Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Looking Back on the August 2019 Trip To Scotland and England

(Many thanks to reporter Liz Birnbaum for preparing this report of the trip. YeEd)

The Alexandria Harmonizers enjoyed a successful tour of the United Kingdom from Aug. 5 through Aug. 12, bringing their new “Circle of Life” repertoire to northern England and Scotland.

Many members of the chorus gathered at Dulles Airport on the evening of Aug. 5, and flew together to London, where they landed on Aug. 6.  This group enjoyed a brief tour of London before meeting up with other chorus members at the Belgo Restaurant.  Following lunch, the Harmonizers delivered a rousing version of the “Harmonizer Welcome Song,” which was warmly received by the servers and other patrons.  After a further bus tour around the city, the Harmonizers arrived at the Park Plaza London Riverbank Hotel, where they connected with the remaining members of the tour.  Director Joe Cerutti held a brief chorus meeting at 6:00 pm, and then the members of the front row rehearsed at 7:00 pm while others scattered to various corners of the city for dinner.

By the morning of the 7th, almost all participants in the trip had arrived, and the group headed out on three buses, aiming for Stockport, England.  In addition to current chorus members, friends and family, the Harmonizers were joined by former singers Michael Gilmore, Dave Reyno and Kevin Kaiser.  Mike Fasano had rejoined the chorus for this tour, and brought his family along as well.

On the way to Stockport, the chorus stopped in Coventry for lunch and a tour of the Coventry Cathedral, and in Liverpool for a tour of the Beatles Museum.  One busload of Harmonizers paused at the statue of the Beatles along the Liverpool riverfront and delivered a flash-mob rendition of “All You Need Is Love,” to the delight of passers-by.  Upon arrival in Stockport, the final member of the tour joined the group – Harmonizer Greg Tepe, who has been living in Ireland and recently moved to Amsterdam, but joined the tour to act as backstage producer for the Harmonizers’ three concerts.

August 8 opened with the chorus’s first view of their Stockport performance venue – the Stockport town hall.  Though just a local town hall, the building holds a dramatic “Edwardian ballroom” with a decorated arched ceiling, providing a beautiful venue for the Harmonizers’ concert.  The morning was occupied with rehearsals for the evening’s performance.  After a break, the Harmonizers reassembled for an afternoon “master class” on vocal production and chorus rehearsal practices, conducted by director Joe Cerutti and associate director Tony Colosimo.  The class was attended by several members of the Cottontown Chorus, the current British Association of Barbershop Singers (BABS) gold medal chorus, as well as other interested local citizens.

After a brief break for dinner, the chorus warmed up and rehearsed with the Cottontown Chorus, with whom they shared the stage at the concert.  The Cottontown Chorus performed the first half of the 7:00 pm concert, and demonstrated the quality that has won them several BABS gold medals.  After intermission, the Harmonizers took the stage, and delivered the entire “Circle of Life” show in a fashion that justified their international reputation.  As a send-off for the evening, the two choruses came together on the risers to sing “I’m the Music Man.”

On August 9, the group again hit the road for a rainy bus ride to Alexandria’s sister city, Dundee, Scotland.  After an early dinner at the Apex Hotel in Dundee, the chorus transferred to the performance venue, an auditorium at Dundee and Angus College.  The first half of the 7:00 pm show was presented by four local talents, including girls’ Irish step dancing troupe, two singers, and a Gaelic folk chorus.  After the intermission, the Harmonizers took the stage and again demonstrated their international-medal-winning form.  Following the concert, Harmonizer BHS chapter president Shawn Tallant presented the Lord Provost (mayor) of Dundee with a proclamation from the Mayor of Alexandria proclaiming August 9, 2019 to be “Alexandria-Dundee Kinship Day.”  At a reception afterward, local dignitaries thanked Harmonizer leadership for the performance, indicating that it had far exceeded anything they had seen previously on the local stage.

The day ended with a quick bus ride to Edinburgh, where the Harmonizers checked into the Moxy Hotel by the airport and took their well-earned rest.  On August 10, the Harmonizers were again up early, this time to take a tour of the Edinburgh Castle and enjoy some free time at Edinburgh’s famous Fringe Festival before meeting to prepare for their evening performance at St. Giles Cathedral.  The chorus gathered in the cathedral at 6:00 pm to warm up and evaluate both acoustics and performance space in this 1000-year-old venue.  The cathedral provided a beautiful sounding board for the chorus’s harmonies.

At 7:00 pm the doors opened, and a crowd of Fringe Festival attendees filled the cathedral.  The 7:30 pm “Circle of Life” concert delighted the audience, who gave a standing ovation and demanded an encore from the chorus.  Once again, the Harmonizers supplied “I’m the Music Man” to a rousing ovation.  Following the show, many Harmonizers, as well as family and friends, attended the famed Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
August 11 offered the Harmonizers a final free day for exploring the Fringe Festival, ending with a togetherness dinner at the Ghillie Dhu restaurant, set in a converted Edinburgh church.  The acoustics of the venue proved too tempting to resist, so before dinner director Joe Cerutti led the men in a rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You.”  After dinner, a small band provided Gaelic music as well as modern songs, and taught the chorus and friends a number of folk dances.  The evening ended with the chorus spontaneously declaring their identity with “I’m the Music Man” while assembling for a group photo.

On August 12, the group split, with most participants returning home on various flights while a smaller group set off on a 3-day tour extension to see more of Scotland and visit the Isle of Skye.

Congratulations to Brad Jones and his team for organizing this successful and enjoyable trip for the Alexandria Harmonizers!

Until next time – editorjack! 

(This message is prepared for your review if you were there, for your information if you had to miss, and as a historical record of the great things going on each week during the 70th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd

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