Jubilee Tour 2018 Blog

Day 1

Getting There
by Judith Mann

And we’re off! If it’s not packed now, it’s too late. The heavens opened with a vengeance as our journeys started, so most of us had some nasty road conditions to start our trip, but we all met up safely at our first rendezvous—Hemingford Grey Manor. Many of us were already sporting our new tour togs too. We enjoyed a guided tour of the house, where Jenny Jones donned white gloves—not to pull rabbits out of a hat, which she looked like she might be about to do—but to gently, with great reverence, fold back beautiful patchwork bed covers. Appreciative ooh’s and ah’s even came from some of the men. After the tour we still had time to look around the lovely gardens, where some of us bought interesting plants—will they thrive, or even survive, in our care? Next stop was the hotel, where check-in went smoothly and then swiftly on to a short rehearsal to warm us up for the coming singing marathon. The first of several vital ‘steerage’ notices, delivered by Andy, gave us the news that Andrea had (possibly) gone into labour and thus would not be joining us for the trip. We were all very excited for her but sorry she would be missing all the fun. The last official activity of the day was the first of three planned team meals—a carvery at the hotel. The starters seemed to cause confusion but nonetheless, we all ate very well, again steeling ourselves for the endeavours to come. But who is that lone figure walking across the field and into the woods? And what is he doing? It turned out to be Ollie, who claimed he had just been for a walk, when he met up with others in the local hostelry for the inevitable consumption of much alcohol. Would we all rise bright eyed and bushy tailed the next day? Richard Roddis looked worried.

Day 2

by Tom Stanyard

The morning of the first concert was free, so some of the choir took the chance to explore Cambridge, (including punting), or Grantchester, and some even made it to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, where seeing a Spitfire, Concorde, B-52 and numerous other planes, all on the one airfield, was quite an experience! Despite a grim forecast the weather turned out to be excellent, so we rehearsed at Stapleford before taking advantage of the sunshine to walk down to the pub for our second team mealsuch communal experiences were a great aspect of the tour and allowed the choir to get together in ‘down time’ and not just at rehearsals. The weather also allowed us time to muster outside in the lovely grounds, before we sang our entire programme, as we were lucky to have an organist at this venue who could support some of the accompanied repertoire. The organist was also one of Richard Roddis’s old University chums, so it was quite nice to see that link still extant after many years. The church was full and the audience were very appreciative. Feedback was also very positive from some local choristers, who praised the choir’s diction and technical ability. After enjoying a glass of Pimms with the audience, we drifted back to the hotel at St Ives for a nightcap and to prepare for the next day’s music making at Ely Cathedral.

Day 3

by Karen Norman

Built in the 14th century, the Lady Chapel is a beautiful light and open space and a complete joy in which to sing. The choir enjoyed a glowing introduction from a member of the cathedral clergy, whose family all hailed from Derby, and who had attended a Derwents concert on a visit to the city in 1994!

Thus followed an enormously enjoyable performance for the group: from the Palestrina Exsultate Deo, which opened the programme, to Ward Swingle’s Give Us This Day at the close. A particular highlight from the choir’s perspective was Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque, with long, sustained notes and shimmering tones that were ideal for the acoustic. Never had the piece(s) felt so effortless to sing! The performance was enthusiastically received by a large audience, some of whom were kind enough to complement the ‘varied, challenging and beautiful music, all performed to the highest standard’.

Following the concert, we enjoyed tours of the cathedral. For the sensible members and supporters, a ground level perambulation detailing the building’s origins, which was as an Abbey, founded by St Etheldreda in the 7th century. For the more daring and agile, a high level tour negotiating tiny staircases and narrow doorways to obtain a closer view of the Cathedral’s roof and famous octagon tower. We then had some free time to explore Ely: wandering through the Jubilee Gardens or by the river, spotting local birdlife, befriending narrow-boat drivers and frequenting elegant tearooms to name but a few. Later, back at base some were determined that the sun would not set on such a memorable day, staying up until 2.30 am!

Day 4

by David Tudor

The choir drifted in for breakfast after the thrills of Day 3. Oliver had to face a new challenge, as while wearing his black concert uniform, he was asked by another guest to ‘fix my hairdryer—before the wedding’. Marmalade was still on offer, with a price drop from 75p per portion to 50p, as the end of the last breakfast approached. The late night bar team all made it to breakfast in time, but with some sporting sore heads and churning tums (having drunk the bar dry of gin!), while Charlotte (aged 2), the youngest tour member, behaved beautifully greeting everyone with enthusiasm.

Check-out went as smoothly as check-in did—and black dressed figures loaded cars ready to set off for Fotheringhay Church, our splendid 15th century destination. It is the remains of a larger old collegiate church lost through the then Duke of Northumberland’s involvement with the Lady Jane Grey plot, which cost him his head. The church attracts the Richard III Society, followers of the Plantaganets and 4000 visitors a year. An airy and cool space for the final concert, Richard Roddis called for concentration, as all of Bach’s Singet Dem Hern was on the programme here. With the rehearsal over, various ‘thank you’s’ were given to all who made the tour happen, as well as Richard Hair for reinforcing the Bass 2 line and for Fotheringhay’s verger for getting the venue clear of its major renovations just in time. ‘Camp-followers’ had time to variously check out the ancient castle site down by the river (with sheep and locals swimming in it) and the village pub cum coffee shop, before the final concert. Lunch at the Red Lion. The choir set off for the pub in 3 different directions, some even taking closed roads! But all arrived for our final team meal—in a wedding marquee!

The Red Lion was having a wedding party and preparations were underway as we arrived. The groom’s party, later joined by WAGs, were getting ready to head for a church. So, the Derwents took their place in the marquee. At the bar, queuing for drinks, the locals asked about the choir and what wedding we were singing at. Several singers were able to explain, with the help of Derwents logo in large letters on the back of sweat shirts and our concert venues listed on the polo shirts. Lunch was served and we hoped there was a change of table linen (because tomato soup stains!) before the wedding guests replaced us for their wedding breakfast. Richard asked when the speeches would be and Charlotte discovered the dance floor and started her ‘Strictly’ audition. Sarah Morgan arrived with young competition and the potential situation was resolved by the discovery of a play area with a slide. With the final concert fast approaching a flurry of changing clothes was completed one more time—at the pub, in the church, or even at the roadside. A small audience took their places in the ancient box pews and the concert was truly joyous—so affecting in fact, that Ella (David Tudor’s wife), had to stop taking photos in order just to listen.

And then it was all over. The singers were excited, happy and tired as thoughts turned to the business of handing in music—what to keep and what to hand in—and to our homeward journeys, and on our arrival home, Andy asked that we thank our other halves and families for letting us have this time together as a choir.

Where and when will the next Derwent Singers tour be? We all hope soon.