Monday, July 25, 2011

UK Tour Days 11 & 12

By: Allana Matthews, Premier Choir
Allana has been in BCC for six years. She is 17 years old.

On Day 11 we had a wonderful tour around London. We were able to see Buckingham Palace as well as London Bridge and the Big Ben. We also had some excitement about the new Harry Potter Premier!! Before a very special luncheon, we were able to go to an art museum (the Tate Modern) and it was very interesting.
The group in front of London Bridge

As a tradition, we always have a last, formal meal together in honor of our seniors. This year it was a little wet. There was torrential downpour and no one was happy about the weather, but as usual, BCC made the best of it! We enjoyed a nice sit-down meal at the Azarro Restaurant.

Later on the night, we were able to hear the wonderful sounds of the St. Paul's Girls School Orchestra as well as their chorus. That night was by far the toughest and most emotional night of tour; it was the last concert that the seniors of 2011 would ever be apart of. As we began to sing our signature song, Up to the Mountain, composed by our former teaching fellow Whitney Simmons, almost every singer was in tears. As we sadly say good-bye to fourteen of our beloved singers, that last song was our way of telling them, "Good luck" and "We love you all". We ended the night with a collaboration of both choirs singing I Vow to Thee My Country.

Frank the Bus Driver
On the morning of Day 12our host families dropped us off at St. Paul's Girls School, and we were homeward bound! Before going to the airport, we went to the Windsor Castle. It was a gorgeous final stop! Once we arrived at the airport, we were sad to have to part ways with our wonderful guide, Dave, and and our fantastic bus driver, Frank. Thank you so much Dave and Frank for allowing us to have an amazing tour of the United Kingdom. Thank you also to all the wonderful staff that made tour possible. We can't wait for next season! :)

UK Tour Day 10

By: Zoe Blickenderfer, Premier Choir
Zoe has been in BCC for 5 years. She is 17 years old.

On our tenth day of tour, after packing and eating breakfast at the hotel we left Birmingham and headed to London.

After being on the bus for a couple of hours we arrived at Uxbridge High School in West London. We were there as part of a collaboration with Teach First (which is a lot like Teach for America) and we got to split up into groups to have a sort of exchange with the kids (the name high school might bring images of teenagers, but we worked with their youngest students ages 11 and 12). We split up into three groups: PC had two groups of girls, and Young Men’s had all of the boys. In my group, after introducing ourselves, we decided to teach them We Are Together, which is a simple, but very rewarding and heartwarming song. Some girls even joined Allana on the solo part. We then taught them a song that many of them already knew: Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” However, when we worked with Depot Arts in Glasgow earlier on the trip we learned other parts to make the song even better! After our teaching session we went back into the large room that we started in and shared with the other groups. First, the boys started off with a beautiful rendition of Meguru, and then the two groups of girls sang We Are Together. Finally, everybody jumped in for Rolling in the Deep. It was a really great experience to get to teach music, and really gave me an insight into how difficult it must be for music teachers!

After we said goodbye to Uxbridge High, we ate our lunches on the bus as we headed to the BBC studios to see a rehearsal of the BBC singers! Not only was it wonderful that we got to see them rehearse, but we got such a warm welcome! Their producer was very kind and even gave us some BBC pencils and postcards! The rehearsal was exceptional, and their professionalism and talent was phenomenal and definitely inspiring for many of us, as it gave us a glimpse into what it would be like to be a professional choral singer. We left on a high note, and were off to our final stop of the day, St. Paul’s Girls’ School, to meet our host families. Getting to have host families is such a great opportunity, especially in a foreign country, because it really allows us to be immersed in the other culture (in this case British culture) to a whole different level than if we were staying in a hotel. Unfortunately, there were not enough hosts for everybody, so a lot of the Young Men had to stay in nearby hotels. All in all it was a very fun and exciting day!!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

UK Tour: Photos from Days 9 and 10

Casey, here! It's hard to tell whether or not we'll have time and internet access available for singers to write and post entries about the last few days of tour before we arrive home tomorrow, so in the meantime, here are a few photos!

Sammy and Alyssa outside BBC Studios. We got to watch a rehearsal of the BBC Singers -- it was awesome!

The staff!

Green raincoat crew in London!

Mia, Isabel, and Kayla! 

Aaron and Maggie sharing the love with Mr. Howse!

Mr. Howse's family group! So cute!

Lydia and Madi at St. Paul's Girl's School before our last concert!
Also we'd like to give a shout out to Liz Strzepa and all of our fabulous alumni! We missed having you on tour and seniors are excited to officially join the BCC alumni network! Thanks for your friendship and support :)

UK Tour Day 9

By: Danny Howard, Young Men's Ensemble
Danny has been in BCC for two years. He is seventeen years old. 

On our last full day staying in Brum (Birmingham), we went to Oxford to visit a few of the colleges in the University. We tried to leave at the ungodly hour of 9AM, but for some odd reason a dozen of our room keys refused to work! After getting a slightly late start, we got on the road and drove about an hour and a half. The trip was smooth enough, and we got to Merton College with enough time to walk to the chapel and quickly set our things down before our informal concert.

Mia and Kennedy posing in the Merton College Chapel
The chapel at Merton College was not grandiose, but was quaint and beautifully decorated. Although everyone was EXHAUSTED, the chapel made us sound a whole lot better than we felt, as the acoustics were perfect. We were all feeling pretty faint of heart after the concert and one of our singers had to leave the stage after "My Soul's Been Anchored," but once we got some food and water in our bodies we were back to being the loud Americans that we are. Almost all of us dedicated our hour of free time wholly to chowing down before our guided tour around Oxford.


The tour was enlightening though none of us really wanted to be on a two hour WALKING tour in the rain, and seeing (the outside of) the hall where Harry Potter is filmed was especially interesting to many of our singers. We learned a great deal about the immense history surrounding Oxford, including how the town's people (the towns) and the students (the gowns) had a fight that ended in the death of a student back in 1255! The architecture on the campus was incredible and took my breath away a number of times. 
Lots of bonding at dinner time :) 

After the tour was over I asked Dave (our guide) where the BEST cream tea was, and after hearing the instructions led a group of 11 to the famed place. After receiving our trays of scone, jam, clotted cream, and English breakfast tea, we sat down and enjoyed one of the most delightful free times of this trip. We were all so satisfied that we sat around smiling and just appreciating each others' company for almost an hour. After the wonderful tea time we went to dinner (which none of the cream tea-ers ate much of), and had more laughs.  

Shakespeare's Birthplace!
The group has really meshed and even visiting Shakespeare's birth place and home (which was knocked down a while ago) was fun. We finally got back to our hotel at about 9:15 after a long and exhausting day and had to pack to leave Birmingham for London tomorrow! Everyone is excited, and this tour just continues to get better and better! Hope everyone is doing well back in the states, PEACE!

Arrival Information for Tomorrow

I know you are all waiting for a new singer post, but unfortunately it's just us here in the office, sharing a reminder that singers will be arriving tomorrow on British Airways flight 215, which is scheduled to arrive in Boston at 7:15 PM local time. They will be arriving at the International Terminal E. Start cooking those favorite American meals!

Also, we'd like to share the following press release from Teach First, a non-profit organization that we collaborated with to do a workshop at Uxbridge High School in England. Here's a link to their press release about the event. Check out its title!

Monday, July 4, 2011

UK Tour Day 8

 By: Meghan Fitton, Premier Choir
Meghan has been in BCC for four years. She is fifteen years old. 

Another exciting day for BCC! First off, I'd like to say HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY! Even though we are in the UK, we have not failed to celebrate this American holiday, and the people here have informed us that they do not hold a grudge! Our day started out at around 7:30 with a yummy breakfast from the hotel. Next, we traveled by bus, singing the whole way, to the Forest Arts Centre where we had a workshop with Forest Arts Centre Youth Chorus. 

The Forest Arts Choir -- they were awesome!
We made new friends, and shared our diverse repertoire with each other. We also had a chance to collaborate; PC taught the girls "We Are" and YME taught the few men in Forest Arts chorus our rendition of "Working on the Railroad." But the most memorable moment of our experience there was when everyone belted out "Good Morning Baltimore" from the musical Hairspray! Believe it or not, "Good Morning Baltimore" is in Forest Arts Chorus' regular repertoire -- It was so much fun! 

Us performing at the Forest Arts Center. Please note the American flag... Happy Fourth!

After that, we went back to our hotel in Birmingham for some free time of resting, shopping and sightseeing. Our hotel fee Once that time ended, we headed to the CBSO Centre for a joint concert with the CBSO Youth Chorus. They were also a very talented group, and we were fotrunate to sing two pieces with them as well. 

YME with Greg Beardshaw, arranger of "Joshua Fit the Battle" 
We got to reunite with Simon Halsey and meet the composer of one of our favorite songs "Battle of Jericho," Greg Beadshaw. Today was very successful and even though we weren't in the  US we had a great holiday! 

Simon Halsey and the CBSO pianist having a moment. They were so fun to work with!

UK Tour Day 7

By: Jillian Baker, Premier Choir
Jillian has been in BCC for seven years. She is seventeen years old. 

Today was a travel day.  We left the wonderful Gateshead and traveled for 3 hours to Fountains Abbey, the largest monastic ruins in England.  We were exhausted from the busy day before, so many slept for the 3 hour ride, however others (myself included) jammed to Hip-Hop, tunes from  Hairspray, and continuous Lady Gaga. 

Lookin' glamorous at Fountains Abbey!
Before arriving at the Fountains Abbey, we took a quick stop to pick up lunches to eat there.  The Fountains Abbey was absolutely amazing.  At the bottom, there were ruins of St. Mary's Church, that slightly resembled the ruins in Jerash that we saw when we toured Jordan in 2009. 
The Water Garden -- breathtaking!
It was a nice sunny day, a perfect day to have a picnic on the green grass.  As I walked out of the Abbey the path took a slight incline, much like the path out of Petra in Jordan (although it was not nearly as warm) and I felt grateful for how much history BCC has exposed me to through touring.
Some of the wonderful staff -- this one's for you, Bob! 
 Once our visit to the Abbey was over, we continued to travel 2 more hours to Birmingham.  We checked into the Jurys Inn (thank goodness it had elevators unlike our last hotel, because there are at least 15 floors here!) and ate a delicious vegetarian dinner at Cafe Rouge, which was one of the most enjoyable dinners we've had so far on this tour.  Overall it was a relaxing day, which we definitely needed because we were so exhausted from days past. 

Most of this year's seniors. We are going to miss them so much!!!

UK Tour Day 6

By: Jen Cox, Premier Choir
Jen has been in BCC for three years. She is seventeen years old.

The Millennium Bridge allowing boats to pass under it by "winking" (flipping on its side!) 

Today we had one of the biggest performances of our entire UK tour! We had the great honor to sing with the Quay (pronounced "key") Voices, Lads and Lasses at the Sage, Gateshead. The Quay Voices were high school aged and above, and the Lads and Lasses were about age 7-12. The Lads and Lasses had only started up in September, but were already very advanced in their musical ability. It was so interesting to see the cultural contrast between the Quay singers and us; the Quay singers stood straight and were prim and proper, while we moved around more. It was such a great experience to be exposed to their culture and also to share ours. 

Our view from the stage at the Sage, Gateshead! It was an AWESOME performance venue!
Prior to the concert, BCC and the Quay singers had dinner together at a tapas restaurant called La Tasca. The food was delicious, and we were able to get to know the other choirs. Everyone was wonderfully friendly!
We made lots of new friends from the Quay choirs!

The concert hall was beautiful, seating 2000 people. We stood on high risers onstage and were able to see the very enthusiastic audience. We also had the amazing opportunity to be conducted by Simon Halsey, who is arguably the most prolific conductor of our time. He has won three grammy awards and currently conducts two of the top 10 choirs in the world. I'm very proud to say that he will be our guest conductor in the 2011-2012 season, so it is wonderful to have met him in advance of collaborating with him next spring. It was such a rewarding experience.
All of us outside the Sage with the Millennium bridge in the background. So many sights to see, so little time! 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Added Bonus! UK Photos on Facebook

Disappointed by the lack of photos? Check out the new album from the UK Tour so far on Facebook! A picture is worth a thousand words...

UK Tour Day 5

By: Isabel Koyama, Premier Choir
Isabel has been a member of BCC for eight years. She is fifteen years old. 

It is day four of our journey and unfortunately we had to wave a sad "cheerio" to Scotland today. Just before crossing the border we stopped at a puny town snuggled between the hills of Scotland and England. Just before our arrival, our tour guide gave us a brief history of the town. Apparently it was the first place that Scotts and Brits were allowed to elope without their parents' consent! Anyway, the town was pretty touristy but the countryside was beautiful. My friends and I took pictures by the rolling hills while sheep baaa'd angrily at us from behind! 

Lots of time on the bus today!
Our next stop was Hadrian's Wall, a historic site over 2,000 years old. We visited a museum, where we learned about the Roman Army and watched a brief 3D movie! Then we were given ample time to explore the site. Although the remains of the site aren't much more than lines of rocks slightly above ground level, the visit was a pleasant breath of fresh air. At around 4 pm we loaded the bus to journey to the hotel, our last destination of the day. Many of the choirsters took a snooze during this drive. I was sitting in front of Danny, who was so deeply asleep that his eyes were partly open and rolled back and he was beginning to drool! He was not the only one. 

Some people participated in "recruitment" for the Roman Army by learning how to make the "tortoise formation" with shields... here's the before!

And the after!
This hotel is a lot fancier and nicer than the other hotel. However, this time we'll really have to learn how to be quiet, because we are sharing the Inn with a group of (as Ben Hires calls it) "Grandma-like people." Nevertheless, there is a spa and a pool and an operating phone in every room, so I am content. Dinner was buffet style, and actually had healthy choices as opposed to pasta, which has seemed to be a dinner theme of the trip. I stuffed myself and am now carrying a happy food baby. 

Yummy dinner!
The day was fun and full of history! Unfortunately I can't go into more detail because the staff has set a 10 o'clock curfew with no exceptions. But i'll end with this; each day of this trip has brought new experiences and also challenges. BCC singers miss home as always, but we continue to approach each day with great focus and energy. Cheerio!

A Note from Casey: Sorry for the delay on this post, the internet isn't great here! The post about Day 6 (July 2nd) and Day 7 (July 3rd) will hopefully be up on the 3rd around 6pm Boston time. Thanks for your patience! I read the comments aloud on the bus today and everyone enjoyed hearing from parents and fans. Keep it up!