fantastic kosher bagel joint. Our rehearsal in the venue was not until the late afternoon, so we spent a lazy morning by the hotel pool and generally pottering around, before heading to the Aventura Cultural Center to give our programme, The Wishing Tree an outing. It’s rare that we do a gig with a proper theatre style atmosphere, but they went the whole hog in terms of lighting. It’s slightly unnerving not being able to see your audience when singing, but once you get used to it it really cultivates an atmosphere. After the gig we went out for Argentinian steak: Joseph, Ali and I shared an ungodly amount of chicken, sausage, and steak, all washed down with a bottle of Malbec. Abstemious as ever.

We trundled through the Miami traffic the next morning to head back into Winter for a couple of days, with a two night layover in Manhattan. This is the third time the group has visited the city, but all of us have spent a significant amount of time there in various different guises, and personally it is one of my favourite places to be in the world. We arrived into JFK at about 3pm, giving us a free evening in a city which does free evenings very well. Josh, Owain and I had a glorious sunset winter walk down from our hotel on 52nd and 6th all the way to 34th and 8th, stopping off at a dive bar (Josh’s request) and a nice cocktail place (Owain’s). Bank balances considerably lighter, we then rendezvoused with Joseph at an Italian restaurant in Soho. Just before bed I saw Guy and we tried to find somewhere to watch a bit of the first session of the England India test. If you know the scoreline you will know we shouldn’t have bothered…

We awoke to the city dusted with snow, always an atmospheric sight. Once sufficiently wrapped up we headed for breakfast at a Greenwich Village diner which purported to have the best French Toast in NYC. In my opinion the jury is still firmly out on this. Our afternoon was spent rehearsing at St Mary’s Times Square – our second time in this beautiful church. It was nice to briefly catch our record producer Adrian who is over in the city recording St Thomas’s 5th Avenue, before heading post rehearsal to grab a slice of 99c pizza. Thanks to inflation it probably came in at about $1.25, but it did exactly what it needed to do.

The concert was a roaring success. Our Lux Aeterna programme is tailor made for churches with acoustics as beautiful as “Smoky Mary’s”, and the Miller Theater concert series is a wonderful one to be a part of. The audience of around 500 were very appreciative, and as ever it is so great to catch up with our American fans post gig. There is very little of the British shyness on display when it comes to talking to strangers, and we love to chat about anything and everything after a concert! Post gig we headed to a Mexican place with our agent Rob, finishing our brief American culinary odyssey with good company, Mezcal and tacos. A fine combination.

Despite our usual hefty luggage requirements, we managed to clown car our way into an UberXL and head to JFK the next morning, to conclude our brief but enjoyable American stay. We’ll be back again in late October/ early November, to try and provide some much needed distraction from the election circus. But before that, Colombia…

Colombia: Alasdair

As the wheels left the tarmac of JFK so marked the charting of new territory for G6 as we begun our first trip to South America. As a student of Geography for two of my university years, I was able to reach into my educational archives to make this step into the unknown a little easier for the group. At an altitude of 2,600m, Bogotá is nestled in an upland basin surrounded by the *checks notes* Andes Mountains which reach summits of 3,500m. I’m sure I was taught longshore drift and glacial flow for a reason, but at this stage it isn’t clear how this fits into the geographic picture of Bogotá. I could, however, tell the chaps that our being 2,600m above sea-level means less oxygen in the air and so making the body work that bit harder. ‘Scientist’, Guy, thought it important to test how the body would respond to the introduction of small quantities of alcohol in the context of these new conditions. He recruited a couple of willing volunteers in Owain and Mike to test his thesis that “higher altitude = more tipsy” by exploring Bogota Brewing Company’s offerings. The photos to the group chat suggest the experiment provided conclusive evidence.

Our trip to Colombia was made possible by the good people of the Colombia’s Banco de la República who invited us to give three concerts around the country. Our first stop was Neiva, a small city in the Huila region of the country which is famed for its excellent coffee. Up in the mountains of the Bogotá one is shielded from the warmer temperatures of the lower altitude regions like Huila. Not long ago we were sheltering from snow in NYC; the humid, 35C heat of Neiva presented a different challenge of finding relief in the form of air-conditioned refuge, a shaded corner or a dip in the hotel swimming pool. We were, it must be said, staying in a tropical paradise, complete with exotic fruits for breakfast and geckos climbing the walls.

I am increasingly discovering that one of the great joys of being part of this group is bringing music to people that haven’t heard anything like our music before. The response of the audience was heart-warming. Though unfamiliar with the music we were singing, it was clear in seeing their faces light up that we were speaking the same language. There were certainly moments of confusion (there is inevitably an adjustment period involved in listening to any counter-tenor), but their uninhibited enthusiasm to something so alien was deeply moving. 

Following our first concert, we were back to Bogotá for a day of exploring the sights and making the most of the hotel’s spa and rooftop bar. The next morning, we were invited to the Museum of Gold, which was an unexpected highlight of our time in the city. Our guide, Diego, told the story of how gold plays an important cultural role in the history of indigenous Colombian communities. A particularly memorable exhibit featured chant sung by indigenous tribes, overlayed on golden offerings made by those communities. 

The gorgeous concert hall in the Luis Angel Arango Library provided the perfect setting for our ‘Fading’ concert, and the warm and generous audience played their part in making very special evening. Thank you to all those who stuck around for a glass of wine and a chat afterwards. Meeting our audiences is one of our favourite things about our job!

Our final leg of our Colombia tour took in Florencia, a small town at the ‘gateway to the Amazon rainforest’. Carlos, our guide for our time in Florencia, met us at the airport and expertly navigated us to our hotel along roads on which a liberal attitude towards road maintenance had been adopted. We were back in ‘scorchio’ temperatures, so it was SPF50 and sun hats all around. A quick look at the forecast confirmed that we might be in for a warm one for the concert that evening; 37C highs dropping to 32C by concert-time. Perhaps the church will have air-conditioning, we hoped.

As it turned out, air-conditioning isn’t much use without a full complement of doors and glass in the windows. Our concert space was, in many respects, way ahead of its time as it took ventilation seriously long before the world was thinking about social distancing and air circulation. No doors or windows blurs the distinction between inside and out creating an exciting, liminal space for our concert. What was lost in acoustic was made up for with the rumble of passing traffic, the honking of car horns and the blaring of music. From an audience perspective it was decided that amplification was perhaps necessary. The one hitch with this plan was the threat of a power cut which had been intermittently disrupting proceedings, caused by a recent storm. Not a problem though, as a generator could be fired-up to provide back-up if the electricity grid went down. An added bonus to this solution was that, once up-and-running, the generator comfortably drowned-out any noises coming from the road noises. In the end, the performance went without a hitch. The generator was not called upon and, based on the number of requests for post-concert pics, the 450-strong audience loved what they heard. It’ll certainly be a night to remember! 

And with that our trip tour comes to a close. Three sold-out concerts across a country we have all fallen in love with. Thank you to everyone we met along the way, who made it all possible and indulged our GCSE-level Spanish. We had the most wonderful time and are all hoping we have an excuse to return soon! Hasta luego, Colombia. 

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