Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year - here is EPAM!

Well, tata to 2010; another busy year... and hello to a new management team.
We are now attached to the Artists Management department of Peters Edition, London... EPAM.
The ever-suave Robin Tyson will be helping massage our careers for the foreseeable.... exciting times ahead. He is an ex-singer with a too-marvellous-to-mention vocal group, and so knows our world of touring backwards.
Many wonderful plans ahead... not least getting back in the studio for a new Signum album... and not the usual fare!
As ever, watch this space for news.

Just off to stand in the middle of London and watch fireworks...

Have a wonderful 2011... we are going to...

Friday, 24 December 2010

I'll be home for Christmas...

We're home....
Having left Nazareth behind, the three wise men decided not to follow the Eurostar, but took the chunnel instead, having heard in a dream that there was snow on the way [which Steve got stuck in; as he wanted to stay in Belgium, this was not so bad!]...

Happy Christmas, and more anon... (when it is not 3.30am)

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

2010 sum-up on youtube

Steve has done a splendid job on our 2010 summation, as performed v. early in the morning on BBC Radio 5Live...

Presently in hotel in Calais, having crawled through the chunnel, after waiting for hours... but we are on mainland Europe, so Belgium should be easy to get to!! Home on Christmas Eve, barring a hurricane/typhoon/flood... not tempting fate am I?

Night night...

Monday, 20 December 2010

Another early start

A wonderful early evening gig at the Salisbury Playhouse last night; the audience battled through the snow, and we all had an excellent Christmas time on the set of Aladdin.

Then having again in the UK [once more this month] managed to get home that night on the train... (in my house by 10.30pm)... we got up before dawn so as to appear on BBC Radio 5Live's breakfast show. At 7.40ish and 8.40ish, we did a review of the news year, and sang the 28-carol story of Christmas in 2 minutes. The link above works today... cannot swear it will be exactly there after tomorrow.... but it should be somewhere on their site until Christmas. Great to see Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty once more; they were very jolly and appreciative, despite the news' idée fixe... transport chaos!

Eurostar are presently sorting out their weather issues, and all will be brilliantly well for our trip to Belgium on Wednesday & back on Friday.... surely...!?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Sad news

Two old friends of the group have died recently.
Neil Richardson and Hugues Cuénod.

Amongst many pieces, Neil arranged four songs on our album A Tribute to Hollywood, one with piano, one with string quartet and two with brass quintet; Everybody's Talkin' At Me, Cavatina, As Time Goes By & Evergreen all glorious sumptuous arrangements which suit us so well. A lovely man, he provided so many 'easy' sounds for the radio over the years [tho' many of us know just how hard it is to keep those standards high!]... String Sound was a favourite BBC Radio 2 programme of mine when I was growing up and he did it all. He also had 'Maestro' in his email address... a wonderful touch for such a modest chap. Perhaps he should have added 'Mastermind' too.... (as he wrote the theme!)

As to Mr Cuénod, he coached Mike and also the group in the singing of Poulenc, and was a great support. My abiding memory of him, is as a straight-backed, tall 99 year-old, who came to see us at Thèâtre Boulimie, Lausanne a few years back. My wife had our very young son backstage throughout the concert, so there was a 99 year gap between the oldest and youngest in the building.... not sure that will be repeated in a hurry. He managed to get to the splendid age of 108. Well, he did make his debut at the Met at the tender age of 84... still a record.

Sad losses to the musical world.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Christmas begins

Christmas concerts in England... how excellent.
Clacton-on-Sea has a wonderful theatre and a great community, so the gigs there are always full; they have a waiting list to join. Everyone gave us a splendid welcome, and a fine Christmas evening ensued. A similar feeling was created in Grantham in more intimate surroundings.
A rare delight for us, we were able to get back from both places by train, and were home before midnight...
The following day, we were part of the excellent A Star for Christmas, a carol concert in aid of Age UK in St Pancras Church, London. We were greeted enthusiastically, singing our multi-carol re-telling of the Nativity Story and The Twelve Days of Christmas; the rest of the cast were terrific. Compère Penny Smith introduced Sylvia Sims, Sheila Hancock, June Whitfield, Nicky Spence, Hannah Waddingham, Anton Stephens & Edward Baruwa accompanied by Choir UK (directed by Lisa Thorner), Simon James & singers, The Sylvia Young Theatre School and the Choir of The Royal School, Haslemere and, naturally, everyone excelled themselves... the packed church rang with Christmas joy.
The next day, we sang at a party in a private house... I am afraid I'd have to shoot you if I told you who, where and what it was... yes, there were a few celebs, but truly it was a party for a loving family; we were delighted to be a part of it. As the guy is especially house-proud [well, it is very newly made splendid], we could not wear shoes; so all the guests had 'animal slippers' provided; definitely the first time we have performed in puppy slippers... We managed once more to get home [in the early hours]... sleeping in our own beds... what a treat!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Weather permitting...

After the glories of Eastnor Castle, we drove off early for the Eurostar train... Steve very early as he went overnight... and arrived for two concerts in Belgium; at Heist-op-de-Berg and at Heudsen-Zolder. For the second of these Chris Hatt joined us on the piano, which was a joy... with his entire family, including a new being presently hiding inside his wife. Glorious.

Both concerts went well. We were delighted to be introduced at H-Z by Fred Brouwers, the experienced Broadcaster, whom we had met at a Klara concert in January this year & also a coach-full of 50 friends from Sittard, Holland arrived courtesy of Gertie... we are blessed by our fans.

The next pair of concerts was in Switzerland, and the snow nearly thwarted us. Our flight was cancelled, and the next available with the same carrier [BA of course!] was full. Swissair came to the rescue, and we finally arrived at our first gig with 50 minutes to spare. No worries! These performances were organised by UBS, and went down tremendously well... in Wolfsberg and Thun.
Geneva airport still being closed [for the Swiss to be affected, it must have been terrible!]; we eventually got from Zurich back to the recently-reopened London City.

One day at home, with some time to enjoy England beginning to thrash Australia at cricket in Oz, and then we attempted to get to Vienna, for what has become our annual appearence at Voicemania. Luckily, despite snow being around, all was well.
We shared an evening with wonderful people in the excellent Metropol, our old friends, the fantastic male-voice quartet, INtrmzzo, who still are afraid of vowels, and some new friends the amazing Jukebox Trio from Russia.
The other two groups were on fire, and the somewhat-dangerously called long night of a cappella was a success for all of us!
We left Vienna, just as our cricketers had started pummelling the Aussies into the ground.
Now it was back to the UK.... to Clacton-on-Sea.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

More parties...

Much time has passed; but I must write again…

We have been having a splendid time performing at celebrations and parties… firstly an Anglo-Swedish wedding – at least, the reception in a glorious pub in Dulwich Village. All the music was organised by our friend Sofie Haag, and we were delighted to be part of such a happy occasion.

Continuing the friendship of nations theme, having sung for the Anglo-Belgian Club [or ABC] we then went to a subsequent Anglo-Belgian birthday party in Yorkshire, with a wonderful array of food available… Hog Roast, Paella & conviviality all round! Perfect for the Anglo-Belgian outfit, The London Quartet - Cantabile!

The next party was at the amazing and utterly spectacular Eastnor Castle

This place really does have to be seen to be believed, more mediaeval weapons and armour than I have seen ever on the walls, and battlements straight out of King Arthur... and yes, it is all fake, although the land has been an estate for the Somers Cox family for centuries, the building you see now is only 19th-century and has seen no warfare! Further brilliantly restored post-WWII.

We sang for a small and select group who were going to shoot things the next day... not us luckily... I could not possibly divulge any names of guests... sorry!

Next day, it was off early to Belgium... and beyond!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Anglo Belgian Club

Had a splendid evening at The Grand at Trafalgar Square on Tuesday singing to the Anglo Belgian Club. We were very happy to sing and talk in English and French, and then at the last our secret weapon came out, and Steve talked and sang in Flemish to the assembled throng. Wonderful venue [in which there are many different venues, including a gold decorated ballroom], and a great Belgian audience. The Grand used to be a Ministry of Defence building, and till quite recently was where Downing Street's water was heated [this has at last been modernised].
We hope to spend further evenings in this place...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

ON tour ends

Sitting in Toronto aeroport, awaiting flight home.
Very successful tour, met lots of great people....

Last night at Elliot Lake was as splendid as the rest... another appreciative crowd, enthusiastic to the last... including the after show party at the Bankside café.... the only thing open in town; and they served Bombay Sapphire.

In our end is our beginning, as our Canadian agent is just today going to Ontario Contact where this tour was concocted, and will organise some more...

After over 200 concerts in Canada over the last 7 years, still so much more to explore...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Pizza ingredient lotto

Mike won!
...or perhaps we other three lost.
Mike wisely did not order the chicken...
I will give you no more detail, but suffice to say that we are now OK, and gig tonight will happen...


More travel chaos.
Happily sitting in Toronto aeroport, we find that the outlook of our flight to Sudbury has moved from 'fair' to 'not today' owing to fog... so we had the joy of getting our bags from the handlers [not as bad as we feared], and started the process of getting refunds for our flights (or at least the paperwork - which naturally had to be done in person, not online or later!) and then hiring another car.
Refund went well, Richard was patient and the lady was mercifully thorough, so slow-ish, but excellent.
When the 50% of TLQ that can drive went to the car hire place, they were told there were no cars; however, 'you could book online if you like'! Isn't it obvious, no cars means no cars for walk-ups, but if you have booked online all is OK? So Mike, having been told there are no cars, stood at the hire desk, on the glorious free wifi, and booked a car; then asked the man, who was still one metre from him, whether he could have his car.... and he was told 'yes'. We do live in a crazy world.
Steve did the deed, and lo, 5 and a bit hours later we achieved Elliot Lake - a place which closes mainly at 6pm, and definitely by 9pm... we got to the pizza place with 2 minutes to spare.
Oh joy.
As to yesterday, we had a quite delightful reception at Lakefield... lovely theatre/hall with great acoustic and super people... we had an exquisite meal in the Bistro, and everyone thought we were insane [well, in a kind and funny way]. We have visited some splendid communities on this tour, and our trip to Lakefield was as good as any... gorgeous folks... the wine and cheese after was the icing on the cake...
Surely it is all OK from here!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Canadian Tire

No, we haven't sold out to commercialism for this post, though we do like the shop!; we simply had a tyre blow on our most recent trip... no danger, just lots of bad weather and Steve [being the youngest] set to, and replaced the tire... once we had found it hiding underneath the car.
Just to make it really irritating, it was naturally, raining.
We have only had tyre trouble once before, as far as I can remember, and that was in Canada too!
Therefore we crawled into Lakefield later than expected, but got a great welcome.
Cornwall was a great concert, a full theatre and lots of enthusiasm; we realised that we were very near both the US & Montréal, which is just a few kms up the road... as we were on the edge of Québec we did some French intros as well as English.... just showing off really, but the French third of the audience seemed to be happy!
I forgot to say a lady asked me whether we 'did Bath' the other night... I wondered if I had forgotten to wash, but delightfully she meant did we perform near there, so her sister could go and see us.
Also did not mention Old Burnside where we stayed at Almonte; a wonderful house built in the 19th-century by a Scot, and home to a retired Canadian Trade Diplomat and his wife [Marilyn and Howard]. They had the most terrific collection of artefacts, photos and art from their travels all over the world, and it was great to explore this, and be shown around by them. The Eggs Benedict were also very high class.
Now, tonight's concert awaits...

Friday, 22 October 2010

Coffee at last

Now sitting in Palms café in Almonte (drinking much-desired espresso), having performed in Manitouwadge & Geraldton, flown from Thunder Bay to Toronto, then driven to last night's gig at Perth.
Perth ON is twinned with Perth, Scotland naturally, and is a very pretty place, and lots of bookshops & barber shops (one of which I used for its non-singing purpose) on a proper old-time main street. Heard a lot of Scots accents wandering the streets - good to see real-looking pubs too.
Concert a great success to a packed house in a splendidly-equipped theatre with techs who knew what they were doing -tremendous.
Wonderful guest house by the rail-tracks. This positioning was considered very romantic and and splendid by half of the group, the other half wondering when they might sleep, as the trains continued to whistle all night! Meals fit for (greedy) kings were had by all. Thanks to Jenny, Mark and family [& Jack the very intrepid three-legged dog].
We drove the first hire car for 2,404.40 km... well, Steve did anyway; we may not work the second one so hard.
Now must order another coffee...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Thunder Bay Sky... and beyond

This is the amazing fiery sky over Thunder Bay, as we left the aeroport to begin our Canadian tour. Fantastic sunset!

Now five days later, we have performed in Sioux Lookout, Dryden, Kenora, Fort Frances & Atikokan, as we travel about northern Ontario, wandering through the neverending and magnificent rock formations of the Canadian Shield

Mercifully only read of the pathetic England football team's display at Wembley against Montenegro; very grateful for not being able to see it or hear the desperate commentary. Much better wembley memories of seeing Dr Who live just before we left the UK with my son.... wonderful show - still touring the country!

The scenary has been as we expected; lakes, trees and beasts... tho' the latter have been a little shy. We were promised bears, wolves and moose.... we have seen a chipmunk, a brown squirrel and a few deer. Perhaps we have a greater beast count to come...
Onwards to Manitouwadge [via Marathon!]

Friday, 8 October 2010

Lemmens Institute gig

Fantastic concert tonight at Steve's old place of education...Lemmensinstituut, Leuven. We played our old trick of the three of us talking in Flemish & Steve only in English, and then at the end of the gig Steve 'revealed' himself as Belgian... marvellous... especially good as he told them he was a fellow Lemmens Old Boy [not sure this is the phrase he would use]; the cheering did not stop for a long while! The audience were tremendous and enthusiastic; ages ranged from 10 to 90... amongst them were, naturally, Steve's family and friends and also two of Cantabile's great friends who had travelled over from The Netherlands, Gertie & Gaby - lovely to catch up with their news after the concert.
As ever, the trip over by Eurostar was a total joy... more please... less time at aeroports.
Ah yes... next stop LHR on way to Canada...

Monday, 4 October 2010

Channel Island tour

We had a wonderful time on our tour of the Channel Islands – Guernsey, Sark, Alderney & Jersey… all very efficient & simple, despite quite an extended stay on Alderney in the rain as we waited for the weather to change, so that we could fly. We were very lucky with the weather, considering the conditions we might have had to fly or sail in...

After the exertions of our week at the Bridewell Theatre [which we enjoyed so much that we are going to do it again!], it was fascinating to do this tour of four very different places. St James on Guernsey we have been to many times before, and it was great to see Kirsten and many other old friends there, but the tractors-and-bikes-and-no-cars Sark was more sedate, though the journey over by boat was less so! The recently-created Island Hall was clearly a place of joy and a thing of pleasure for the Sarkian people...& great to sing in. We saw a glorious starry night, witnessing why Sark has gone for 'dark skies status'. Alderney - a wonderful mix of English village and 19th-century fortifications was excellent & the weather was splendid & our hosts very hospitable, and once we had arrived on Jersey [we achieved the theatre 20 minutes before the show after a stormy day] our welcome was as we would expect - warm and encouraging, even though we were only on the island for just a few hours.

As to the audiences, on Sark all the local dignitaries came to see us, but Mr Pye sadly did not, in either devilish or angelic persona; on Alderney, Pat Webb, who played the lead in The Boy Friend for 2 years in the 1950s was there, and on Jersey we had the pleasure of singing to the male voice group of Victoria School… who sang Blue Moon to us after the concert.

Now the joys of Lemmensinstituut, Leuven await on Thursday, before 3 weeks in Canada…

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Busy rehearsing for our run at the Bridewell Theatre - - greatly looking forward to it.

Last friday, we spent the day with the splendid Jenny Weston, honing our choreography to within an inch of our lives. Steve and I are now the spitting image of Laurel and Hardy... if you need more information, you had better come to our gigs!
We had just flown in from Long Beach, California - we sang for 4o minutes over there! - and we swapped stories with Jenny about it, as she did some direction and movement for Adams' Nixon in China in that very town - she is, in fact, the world expert on the direction of that opera. Should you wish:

Now have had an afternoon with pianist, and father-soon-to-be, Chris Hatt, who we have persuaded to take a week off from Billy Elliot, where he is the Maestro... Good to have our own maestro on stage; he has promised to lead the laughter, as well as play like a demon... and he might even sing and act [although he only found out this bit yesterday!]

See you at the Bridewell...

Sunday, 15 August 2010

end of tour

We met a great deal of fascinating people on our recent tour: André-Gilles Duchemin, the Artistic Director of the Festival classique des Hautes-Laurentides, world-renowned flautist [taught by Galway amongst others] and a Canadian star - delightfully complimentary about our contribution to his festival. Also we met a lady who won the Prix de l'Europe and went to Paris in the 1950s to study with Nadia Boulanger [her pupil's pupil (Camille Nguyan) performed quite superbly as a prelude to us at Lanoraie]. At this concert we were offered the most splendid afternoon tea party with 9 separate teas, but there was also another link with the Prix de l'Europe; a previous winner (in 1929) was composer and baritone Lionel Daunais - in our Québec concerts we have been singing his excellent song about culinary matters, and the eponymous Québecois dish, La Toutière [Pork, potato & vegetable shortcrust pie]. We found we had been singing the song a few metres from where he lived, and that the townspeople are in the throes of saving his house from he developers.
No-one offered us any (so forgive me if the above description is a travesty) - although they confirm that it is eaten all the time!
We are on holidays for a while now before new photo session end of next week, a quick trip to California, and then on into rehearsals for our week at The Bridewell Theatre, accompanied by pianist Chris Hatt - (13th-18th Sept. at 7pm, & 3pm on Saturday):

Friday, 13 August 2010

small world

Wonderful gig at Huntsville. Goldie Hawn failed to show; must have been double-booked.
But a couple came up and said their daughter was an opera singer based in London... they turned out to be the parents of Gillian Keith, who I have sung with many times under the baton / auspices of our pianist for 12 years, Paul Plummer. The musical world as ever proves itself to be tiny. Real world feels less tiny after 6+ hour drive back to Montréal; still, Steve loves driving...
More open-air-ness tomorrow; weather news to follow.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Canada August

Another tour to our 'second home' of Canada this month; as ever, lots of variety; we have sung in a force 5 gale in the open air by a lake [Lanoraie] - "the wind isn't normally this bad at this time of year" - and in the wonderful L'Agora in Quebec City. The audience for this avoided the pleasure of free performances by Cirque du Soleil and Robert LePage, and were most enthusiastic.
Huntsville in the middle of cottage country north of Toronto...where the rich and famous have their holiday homes; I wonder how many will turn up tonight...

Huntsville ON

One of the joys of being on tour, found old film on TV, scored by the master Stephen Sondheim - Stavisky [1974] - & watched it too... Film has an appearance of a very young Depardieu. Wonderful to hear SS's music as a film underscore... he is in full pastiche mode as in much of A Little Night Music. Reminds me that Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote the score for The Odessa File.