Prologue - Helen Hughson - Tuesday 29 March
In the end, as so often happens with events you’ve been looking forward to for a long time, the tour came upon us remarkably quickly.
The first 3 months of 2016 were a whirlwind of activity for the choir, with our 3 Orchestral Masses, regular Sunday & Wednesday services, the first of our subscription concerts, and all the additional work we do in Holy Week. Add to that extra meetings and rehearsals to prepare for the tour, two extra fundraising concerts, a crowdfunding campaign, a raffle, and a trivia night, and it’s no surprise that we found ourselves heading to the airport almost before we knew it.
But the seeds for the tour were planted almost two years ago, when Warren booked us into sing for a week at Westminster Abbey. Preparations really began in earnest last year, when the rest of the itinerary began to take shape, and plans for fundraising were laid out (even our fantastic video promoting the choir, put together by Dave Power and his team at Power Creative, was filmed and edited before Christmas last year). In addition to his regular work with the choir, Warren has been extremely busy organising performances, booking flights and accommodation, and planning the music list months in advance (not something we are used to at St James’!).
Our final week in Sydney was typically full on: Wednesday lunchtime concert, Maundy Thursday Eucharist, Good Friday liturgy and Tenebrae, 6am Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Eucharist. We also had to prepare for four weeks away from our workplaces, farewell friends and loved ones (including a few from the regular choir who sadly can’t join us for the tour), and somehow find room for our robes in our already over-full suitcases - so there were many late nights!
Nonetheless, on Monday 28th March (the day after Easter Sunday), the majority of the touring group were checking into Etihad flight EY 451 to Abu Dhabi with no less than 3kg of music safely packed in our hand luggage, ready to start our big adventure. With healthy doses of Sherlock, Louis, Star Wars, Utopia and The Slap, and a few G&Ts under our belts, we tried to snatch what little sleep we could on the plane (I personally failed miserably). Along the way we befriended fellow travellers, including a future Benedictine monk – although our levels of exuberance didn’t seem too pleasing to one lady who sat near us and wore a very glum face for the entire 14 hours of the first leg! After a few hours’ layover in the middle of the night in Abu Dhabi, where we treated ourselves to the odd combination of an Arabic breakfast and a glass of wine in an airport cafe, we continued on to London in supreme comfort on an A380. We ate like kings along the way (some travellers, who shall remain nameless, even indulged in an extra hot breakfast!). Soon enough we touched down at Heathrow, and headed for the Tube to meet our billets and settle in for a week of singing and exploring!
Before we get going on the rest of the tour, we must acknowledge several people who have made this all possible:
- Marko Sever, our organ scholar, who has sorted and prepared music for no less than 30 performances for us with incredible efficiency. The choir room was quite a sight to behold in the weeks before we left!
- Bella Woods, one of our sopranos, who has been intensively involved in planning and organising a number of our performances in Europe, and helped organise accommodation in several places
- Doug & Janet Jones, who have been incredibly supportive of the whole tour
- Sarah Kim, for helping us to organise performances in Paris
- Richard Abraham, who arranged billets for many of us in London
- Beverley Simpson, who sourced some amazing prizes for the raffle and trivia night
- Warren Trevelyan-Jones, of course, for his tireless commitment to making this the best tour we could possibly imagine – we are all incredible excited and can’t wait to get started on an epic month of singing!