Sunday, 23 December 2012

Last concert of 2012

So our last gig of 2012 is in the old administrative capital of Roman Belgium, Tongeron... staying in a hotel just above the Julianus shopping centre.... altogether now; veni, vidi, emi (as JC probably never said...)
Lots of Roman and Middle-age walls and cloisters etc all over town!

We did a mix of three shows tonight Best of British, Madrigal to McCartney with a bit of Christmas thrown in... & lovely it was; excellent hall and great staff... all very professional.  Lovely pre-show meal too!
Then it was indeed Belgian Beer o'clock; a good way to end our year... in which Britain celebrated the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, and in which cool & sweet Chloé appeared...

See you next year!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

More splendid Belgium

Two more lovely evenings in Belgium.
Firstly in a glorious church in Aartselaar - St Leonards (no, it was not by the sea) - with an enormously-packed churchful of people... who, as you might imagine, joined in the three carols (in Dutch) which we sang together with great gusto... They were ready for anything we gave them, and quite unfazed by Elvis' appearance from the vestry... and bought songbooks and CDs like there was no tomorrow; not that i am accusing such sensible people of believing the Mayan Apocalypse nonsense!

Then it was back to Herk-de-Stad, where we performed last Christmas too, this time doing our Best of British programme... and Chris Hatt turned up too for an end-of-term romp!  Chris was on great form, despite the looming alarm call at 5am to get him back to his family at Christmas...
Talking of families, Steve and Martene brought Chloé along, and she was fantastically well behaved in the concert... one squawk during our Ins and Outs of Cricket, and one very well-timed one as part of the Oy fest that is The Lambeth Walk... impeccable.
She is rather gorgeous...

Tonight we are in what we have been told is the oldest city in Belgium, Tongeren (as Julius Caesar would have known the place - well it is just a short hop from the English beaches he visited where we gave him an aggressive-ish welcome!)  J Caesar also said that the Belgae were the toughest of the lot (Steve tells me!)

Servo vestri pecker ascendit

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ghent (Gent)

Very splendid evening in Gent at the Capitole, a fine Christmas evening with a throng of merry people!
Joined by the wonderful Andy Massey at the piano (who was happy to put up with onstage abuse - all part of the act I assure you!), we had a wonderful time.

Lots of CDs and songbooks too flew off the selling table after the gig... hoorah - quite a few Songs of Cricket, as well as the more obvious Christmas albums...
Great that our tireless Belgian agent Thomas was there too...

Andy rose wonderfully to the challenge of See Amid the Winter's Snow (excellently arranged by Jonathan Rathbone) - I won't spoil it for those who have not seen it! - but he was great!  Chris Hatt will have a go next week...

Andy, Mike and I enjoyed a number of Christmas Leffes (and De Koninck too); when in Belgium etc...

Gent is a fine place to be just before Christmas.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Köln, then Bonn...

Two more German glories... Köln, then Bonn...
Well, more exactly, we were in Kalk, very much just on the edge of Köln & then at ... friendly bunches of people at both venues, sitting at tables and drinking (well, it helps)... and mopping up the Christmas atmosphere...
...This was alive & well in both places, and Xmas stalls were marvellous, if a little marred by rain in Bonn.

In Kalk, we were at the Burgerhaus, as part of the excellent Vocale 2012 celebration (which includes The Real Group, Maybebop and many others); and in Bonn we were in the lovely Haus der Springmaus... for our tenth visit!  Great to see everyone again... (tho' we hope Andrea gets better soon...)

In Bonn, Beethoven was keeping his counsel as to which of the documents left under his statue was most pertinent to his views!  He was also surrounded by railings... as if he wanted to start a riot...

We swap the cute German market square full of stalls for the cute Belgian market square from tomorrow... Ghent * here we come...

Four gents in Gent ** - (geddit??) five as we are accompanied there by Andy Massey)....

*     English spelling
**    Belgian spelling

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Nienburg (Weser), DE

Another beautiful small town in Germany...Nienburg/Weser, (we are indeed in Le Carré's Bonn, tomorrow... Köln tonight...)
...but last night an excellent theatre, full to the gills of people and Christmas jollity!
Elvis (Steve) was in the building again... and as is so often the case everyone was splendid and looked after us famously...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Skipton, then St Bride Inst. once more

Train trip up north to a crisp and frosty Yorkshire (much like the rest of the crisp and frosty UK, I suppose) led us to Skipton... where we are returning after a few years.

Skipton was indeed looking particularly Christmassy, and the gateway to the dales shone with beauty...
Nice bookshops & great fish & chips too... Lovely evening, and the audience were kind and appreciative of our Madrigal to McCartney show (we did Christmas last time!)

Particularly delighted to have two old friends from Croydon in the audience, who years ago escaped the city life for the better air/views/stonework in Yorkshire... lovely to catch up.
I do rather think, we'll be back up here... it's all rather glorious!

Then rather too quickly chased back home, but to another cute Christmas evening, once again, at the St Bride Institute - definitely for the good and the good of that organisation!... a delight too...

Then it's Germany come Friday...

Saturday, 8 December 2012

St Bride Institute Xmas concert

Another lovely evening at the St Bride Institute, Bride Lane, celebrating Christmas, and having a jolly mince-pie time.

To have the great and the good of this excellent organisation there was splendid... (and there's more next week!)

Two people of great influence over our Songs of Cricket CD were there; David Rayvern Allen who provided the music knowledge & Jonny Knowles who supported us through it... both there (with family) to hear The Ins and outs of Cricket & Stilgoe's Barmy Army...

...and we had an even more splendid end to the evening, as two 'carols' combined; a plan hatched last year supposedly, between our own Carole, who does so much for us with the mailing list and CD sales, and a long-serving fan Carol, who made a Cantabile-The-London-Quartet-30th-Anniversary cake which was shared by everyone in the audience. How scrumptious it was.
Thank you, both 'carols'! A lovely gesture; much appreciated... and still, as we have some in our houses!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Vienna too

Apart from:

a) it starting to snow the minute I left the hotel for a mite of Christmas-stall-shopping (unluckily for me, no-one was selling Christmas stalls)


b) having to watch an older lady with a distinct and rather neatly designed moustache at my afternoon dinner (The rest of her family were not in the slightest bit surprised; perhaps there is a sort of Austrian Movember for women in December?) She looked like she was in the RAF in WWII...

Today was as gorgeous as yesterday here in the City of Music.

The audience seemed especially keen tonight on our Dick und Doof impression (Laurel and Hardy to you!) - I am still (rather unfairly in my view) cast as the fat one!

Our old friends Elizabeth and Harald came over from Salzburg too which was splendid...

On to the Bridewell Institute tomorrow for more festive fun!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Vienna once again!

Sitting in our hotel amongst the glory of Imperial Vienna... wonderful!
Back at the cute and cuddly Theatre am Spittelberg which we were last at in the Summer, for two concerts as part of the ever-excellent Voice Mania (fifteen years old this year)....
There is an excellent Christmas market all up and down the theatre street.
However, with us, Christmas, silliness & the odd hat/costume has come to Wien.

Thanks to Lotti Viola who helped us with some German words for the end of our US Presidential list song {Presidential Precedents by Jeremy Nicholas (German end went well!)} - great to have two old friends (Lotti and Regula) in the audience.

I think Steve rather likes dressing up as Elvis:- good news, he has a few more goes at it before December 24th...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Royal Albert Hall

Wonderful evening in the Royal Albert Hall, in the Elgar Room.
A packed room (we could only just get to the stage!) of people from all over - quite a high percentage of Scandanavians! - enjoyed a great Christmas atmosphere.
The ever-excellent Chris Hatt joined us at the piano for all sorts of Seasonal, funny & nostalgic items.

Winter Wonderland, Festival of Carols in 2 minutes & Chestnuts Roasting...
Oranges and lemons (as from our new Songbook - the Great British a cappella one)
...and naturally the Hee Bee Gee Bees!
Mike did his Bing thing too on White Christmas too...
...and Strangers in the Night, with a huge photo of Ol' Blue Eyes looking on...

Lovely room & terrific happy people...

Hope we'll be back!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Wonderful announcement

I meant to say, that on our recent tour we were announced thus:

"and now here they are to sing Rossolini's Barbershop of the Seville..."

I won't say where it happened...

EPAM London concert

The EPAM 'Music is Everywhere' Christmas party...
Wonderful evening at St Mary-at-the-Wall in the City - lovely church... a friend who was there tells me it looks in fine nick because it had a fire in the 1980s and so the decor is all rather new (and of course beautiful!)
Lovely to finally watch the super Voces8 live, as they joined the EPAM stable this year; and also the splendid Fugata Quintet who did some excellent Piazzola.
Two school choirs were also on show, and were excellent; one the choir from Beaumont School, St Albans who sang together the lovely Second Eve by Ola Gjeilo (published by Edition Peters):- also their six-part male voice group who beautifully sang a wonderful song from Adele.  The second choir were from St Edmund's, Canterbury who sang Shenandoah.  Both groups had worked with Voces8 in workshops.

All the choral forces joined together to sing John Cage's Four² - a great experience!

Looking forward on Saturday to a sold out gig at a room in the Royal Albert Hall - wanted to, but just could not leave the words "a room in" from that last sentence!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Fowey, Cornwall

Amazing, but quite crazily in Cantabile - The London Quartet's 30th anniversary year, we perform our first ever public concert in Cornwall.
The newly-tried Winter section of the Fowey du Maurier Festival was where we were - for the unitiated, that is pronounced 'Foy' - and it was splendid.  We gave our 'Funny Side of the Street' gig in Fowey church... and it was a Jowey (geddit?)
In fact the audience joined in with the Oweys in Lambeth Walk wonderfully (that's enough fowey jokes, Ed.)
If only it had not taken nine and a half hours to get here... I suppose we should be glad we got here at all.

Hoping that the journey home is more helpful, as we have the London EPAM Xmas party to go to.... 7.30pm at St. Mary-at-Hill Church, along with Voces8 and The Fugata Quintet... can't wait...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Ely, MN

So that's it.... the last of our US tour, and farewell to Chris O'Gorman... and thanks.
He has been excellent; lovely to have him on board for these last few weeks... We are all grateful (and Steve, I suspect, especially...)

Our mid-west experience came to an end in Ely (Just down the road from Babbitt & Embarrass (really!))...
...a lovely town, with yet another excellent theatre with wonderful staff (well, Peter worked damn hard, anyhow!) ...

Plane home tomorrow after lunch; just got to get the tuxedos back to Walmart... (this line went very well throughout the tour!)
...a few days off before a rare appearance in Cornwall at the Fowey du Maurier Festival - wonderful...

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Wahpeton, ND

What, no EP?
Town Heap ?
When at op.?

(that's enough anags. ed.)

Just across the border from Breckenridge, MN we find Wahpeton, ND; and anagram-fanatics paradise...

Another lovely community, and excellent technical team at the theatre; no surprises that all has gone wonderfully...

We have left On the paw & are now many miles away in Ely, MN...
On the way here we found a splendid café in Park Rapids... Bella Caffe... excellent oasis of culture.

Now for that steak...

Friday, 16 November 2012

triumphant return to... New Ulm, MN

Just 18 years later, we were back at New Ulm, MN (Old Ulm being the German birthplace of Albert Einstein)...
Last time there was a quite significant German-speaking population - they seem to have 'moved on', but there is a lot of Germanic stuff about the place... especially architecturally; here's the Hermann Monument... (it was indeed a sunny, if cold, day today...)

This would not be out of place in any German town or city! Wagner would have loved it...

Lovely audience and theatre...
We had school kids doing all the technical stuff tonight, and they were as good as any theatre people we have met on our travels this tour - excellent.

In the afternoon, our espresso luck ran out, as the wifi/espresso place closed the minute we walked into it at 3pm! Luckily a bookshop stepped into the breach, at least on the espresso front.

Through the magic of download, we listened to I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue in the car on the way to our next hotel (a hotel we stayed in right at the beginning of this US sojourn in the middle of October)...

In our near-the-end is our beginning to miscoin a phrase...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Fond du Lac, WI

Fond du Lac was a glory...nice old town, Eleanor Roosevelt, JFK, Gene Autry and other famous types had all stayed previously in our hotel... this place used to be a hotbed of illegal drinking during the Prohibition era... lots of underground tunnels where it was all hidden...
Then we had that excellent North American delight of Premium Outlet shopping... hoping we can get our cases home (well, Mike & I need to be careful; Chris & Richard were more steady!)

A bar by the hotel provided a fine range of not-only-pale-rubbish-US-lager which was nice...

Also, good to see my old music teacher David de Warrenne on Sarah Beany's house-selling show on More4 (from November 13th...)

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Easy Cheese

Now surely it is clear that we have no need for any fake cheese - we are brimming over with the stuff!

Despite being offered this in Worthington, MN (where we were looked after royally), we had a splendid evening... having had an excellent afternoon sampling the delights of Ben Lees Coffeebar. It was very, very cold here...tho' the audience were equivalently warm...

Many miles later, we are here in (much more sunny) Fond du Lac, WI...

(See previous blog for much more edifying picture of Steve & Martene's new life...)

Chloé est arrivée

For those yet to find out, Steve & Martene are the proud creators of Chloé, who arrived very recently... busy bees as we are, we have yet to meet her, but we have seen photos...
Quite gorgeous, of course...

Welcome to the world, Chloé !

After three days of hospital, finally back home.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Wunsiedel, DE

Another excellent a cappella nacht from Magenta and Peter Martin Jacob, along with Six Pack & The House Jacks.
Splendid to see our old friends Six Pack from Germany, and to meet The House Jacks from the USA for the first time... including that a cappella powerhouse, Deke Sharon.

As ever, a brilliant mix of acts, such contrasts... Six Pack, very funny... Merlin Monroe especially!  The House Jacks all power and beatbox action (tho' with a glowing and sweet rendition of Summertime too)... they were the first beatbox vocal group... and they are very fine at it...

Wonderful moment in the bar afterwards, when Peter, being his smooth delightful self, decided to grace the Hungarian waitress with some Hungarian... the quite difficult word 'egeszegere' meaning... cheers... we all dutifully intoned this to her, and she was flattered and a little flustered by it... so much so that she dropped a tray with glasses on it on the way back to the bar... Peter was a little embarrassed, but we all knew his intentions were good... and she continued to serve us!

Back to the US tomorrow.. what fun!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Roseau, MN then Europe

A 'final' concert at Roseau, MN, (that's Rose-oh, btw) before we hop over to Europe (Wunsiedel, Germany) for a quick a cappella nacht with Peter Martin Jacob and Magenta...

We had a splendid Guy Fawkes night in Roseau (Ian, in the audience, from Maidenhead told us we had not mentioned this anniversary! - he was right...); great evening again, there will be more next week... after we have had a quick German sojourn...

We still have Chris with us; no news yet of latest Cantabile new generation...

Aeroports, planes... marvellous...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Thief River Falls, MN

Another town, another espresso house...
You might think it dull that we attach such weight to the availability of espresso; it must stem from our first US tours in the 1990s, when it was almost impossible to find a place where espresso occurred at all, apart from when we approached Seattle (where I for one, rather OD'd on the stuff...) However, Wired Bean, just across from our hotel, the mellifluously-named, C'mon Inn (geddit?) is tremendous.... and even has sandwiches in which the meat part of the sandwich is more than half-a-milimetre thick and tastes of something.... such glory...

...and the concert? After nine hours in the car yesterday, it was excellent... the good people of TRF bought CDs and had a good time in a packed Sunday afternoon theatre. Huge crowd, huge fun...
Splendid technical skill too in the theatre...

One more before we pop home for a quickie in Germany, in Roseau, MN... just up the road... time for a lie-in...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Hettinger, ND

Another delightful community at Hettinger, ND; very friendly people, who fed us wonderfully, and looked after us with great care.
We were singing in a church, and that was splendid... good acoustics of course, and many children there with their parents - a real family evening... terrific.
All were dead impressed by Richard's forceful and loud nose blow in Creole Love Call...

No sooner had we arrived than we were off for a nine-hour jaunt to Thief River Falls, MN, where I type...

We managed to stop for a second time at Rabb's coffee house in Jamestown; the girl was not that impressed to see us a second time (excellent espresso & grub) - she did not know that we had travelled over 4000 miles and so the chances of our happening on her café twice were quite small!

Looking forward to tomorrow pm in Thief River Falls - after an extra hour's sleep (daylight saving ends a week after UK's change...)

Friday, 2 November 2012

Williston, ND

Our triumphant return to Williston, ND was indeed so!
We shared memories of the Wiederanders, who had looked after us 18 years ago, and were delighted to make new acquaintances - Jackie Keck took us to Books on Broadway which does fine espresso.
...and we sold lots of our new songbook - best sales yet!

In the morning we had a splendid time in the company of lots of schoolchildren, who were suitably enthusiastic... and heard the excellent Treble Makers, a seven-part girl group from WHS (Williston High School), who sang Mary did you know... & The Java Jive: they were wonderful.  Clear, beautiful singing.

Eric and Katy, music teachers at the school, were very supportive (and their little son extremely sweet!)

We have passed Grassy Butte, had lunch in the great Trappers Inn, Belfield, will have a concert tonight in Hettinger, but right now are in our Lemmon (SD) hotel....

What larks...

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Devils Lake, ND

Suitably Hallowe'en, we were at Devils Lake, ND for the last two nights... splendid concert... people had come from far and wide; in fact, two ladies in our hotel always travel 70 miles and stay the night for the concerts in the series... great to chat with them over breakfast.

More excellent coffee! Liquid Bean satisfied our needs....
...and now having reached Williston, ND, Books on Broadway has done the espresso thing for us!

We are engulfed by small people dressed up bloodily... luckily the locals are all candied-up, so we are ignored!!

We were in Williston, ND seventeen years ago - I wonder if anyone will remember us from then!
We have a workshop in the am, and the concert later...

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Redfield, SD and 2 games nights

Redfield, SD was a fine smaller community, and we had an excellent afternoon in its company... often replete from sweetmeats after the concert...

Wonderful... and then it was games time!
There firstly was a pool table in the bar where we ate (and drank) after the concert (Joey's Bar should you wish to know)... honours were pretty even in this endeavour; and the ribeye steaks were quite brilliant, and rather big, too... We were two-thirds of the clientèle of the bar!

After a four-hour drive to Devil's Lake, ND, where we perform tomorrow... it was time to hit the lanes.
None of us felt we were on top of our game in this, having not bowled for some time...but Richard excelled himself... the scores were...

    Richard Bryan     130
    Michael Steffan     113
    Chris O'Gorman     96     
    Mark Fleming     86

Oh yes indeed, I was quite the rustiest of the lot... Mr 'strike' Bryan however, led from the off, and never let go his stranglehold... fine rearguard attempt to catch up from Mr Steffan, but Richard was unassailable.
Also we wondered if it was Ladies' Night at the lanes, as we were the only guys there...
After this excitement, it was straight to Proz (pronounced prose!) for an all-American supper...

More exploration of Devil's Lake tomorrow... and even a concert...

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Fergus Falls, MN

Splendid driving form Chris and Mike brought us the nearly 600 miles back to Minnesota... and a wee bit tired were delighted to find the hotel had its own restaurant & that it was open... Glory.
The slight bad news were that the band were due on in an hour.  Now the band were fine, but the tables to eat on, were situated right next to the stage... and these guys have clearly decided that silence is for wimps and play impressively loudly... continuing their endurance battles from all day, Chris and Mike saw the band through their first set... (Richard and I retired!).

Having driven so far, we had a whole day here at Fergus Falls, which was excellent. The young girl at reception clearly decided I needed exercise and told me it only took 20 minutes to walk into town... no worries:- 45 minutes after setting off I was having my (well-earned) double espresso and European-style sandwich... all splendid.  Less splendid was the I'm-sorry-we-will-be-closed-on-the-26th-and-the-27th-October sign on the wonderfully-packed bookshop... best in the area, it crowed, but shut it remained... ah well... The hour and a half walk was worth it for Café 116 - terrific...

On to the gig itself, a great hall, with great staff, and lovely people who looked after us well... and bought CDs too... hoorah.  One woman waxed lyrical about The Four Freshmen - we apologised for not having room for every group in a two-hour concert... and told of the songs of theirs that we could have done... I think she was happy!

We all enjoyed Fergus Falls - especially Mike whose birthday it is today - he was presented with a bottle at the end of the concert and everyone sang him a happy birthday...

On to Redfield, South Dakota for an afternoon concert....

Friday, 26 October 2012

Ogallala, NE and Concordia, KS

Another two delightful gigs... one in Nebraska & one back in Kansas...

...and of course lots of new Interstates and highways to explore... lucky old Mike and Chris to be able to drive these roads (& lucky old Richard and me who cannot drive at all!)

Two excellent schools with well-equipped theatres and very efficient (young) techs... how brilliant!
...and we sold more of our new songbook!

...a few Sam Adams' Black lagers after the gig... & we are ready to sleep before our 8-9 hour drive...
back to Minnesota tomorrow.... Fergus Falls to be specific...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Miss Kansas

Oh I forgot to say, our concert in Pratt was introduced by Miss Kansas, Sloane Lewis, who comes from Norwich (KS, natch.); & she insisted on having a photo with us!

She is a fine pianist, and would have played, but they could not get the piano on stage...

another convenient prat

My Kansas store....

Pratt KS

Home of the Beavers

Lovely evening at Pratt Community College - good theatre excellent lighting and sound team - thanks, Misty - all splendid.

We got a fair number of photos with us with 'Pratt' in sight...


This was TLQ's first ever fauré (sic) into Kansas... we think we only have Utah and Alaska to go and we have the full set....

Off to Nebraska next (tho' we do come back to KS after tomorrow)...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Peace, man

We had a fascinating day in the Transcendental Meditation capital of the USA, Fairfield, Iowa...
Many have visited here - Oprah, Stephen Fry (but many others who are not on TV).... there is a Vedic village, and a TM University.  A very cosmopolitan community live here from all over the world.

...must not forget to say that the Stephen Sondheim Theatre here was terrific; lovely acoustic - brilliant for a fairly small place to have such a splendidly-equipped theatre...

All good, and the wonderful Café Paradiso also gave us a proper expresso... which helped us prepare for the 8 hours in the car to get to Kansas.... we are now right in the middle of the USA.

Tonight we have a concert in.... wait for it...


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Spam Museum & Watertown WI

Well, we were there; four plucky Brits enjoying the wonders of the Spam Museum at Austin, MN
...hope that's given you a flavour of it; careful - don't sample too much!
Very pleased that pride of place as the funniest Spam moment ever was the Spam, spam, spam sketch from Monty Python - how terrific...

Once we had dragged ourselves away from here, it was on to Watertown, WI; sorry Minnesota, we did bring our rain over for you (it had not rained in the state for months until we arrived!), and thus the weather improved as soon as we achieved Wisconsin  - the sun was shining everywhere (to quote our recently-published songbook).

Another excellent concert in Watertown, people friendly, and technical staff great - and the audience sang along in Lion Sleeps Tonight much to their own surprise...

Onwards and south-westwards... Fairfield, Iowa tomorrow...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Blue Earth, MN

Concert no.2 passed off as easily as no.1:- another packed house enjoyed the music of vocal groups past and present. The lighting guy was extraordinarily splendid and well prepared...
...and I must tell you that on this tour we are unveiling our new book of arrangements, as published by our agents, Edition Peters: The Great British a cappella Songbook - I shall surely mention this once more. (We are dead proud of it, after all...)
In this US show we sing Danny Boy and Oranges and Lemons from the book...

We have already sold a few on this tour - hooray.
It is available right now via Edition Peters' website.

Contents of it are:

Pastime with Good Company - Henry VIII
Greensleeves - trad. English
Oranges and Lemons - trad. English
Myfanwy - Mynyddog / Parry
A Man's a Man for A' That - Burns / trad. Scots
O Danny Boy - Weatherley / trad. Irish
Pomp and Circumstance - Forsythe / Elgar
A Foggy Day (in London Town) - Gershwins
Hush Macushla - Cantabile - The London Quartet   all arranged for SATB... go on, you know you want to!

We're off to Watertown WI in the am, tho' we might just have to sample the delights of the Austin Spam Museum... well, you would, wouldn't you?!

Friday, 19 October 2012

After The Goldrush - new download

Other platforms will be available soon {Spotify, Amazon} - but right now...

After The Goldrush is downloadable from iTunes

er... rush to get it!

Ortonville MN

...and here we are in the USA.
First gig has been and gone, and very well it went too.
We have a guest singer too!
Steve is on pre-paternity leave, as his wife will give birth during this tour, (much good luck to them), and so we are joined by young tenor Chris O'Gorman.

His first concert was a great success & he did a fine job; as often on these tours, we were singing in a school, but an excellent place to sing it was (again, as often, the stage doubled as a basketball court!) - splendid acoustic.
Coupled with a tremendous crowd of people from far and wide to hear us celebrate vocal groups from across the decades, and across the world...
One down, eighteen to go... it's off to Blue Earth MN now...
more US adventures to come...

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Dewsbury, Yorks.

A day trip up north for a lunchtime concert in Dewsbury Town Hall.
Wonderful old-school tradition of municipal music season (not so usually seen these days); and many turned out on a sharp sunny day for lunch and our concert.

Having celebrated the Yorkshire Calendar Girls in the RAH a few days before, it was good to be in God's own county.  (Tho' Mike did remind them, before his rendition of Myfanwy that, of course, Wales is God's own country).

Great hall to sing in, tho' with a squeaky-to-the-foot front stage; undoubtedly safe, but still a bit disconcerting...
...dis-concert-ing!! Geddit?

Excellent pint of Yorkshire beer (Black Sheep should you wish to know) on the way home.

Soon to be off to the USA for a mid-west tour; & to take a peek at the elections over there...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Tim Rice new show

Not wishing to boast - though perhaps that is what this blog is all about! - but the eminent lyricist and our old friend Tim Rice asked us to sing on a second demo for his new musical, with young composer Stuart Brayson, From Here to Eternity... for those who do not know the novel or the film, it is based in and around the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which dragged the USA into WWII.

The show is destined for the West End in the middle/autumn of 2013... can't wait! I know which theatre it will be in, but I'm not certain I am allowed to tell you!

But for the moment we provided vocals for this demo of the song, The Boys of '41 which will hopefully help this massive new première - Tim's first new show for 10 years...

new downloads available

Hooray - more fun for all...
Two older albums are now available for download; eventually they will be on all platforms, but for the mo'

In Cambridge on Amazon

And Now on iTunes
...this also mentions the possibility of downloading Music of the Night...

The eagle-eyed of you might notice that not every track is there on these CDs; there will be more releases soon... including individual live tracks which we are presently 'finding'... and/or cleaning of noise (you know the thing, exuberant audiences!!)

Have fun reliving Cantabile-The London Quartet.... or just go and discover if you have not heard these before...

Friday, 12 October 2012

They flew to Bruges

A lovely Bruges Blog
...apologies if you are not fluent in Dutch/Flemish... (There is a photo.)
...but I am told it is a positive thing!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Seasons of Love

Fabulous charity evening at the Royal Albert Hall a few days ago...
Lovely array of stars, and a gloriously moving & life-enhancing show for all.
Lynda Bellingham, Janie Dee, Jennifer Ellison, Jan Harvey, Julia Hills, Sue Holderness, Lesley Joseph, Gay Soper, Hannah Waterman, June Watson, Stephen Tomkinson, Christopher Timothy, Peter Skellern, Richard Stilgoe, Edward Baruwa, Tiffany Graves, Patrick Doyle, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Tim Firth, Alan Titchmarsh, Tabitha Webb, Debbie Kurup, DMJ & Willy Russell... were all there live; John Alderton, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie & Patricia Hodge all appeared on film with messages of support.

Also on film was Neil Sedaka, who was clearly delighted that we sang his song, Calendar Girl... we were delightfully aided in not looking too dreadful in our 'dancing' as we were joined by the gorgeous and talented, Rossana Stocchino & Lucie Waugh, who danced beautifully.
We also sang Scarborough Fair (in our great John Rutter arrangement) with the excellent harpist, Vicky Lester.

Another wonderful moment, when a young tenor from the West End Chorus, Ian, stepped in at just a few hours notice, and sang the absurdly hard song, 'Til I Hear You Sing from Lloyd Webber's Love Never Dies - terrific job to learn a song over night & do it so amazingly in the show

The show was a celebration of the work of those WI Calendar Girls who we know from the film and stage play, but are real splendid Yorkshire people whose calendar has to date made £3m for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research...
The audience, it was clear, loved the film, the play and these amazing fund-raisers.
The evening culminated in the real Calendar Girls, along with their photographer Terry Logan, coming onstage, and being the recipients of the first Baker awards, which will from now on be awarded annually for people who do great things for fund-raising.
The 'Girls' were tickled pink when the postman from their village of Cracoe, who had only been to London once before ("It's all right", he said when asked by Alan T. how he found it)... very moving and funny all at once.
Indeed we all sang Jerusalem together at the end it all...

Hugh Wooldridge as ever, did a wonderful, efficient job devising and directing all this, and getting it to work in the RAH over just a few hours... super MD: Kevin Amos, wonderful choreographer: Kevan Allen.

PS: lovely also for me to hear once more Make Our Garden Grow from Bernstein's Candide, which we had sung at our wedding...

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Blieskastel, DE

Another excellent a cappella nacht organised by Peter Martin Jacob & Magenta, this time in Blieskastel... with some new and some old friends...
Lovely to see our Belorussian friends, Camerata, and to meet the male quartet Die Bogarts who are based in Berlin.
A packed crowd enjoyed all three groups & cheered us to the rafters...
A terrific evening, and lots of convivial meals too!
Delightfully, we're back in the same hall in Blieskastel, doing our Best of British show on Valentine's Day next year... How romantic!

In the last few days we have been rehearsing, and are now looking forward to our bits in Seasons of Love at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow evening... at 6pm... along with Stilgoe and Skellern, Janie Dee, Stephen Tomkinson, Lynda Bellingham and Alan Titchmarsh amongst others, as well as the City of London Philharmonic and our old friends the West End Chorus...
We're singing Scarborough Fair as well as the Neil Sedaka hit - Calendar Girl - the evening is in aid of Leukaemia charities, and some of those Calendar Girls will be there...
Climaxing with that great WI hit... Jerusalem!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Brugge (anag...NOT!)

Two contrasting, tho' both excellent, experiences in the Netherlands and Belgium...
On the Dutch reclaimed coast to the west of Rotterdam, we had a splendid a cappella time at the Theater Twee Hondjes (Two Puppies' Theatre!)... singing Madrigal to McCartney - Back in Holland!
...and great it was to be back in a Dutch theatre.
There was a wonderful moment in this show, when Bob accidently stood on a prop - he was not affected by this, except that it was a car horn; the timing of which was quite excellent, & thus we others did all find it rather funny... we managed to sing the next song, I am delighted to say!

Then, after a day off in Rotterdam & Bruges (how lovely!), joined by Chris Hatt we performed a Best of British show at the Stadsschouwberg Brugge... Chris once again brought his whole family, wife, kids and parents too.... fantastic...
...and to a packed house once more, complete with an after-show dance for the audience (it's becoming a bit of a habit!) - wonderful theatre... as you can see; and we had a forest of union flags waving away at our Land of Hope and Glory (spoof) at the end of the show...

PS: Theatre in Bruges is in Vlamingstraat... so I felt at home!!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Belgian tour

A fine four days in Belgium... before the deluge at home...

de kam, Wezembeek-Oppem

de Maere in Tielt-Winge

cc palethe, Overpelt

de Markten, Brussels

Gigs one and three were opening nights of the theatres' new seasons.
Gigs two and three were 'Best of British' & we were joined by the wonderful, Chris Hatt...

Wonderful places, and as ever in Belgium, excellent cuisine on most occasions, friendliness & happy audiences.  The Brussels gig turned into a dance after we had performed (no-one was silly enough to ask us!)

Back at the end of the week in Hellevoetsluis in Holland on Friday for an a cappella concert & Belgium once more (Bruges) on Sunday afternoon for another Best of British...

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

You'll Never Walk Alone

A great dinner with the Medical Defence Union to celebrate the end of Dr Chris Evans' tenure as Chairman, at the Royal College of Physicians, Regents Park.

As this Royal College was started in 1518 (in London, nationwide in 1523) under Henry VIII, we began by singing the great King's Pastime with Good Company ... the audience were in fine mood, and loved it all; but as Chris Evans is a proud Liverpudlian, Yesterday & You'll Never Walk Alone were especially well received.

Such a delight to be home before 11 two gigs in a row...

Belgium awaits...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

We can call him Al

A quite terrific evening in central London - Skinners' Hall, Cannon Street - celebrating three anniversaries in the same family... all ending in zero; founding counter-tenor of The Kings' Singers, Al Hume is 70, his car (a beautiful Lagonda sitting outside in the lane) is 80, and his wife Diane, (I shall graciously say) is much younger!

Lots of excellent jokes along the lines of... how lovely to be celebrating the birthdays of the beautiful Diane, the old banger.... and the car outside! (tee hee)... (Al did have the good grace to laugh).
Diane and Al's son, Alexander gave a fine speech belying his youth, introducing Dad, who was also hilarious!

Lots of other luminaries there, including organist/conductor Simon Preston & fellow ex-KS, Brian Kay, but more of that later...
A tough audience, it might seem, but all was sweetness and light... our set was delightfully received, once Richard had warmed them up by giving them an audition!
The highlight of the evening was indeed a counter-tenor extravaganza.... we started off the foundations for The Lion Sleeps Tonight... and then Richard pounced on all the counter-tenors (+1) in the audience; eventually we had David James (the man who first gave me singing lessons!), Michael Chance, Mark Deller, Richard Baker, Al Hume and also his wife up onstage to sing the tune to the song... and what a glorious noise it was... climaxing in a husband and wife duet of the last line.


Lovely evening , lovely setting...

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Final Recording Session

Managed a rather magical image with my phone!  Here is Richard, taken through a window, thus the garden-frame is reflection - sadly some of my forehead in shot too!!

Final day of recording for new album at Champs Hill, with the terrific Malcolm Martineau on piano too - splendid...
Songs of Love & War - out in 2013 we expect... more news when we have it.

Great studio to record in... picaresque views, art on the walls... all gorgeous.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Riga - Gala Galante

Fantastic evening in Riga.
The evening, hosted (as was the whole week) by Latvian superstar Inessa Galante, was expertly conducted by Aleksandrs Vilumanis (or Mr Ragtime Band as I liked to call him - geddit?!)
First third of the concert, William Tell from the Orch. {The Lone Ranger if you must}... & then the delight of
Gábor Boldoczki playing the Haydn Trumpet concerto exquisitely...
The second third started with the orchestra's rendition of 
Janice Dixon sang Spirituals (accompanied by Inna Davidova - who helps run this whole thing - on the piano) and Gershwin with the orchestra - glorious.
We started with Perpetuum Mobile (on our own), then sang Handel's Lascia ch'io Pianga & Yesterday with Inessa herself.  All went down terribly well with the packed audience.
Then we gave them Italian Opera in 4 minutes... Genée's Italian Salad... This part was finished off by us with the orchestra, mapping William Arms Fisher's words to the Largo from Dvořák's 9th Symphony onto the symphony movement itself.  We'd done this before with the Québec Symphony Orchestra (OSQ) & it was splendid to do it again.
We sang Bring Him Home & Hush Macushla with the orchestra [Latvian National Symphony btw], as well as Henry VIII's Pastime with Good Companye & Duke Ellington's Caravan...
A Latvian Jazz singer sang Ain't no Sunshine... and then...
The whole cast performed together Barcelona (a rather splendid Olympic song in this Olympic year!) & Summertime, and we were there!
Just four hours after starting!
Phew! A lovely evening in Latvia - one we hope we shall experience again...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


We are in Latvia - first time apart from a couple of hours in January in Riga Airport (Rix to its friends) - and hoorah for that...
To celebrate Summertime with the Latvian operatic star Inessa Galante - she is a huge star, and we look forward to singing Handel's Lascia ch'io Pianga with her.... & other joys... Dvorak with the Latvian National Orchestra....
Full line-up:

Inessa Galante (soprano)
Janice Dixon (soprano, USA)
Gábor Boldoczki (trumpet, Hungary)
The London Quartet (vocal group, Great Britain)
festival’s guests
Latvian National Symphony orchestra
Aleksandrs Viļumanis, conductor

Rehearsals tomorrow - more news when we have it!

The Baltic looks lovely just shimmering over there!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Vienna joy

Splendid - another full house tonight... and this lot would not stop clapping... which was nice!
...and the weather has improved, a wee bit of rain, but mainly sun.
Bob went on the Prater ferris wheel this am with TLQ friends Regula and Lotti... where they made a film noir on a telephone - that will be interesting!! The Third Woman perhaps?
I'll tell you what it's like when I've seen it!

Wonderful three days - hoping we may be able to squeeze in a Christmas visit... we shall see

PS: I did, it seems, put the mockers on England at cricket, South Africa are romping away...

Friday, 20 July 2012

This is ridiculous

Can this please be sorted out; we came here for a lovely three days of central European sun and some splendid gigs in the Theater am Spittelberg, and then it rains ALL THE TIME!
Another flood on the way back to the hotel.
This is not what we were promised.

Well the second half of what we came for is splendid - A full house very much enjoyed being out of the rain and indeed our show....
...can we see some sky tomorrow please...

Ah, Vienna

Well waddya know?
I tell of the glorious sunshine when lo and behold, the most biblical flood arrives for a few hours... many of our audience (and our employer!) were soaked to the skin as they entered the theatre.
Biblical it was - and we were told later that in the offices just over the road from our hotel, there is a copy of the Bible in every translation as yet created (it is quite a big office!)

Now the weather has settled down to English slightly dank, so that's nice.

I could say at least we are doing well in the cricket against South Africa, but I don't want that to go wrong too.

As to the show, we had a splendid time, and the audience were damp but excellent!  They seemed to enjoy the HeeBeeGeeBees song we sang for them... and the wigs too... and of course Steve in his lederhosen.
Our Flanders and Swann Song of the Weather with German lyrics by Maggie Forsythe went down especially well!

Two more nights of the same at Theater am Spittelberg - hopefully minus Noah's influence.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Tuttlingen Summer Festival

Another splendid German a cappella nacht organised by Peter Martin Jakob and Magenta - three groups, as ever; last night we were joined by the delightful sonic suite & the hilarious KaiRo  - all together in the Summer Festival at Tuttlingen.  The crammed-full tent was thoroughly noisily happy with each of us - tremendous all round...

Now we are in Vienna, awaiting three nights at the Theater am Spittelberg - splendid... and in glorious sunshine, which after the summer so far, is a bit of a shock to the system.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Lord Young party

Wonderful to be part of Lord Young's birthday weekend!
As stalwarts of Chichester Festival Theatre, Lord and Lady Young also had Chichester celebrations too...

Many big noises from business, theatre and politics were there too - delighted to say that Michael Portillo was looking amused and happy during our singing!

After lunch was done & our solo set was over - a specially-created entertainment created by Simon Brett (words) & Christopher Summerfield (music) was given by us along with West End stars (and recently Chichester stars) Annette McLaughlin (shortly to join cast of Matilda) & Steve Elias.  The Noble Lord was terrifically delighted with having all these songs pastiched in his honour - including Maggie May (natch!), Don't go down to the Apple Store & Hey Dude - and clearly was happy to be the butt of some jokes... Wonderful to work with all these splendid people...

A lovely sunshine-filled (yes, that's right, sunshine-filled!) afternoon in the countryside...

Friday, 6 July 2012

four go cruising

We have had a sun-filled week [apologies for those stuck in the rain] wandering around the Med. on the RCI ship Navigator of the Seas - marvellous!
We started in Athens - which amazingly looks thriving despite the country's financial woes; then it was on to Civitavecchia (port of Rome); Chania, Crete; Messina, Sicily, a re-visit to Athens and finally we came home from Kusadasi, Turkey...
We did do some shows of course - four in all (over two nights); lots of nationalities on board - about 60 all tolled - but the main bulk were English/US/Canada & Italian - so we did a bi-lingual show, as well as singing that old Italian favourite, as sung by Tito Gobbi, La Montanara.

Met lots of great people on board - and as is often the case, the musicians were excellent - great big band (Mainly Americans) with a a very dynamic drummer; and some splendid singers for the cast shows.
...and I got to see the new Akropolis Museum - how splendid!

Monday, 25 June 2012

A Right Royal Stilgoe {Sir} weekend

A very inspiring pair of gigs this weekend...

Two bashes in aid of newly-beknighted Richard Stilgoe's wonderful school, The Orpheus Centre, where some very lucky and excellent young disabled people are helped to see that there is more to their lives than their problems.  Each night they showed how far their horizons had been moved and sang and read brilliantly - with the aid of the brilliant teachers they write songs and perform them with great aplomb.
All were touched and moved by their excellence and humour.  It is silly to pick any one of the guys out, but we were all impressed by Jo, who is blind and has other issues which would seem to count out the skills she clearly has - perfect pitch, a clear singing voice and grade 8 on drums... sparkling.
The Orpheus young people sang a special song on the second night, newly-written, called Without You; a hymn of praise to Sir Richard - I don't know how Richard managed to stand there and listen (it certainly made me cry), but he did just so... and he said at the end that the song meant just as much to him as his recent honour.  An honour which he accepted on behalf of all the other people who help him, his wife and the tremendous carers & musicians too...

The guests of honour were on one night, Chris Tarrant, and on the other HRH Prince Edward, who is Patron of Orpheus.  Both made speeches suggesting how special they knew the evening would be, and what a great thing The Orpheus Centre is; of course both enjoyed the evening as did we all.

We were very pleased to be able to give His Royal Highness a copy of our cricket CD, Songs of Cricket, especially as it has one of the songs from Cricket the musical, which he commissioned from Rice/Lloyd Webber for his Mum's 60th.
On sporting matters, we tried hard to concentrate on the sporting glory which is the England cricket XI - after the midweek triple win, we had a win, a draw ending in a draw, and a draw ending in a loss in our major sports...

It was a great privilege to be able to do our bit at the end of the evenings, and give all a great send-off.
Sir RS joined us in his song The Barmy Army as the final encore... (on Songs of Cricket, as you've asked...)

Flying to Athens on Wednesday to join a cruise - hopefully no rioting... Molotov news to come...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The White House (no, not that one...)

The last of these four evenings for Technische Unie was at the beautiful Finley Het Witte Huis; for our performance, the audience had a lovely view (of us yes!), but also the beautiful water of this very splendid place.  It even had a very fine boat in dock by the stage for a quick getaway, but we did not need it!

Four very different venues in four very different areas of The Netherlands - this last one was near Hilversum, which is the site of my very first trip outside of the UK in 1977 - my school choir joined the celebrations for the 10th anniversary of Radio Hilversum.

Off to the newly-beknighted Richard Stilgoe's house for the weekend, for a couple of charity galas... oh the trials...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Dutch trip #2

We performed in another tremendous Dutch place tonight... this time in Esbeek.  The house is called Huize Rustoord, & it is stuffed to the gills with modern art and amazing objects.
All impressed by the giant Dali Menorah outside the house - other wonderful sculptures everywhere... the owner must be dead delighted when he gets another piece of art with nipples - as he has thousands on display.... painted and sculpted.

We performed once again for another part for this Dutch company, Technische Unie, as with the previous pair of concerts in April - one more tomorrow... Nieuw-loosdrecht here we come... after a lie-in.

Audience were select and excellent, and the food sublime... & even got home on time to watch most of England's winning football match against Ukraine.

England won matches in all three of our major sports today - football, cricket & rugby (OK, rugby not a full international)- didn't know that was even allowed!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Hever Castle

We had a splendid weather window at Hever Castle, and the rain did not come... even in the sunshine in the afternoon!  Another outing for On the Funny Side of the Street.
Not such a great evening for our Steve, who was very much under the weather, but we shielded him from harm, and the concert occurred... he was heroic to keep standing there.
The audience were delightfully jolly & ready for an evening's entertainment, even once the sun went away & it got a bit cold...
Lovely to have an extra special performance by Richard of Wanderin' Star, in full Lee Marvin mode - especially impressive as he had only just sung Bring Him Home in counter-tenor - super...
As Chris Hatt is on holiday, we were joined by another excellent pianist, Andy Massey, who had previously been with us at one of our Taj gigs last summer - great to work with him again, and he got the measure of all of the charts fantastically efficiently & played wonderfully... even being happy to be punched on stage by Mike (no contact, of course!)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Euro strife

Belgium v England - could there be inter-TLQ strife?
Only if Steve actually could be concerned in any way about sport...

So surely we can all concur that England's being 1 - 0 up is a great thing!

Monday, 28 May 2012

50th anniversary party at Esch

Delightful weekend at Esch-sur-Alzette, celebrating the theatre's 50th anniversary, lots of acts and dignitaries were in evidence... including the Lady Mayoress, who was very complimentary.
Mike announced that the group had first been to the theatre 25 years ago, so glad the maths was nicely compartmentalised... roll on 2037..
One of our fellow acts was the Natural Theatre Company, who were glorious in their 'nakedness' (as well as a pleasure to chat to in the meal afterwards!) - we follow each other around the theatres of Europe; so good to actually be on the same bill.
We are back at the theatre to celebrate 2013 - on January 1st - it will be wonderful to be there again...

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Funny Side at Newbury

Wonderful sunny afternoon as we arrived in Newbury on Friday... brilliant indeed.  Boding well for our next outing of On The Funny Side of the Street.
Joined once more by Chris Hatt at the piano, we did have a great time... audience were happy to come into the cool of the Corn Exchange, and they laughed at all the right places! Chris was especially and excellently large-scale during the Spamalot piece...
We also had the delight of both our General Manager, Robin Tyson, from EPAM & David Foster, our UK theatrical agent (All-Electric Productions) being with us to see the show.  They both had beatific smiles at the end of the show; so that seems OK.
...also Carole, our wonderful mailing list/fan organizer was there too - much of our wider family was in evidence... & Steve's wife too...
Hooray... back to London after the gig, tho' hanging around in Newbury would have been tremendous, for a happily-not-too-early flight to Luxembourg.... more on that trip soon!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Hear No Evil on iTunes

The album, Hear No Evil... is there finally!
Other platforms are available, but iTunes now as well...

Get downloading!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

C.I. tour #3

So it's done; all four islands, and this time we managed to get to do the schools' gig on Jersey... no foggy delay.

A lovely time was had by all - each island has its own feel, and great to see them one by one and get their characteristics. Inter-island niggles were fascinating! 

On Alderney, we visited John Arlott's bench, and his beloved cricket ground, where so many teams come to visit and play still... Songs of Cricket were heard on all the islands... and purchased too!

Some sort of stomach bug made three-quarters of the group feel varying degrees of odd... but, as they say, I was all right, Jack!
...and they all coped brilliantly, of course.

Good to have some time to look about Jersey this time [18 months ago we arrived at the theatre 15 minutes before the start!]... and only a wee shower to accompany...
Steve & Jason and all at Jersey Arts Centre were as attentive as ever, and this time we were able to discuss the lights with them before the show!

Excellent tour.

Super also to come home to England doing well against the West Indies...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

C.I. tour #2

24 hours later, and we are on Alderney; once again after a lovely school gig.  Children were terrific and attentive and giggled (in all the correct places)...

Boat crossing from Sark to Guernsey not quite the glassy water experience of the day before, but we survived!  Flight to here (in a wee plane) good - tho' I slept through much of it...

Sark evening concert also a delight [naturally], Sark Island Hall with new lights and sound management on walls - even better than 8 months ago.

Hospitality up to usual standards!
Now where's my cup of tea..?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

C.I. tour #1

Sitting in glorious sunshine on the tractor-paradise that is Sark, having had a great day on Guernsey yesterday, and a wonderful calm crossing by boat here this morning.
Four-island tour here... each day a different island - lunchtime gig for schoolchildren, then a concert in the evening...
Lovely to meet old Guernsey friends at our old haunt St James Arts Centre - Kirstin as welcoming as always... and a great crowd enjoyed our songs; lots of cricket for them too!  {Many CDs purchased!}

As you may know, no motorised vehicles allowed here on Sark (only helicopters in dire emergency) - but there are 76 tractors on the island... Chidren were very attentive and amused just now:- we are performing at the Island Hall next to the cricket ground; bodes well for cricket stuff later.

I've looked for Mr Pye, but he is neither devilishly or angelically here...

(Note to self: must look back at previous CI blog to see if repeating dullardly)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Another International Festival

Another day, another international a cappella night... this time in Hannover as the climax of their Internationale a-cappella-woche.
We listened to the beauty of the Estonians, Heinavankar, and splendour of the Irish White Raven, and at the end of the evening, The wonderful swedes, The Real Group - especially liked their very jazzy Mozart 40 (reminding me of our yodelling version of the symphony as filmed in Salzburg, all dressed up as Mozart for S4C!)
We were there too (the "OIs" in Lambeth were loud!) - it felt exhausting for us to watch it all, but the audience were all delighted, and the packed church rang with cheers and applause.

Over the past two days and nights we have shared the stage, green rooms and restaurants with at least 10 nationalities (no I have not lost count, like all good vocal groups, not everyone in every group comes from where the act does!), and been inspired by excellent musicians, all with their unique way of putting across their vocal music.
Fantastic - we are lucky to have such a job...

Fantastic International Festival

Very splendid evening in Alba Iulia, Romania.  Our friend Mihai Coser asked us to create an a cappella evening for him & it was a great success.
All the groups were wonderful; Die Medlz from Germany, Vocal Tempo from Cuba & Jukebox Trio from Russia; and we were all on stage at the end giving impromptu performances of No woman, no cry & Stand by Me.
The atmosphere in the open air was super (and hot!) - today there are performances of Hansel & Gretel and Carmina Burana... should be terrific.
We all were very pleased and everyone wants to do it again asap....


We had to rise pretty early (3am UK time) to get to our next date: another a cappella night in Hannover... more news later (I have woken up now!)...

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Neustadt am Rübenberge

A wonderful night in Neustadt am Rübenberge, near Hanover, as part of the Internationale a-cappella-woche Hannover; a packed house with fantastic attentiveness - they all seemed to have a glorious time...
Once again, we introduced Cricket Tea Towel - the Ins and Outs of Cricket (our Arvo Pärt pastiche from Songs of Cricket)... & they laughed as they should! More conversions to cricket in Germany!

We were looked after splendidly - thank you, Sven and the team - and we will be back on Sunday for the last concert of the a cappella woche - sharing a bill with the Estonian Heinavanker, the Irish White Raven & the Swedish The Real Group.
Should be a great evening! 

But before then, we will pop to Alba Iulia, Romania to share a gig we were asked to plan, with the German Medlz, the Russian Jukebox Trio & the Cuban/Spanish Vocal Tempo.

A very international time this weekend...

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

New England manager

Good news with Roy Hodgson now as England football manager:
Clearly being born in Croydon & educated in Shirley leaves you destined for greatness...

Thursday, 26 April 2012

New Digital Release

That classic Cantabile (The London Quartet) album, Hear No Evil... is now available for digital download - at least at CDuniverse and on Amazon (com and hooray... itunes seem a little tardy, but we shall say as soon as it is up there... but it's somewhere in the ether already!
Lots of songs which we still sing (as they are so good!), and a few that only have occasional outings...
Go on, you know you want to!

PS: second Dutch corporate, as good as the first... similar lovely atmosphere (and food!), and a great Castle (Kasteel de Wittenburg). Lut Van der Eycken as gracious to us as yesterday.... two more in June.

Dutch trip #1

Two pairs of concerts in the Netherlands, the second in June, started yesterday in Meppel & continue today near Leiden... more specifically: Chateauhotel en restaurant De Havixhorst & Kasteel de Wittenburg.
A (very wise) business here has four centres and they provide entertainment for each every year... and we are the chosen act this year.
Lovely audience last night and excellent food... all splendid.

We were introduced, and interviewed live by Lut Van der Eycken - a presenter on Belgian classical radio channel, Klara

Hoorah for Holland - good to be back...

Friday, 20 April 2012

Keswick - Funny Side

Last weekend we had a (really short) sojourn in very north England.
Keswick was the destination for our first ever Funny Side of the Street - and splendid it was too.  All the new stuff seemed to work and people even laughed.... well, what can you do?
Some were especially touched by Steve's rendition of Tim Minchin's Not Perfect - and no, we have not recorded it ... yet!
As Mike said (& Richard wrote) we had on stage a mass murderer, a spotty adolescent, a hairy nun & a cross-dressing lumberjack ...and that was just the performers!  I was certainly finding it difficult not to laugh at times.... especially in the Hee Bee Gee Bees' Meaningless Songs & Barry Cryer's Peace & Quiet...

Wonderfully accompanied by Chris Hatt, as ever, and he, in turn, was accompanied by Sian and the three cherubs... how glorious...

Steve and I went home though the early night (Steve drove) and were in London by three; allowing me to go on holiday to Cornwall the next day... hence the lateness of this missive...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

New things

Lots of new things on offer...

We have been busy preparing new songs for our show On the Funny Side of the Street - lots of new stuff for us; the show is a selection of funny UK material... from Monty Python (not just Lumberjack...), Hee Bee Gee Bees, Instant Sunshine, Barrys Cryer & Took, Tim Minchin (yes OK, he is Australian, but he has lived here for years), Flanders & Swann, Coward and Stilgoe - we have been finding it hard to not collapse laughing in rehearsal!

We are preparing also, a few new songs for publishing by Edition Peters - we'll say as soon as we know more...

We are three-quarters through a new CD with pianist Malcolm Martineau - working title, Songs of Love and War... if only the venue of recording (Champs Hill), MM, we & the producer were available on the same day (ever), we'd be able to finish it soon... as soon as we know etc...

Also another digital CD release - Hear no Evil... from 1984 - will happen in late April.

More news on all this soon,
Have a Happy Easter...

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

550th event at Middle Temple

In the auspicious surroundings of Middle Temple Hall, last night we helped celebrate
The Worshipful Company of Tallow Chandlers' 550th birthday - this was just their small event for 320 people!  (Their big party is in October)

Brass fanfares and music rang around the Hall, and the food was also glorious.

The throng were especially delighted when we made (slightly negative) reference in a song to their rival Livery Company, The Wax Chandlers - these ancient enmities are terribly important still it seems!  They are sure that this rivalry is the origin of the phrase to be at sixes and sevens, as they vied for sixth place in the Livery Company list, and eventually agreed to alternate these positions; my wiki research suggests many other ideas... but perhaps they know best!

They were all in excellent voice for the National Anthem and sung grace, and the Company does lots of fine charitable work:
Good old Edward IV for setting them up!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Great posters of our time #1

Not great quality - apologies - but can you spot the deliferate mistale (© Terry Jones & Michael Palin)?
How do you translate mélange?

Then again, our bland is pretty wonderful...

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Trinity Examiners

Splendid evening in a Birmingham hotel...
Entertaining a large group of Trinity Examiners, who are in the middle of a conference.
Never have we had such an attentive audience... we were expecting a written report at the end... very much hoping a positive one!
Their singing in Lambeth was especially good; although I did naughtily tell them that we tended to get a better response in Germany...
We thought it rather likely, as this was a meeting of musicians, and lo, two of us met old friends here... one of whom said she would help us get to The Czech Republic; she and I toured Czechoslovakia 22 years ago!

Friday, 10 February 2012

World Première... in Croydon

Just went to a World Première of an opera written over a hundred years ago.

Croydon [great town] composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor is being celebrated in that fine London borough as he died 100 years ago this year.
My old friend Jonathan Butcher (conductor) has resurrected the piece with Surrey Opera (as the first part of year-long SC-T fest) - two more nights at the Ashcroft Theatre if you are game! - 7.30pm on Friday and Saturday... splendid...
An old Cantabile friend, Chris Cowell, helped re-write the libretto of the show... it was the weak libretto which was probably the reason that the thing was never put on when it was written.

Should the idea of a faux Norse saga, Thelma, stir your loins... get to Croydon now!

Monday, 30 January 2012

Belgian weekend

Stayed in a hotel for two nights opposite a rather grand building in Leuven.... subsequently found that this was the prison...
Luckily got no closer...

As the lovely Eurostar people are striking today, we had driven over via the Chunnel...
Two life-enhancing evenings in (slightly parky) Belgium... in two more picaresque Belgian towns... of which we realise, there is a neverending supply...

Firstly we provided the final event of an a cappella day in Ternat... lots of groups performed before we did, in various venues... sadly we missed them, as we were sound-checking/travelling... but then we provided the closing concert at 10pm... great atmosphere; lots of singers, and a cappella lovers in evidence... wonderful.

Then in Tienen today [well, yesterday] joined by Paul Plummer at the piano; we had a masterclass with three groups of singers at the local music academy... and then they joined us on stage tonight, during our Best of British show... wonderful... they each sang a song of their own [also accompanied by Paul]... Remember Me, Oh Happy Day & Rutter's  All things Bright & Beautiful; as well as joining three of us in accompanying Steve's solo in The LUMBERJACK SONG... totally fantastic.... along with mountie hats and red and black costumes... a splendid thing in a lovely evening... Those young people may never be  the same again!

Great to have the entire of the Weerts clan from The Netherlands at the gig... terrific to see them all together... and now, all as tall as each other!

Three Westmalle trappist beers (dark) - and some takeaway food -  have helped the evening to a gentle close...

Monday, 23 January 2012

What a fine Blog!

Apologies for showing off... but when someone is this kind...

Nice blog here

Thanks, Fearn

Itzehoe, DE

Yes, we managed to get to Itzehoe (nr. Hamburg), and once more B.o.B. triumphed!
Beautiful theatre - especially on the inside... great lighting & sound.

Flag-waving as keen as ever.... We think this show is motoring now; we must do it some more!

We got back to the airport [Paul Plummer went off early for his train... he has an audition in Germany somewhere! Good luck!]... and now we are home.
Next it is the Belgian incarnation of B.o.B.... once more with PP.

Friday, 20 January 2012


Well would you believe it? We come to Rottweil & see not one dog... but lots of cats!  All very friendly... Mike not especially happy as he is allergic to them, but they seemed to know to leave him alone. Three cats at the venue (er... only one in the restaurant!) and one at the hotel!
Bijou venue... the Badhaus... a wonderful restaurant (we had two super meals there) as well as a performing space... and B.o.B. was alive and well again!   More flag-waving honorary Britons were created!
Up early as we take an early am flight to Hamburg and Itzehoe - tonight's crowd were most amused that this was our next stop!


Hang on, what country are we in?
Ah yes.... it's Germany.
Great evening at The Capitol, Mannheim... we have another three-date B.o.B. {Best of British} tour... Rottweil & Itzehoe after tonight...
Everyone dutifully waved their Union Flags and sang along to our Land of Hope and Glory [only with parodic words by the great Anglo-German powerhouse partnership, Julian and Maggie Forsyth].
I haven't mentioned yet that on this blog that we owe a lot with this B.o.B. show to the Forsyths, who created most of the verbiage between the songs and wrote the new parodies... a brilliant team - we worked with them in Spoliansky's Send for Mr Plim at Battersea Arts Centre a few years ago (wonderful show)... they have helped us create a show which sends us up as a nation, but also asks questions of the Germans too... mainly... Why do you think we are like this... and are we truly so - and you like all this pomp and circumstance stuff, don't you? ...and other such rhetoric.  Lovely stuff... dead clever (and going down well with people)...
Thanks, Julian and Maggie!

We tried out the theme tune to Morse tonight... no-one had heard of it... hmmm... we'll try a bit more before chucking it...

We are accompanied by our old friend, Paul Plummer for this tour, and for next weekend too... great to see him.
Oh, and  late-night kebabs were had...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Estonia/Russia tour end

Wonderful tour.
Lovely reception at the Janni Church here in St Petersburg.... just in the airport, waiting to get a flight home.

Receptive to all, the audience were great - left in stunned silence at the end of one of my Russian introductions (probably awe)... but they laughed in all the right places at everything else, so something must have been right!

They liked our rendition of the only Borodin male quartet piece (he was born here too) - four guys serenading the same woman!
The Estonians enjoyed our Estonian folk encore too... last week.

Very fine tour up north... and the mild winter helped!  Coming in summer would also be fantastic!
We were looked after splendidly...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Blood Church, St Petersburg

Fantastic trip to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood - amazing walls... absolutely icon/mosaic-covered; into every nook, cranny and dome another picture is crammed.
Phenomenal history - somewhat like the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour rebuilt in Moscow in the 1990s (Stalin had got rid of it cos it spoiled his view!) - it had an interesting 20th century... Looted after the Revolution in 1917, closed in the 30s, used as a refuge when Leningrad was under siege by the Nazis in1943-4, then used as a vegetable store!
After 27 years of refurbishment, it was open to the public again in 1997.  It never was a consecrated public-worship church, and thus it is now as it ever was, a monument to the assassinated Tsar Alexander II, and a Museum of wonderful Mosaics.

So... a concert tonight!

Monday, 16 January 2012

St Petersburg

There will be more... but here are a couple of pics.... The Winter Palace, at least the symbolic starting point of the October revolution... so many fabulous buildings here!

...and our names in Cyrillic - we've seen it before in Moscow a few years back, but it still fascinates...

Old Bobby

Richard [or Bob as his parents know him] found his very own tipple in the 24-hour "Supermarket" - which sold only chocolate, crisps and drink!

It's... Old Bobby with Old Bobby!!

Mike got a taste for vodka in the restaurant... and will be resting more all evening...

Tartu, Estonia

...was, of course, as cool as the other Estonian stops... Tartu is another University city [one of the oldest Universities in Europe - 370+ years old], and the second city of Estonia, with another splendid concert hall.

We had such a splendid time here in Estonia, and hope to come back... perhaps in the Summer!
Tiiu, Enno & Liis looked after us wonderfully.

Our luxury (ooooooh!) bus at 6am (uuuuuurgh!) got us to St Petersburg Baltic station in time for lunch and to be shown to the Eesti Kontsert HQ at the Janni church here.
Then we were helped through our Russian intros... the Estonian has gone so well, now we must learn to swallow... our tongues! [Pride's gone already...]

Now let's explore...

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Beautiful pictures

Whilst trying to find out why a picture of another group of four appeared on TV screens advertising our concert in the concert hall in Tartu, Estonia this afternoon, we happened upon something much better!
The wrong group were referred to London Quartet in an article, as they are four people who live in London... they are The Official Secrets Act - however amongst google imagery we found these pictures from a concert in Canada at Pointe Claire last summer, which are splendid for us to see... we need an artist at all our gigs!

Paula Becker is she...

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Snowy Tallinn

Gateway to The Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral, and the church itself... & of course that famous scene from many a Mediaeval City, the old gatehouse with snow-plough & McDonalds behind...
Wonderful [if cold] day in Tallinn Old Town.

Pärnu, Estonia

We are being spoilt out here... another fine hall in which to sing - this time in Pärnu...
Still understanding our Estonian (!) - and especially tickled tonight by ribald comment on Richard's hormonal imbalance... what larks!
...and we experienced an Estonian supermarket [another genius ida of Enno's] for snackage on the trip home... very economical, and good too; tho' Mike is not sure he will try the dried croaker fish again...

On to the second city of Estonia [population: 100,000] on Sunday...
We have Saturday to explore Tallinn (where we have been staying all the while)...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Jõhvi, Estonia

Wonderful concert hall in Jõhvi with fantastic acoustic - it is very new; only in its 7th year.
We were very near Russia... where of course we will be in a few days' time
Another warm audience, laughing at our jokes in Estonian!
All wonderful....
After the concert Enno, who is driving us about here, took us to a 24-hour Georgian restaurant {Artur} which was splendid - my son thought the food would be off by now, as he was thinking of historical period rather than geography! - I had a sparkling water on Mike's recommendation which others felt seemed a bit like a trip to the dentist... but I enjoyed it!
On to Pärnu tonight...

Aitäh! (for reading this)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Tallinn concert

Splendid concert hall here in Tallinn; wonderful to sing in, and with a full house appreciating our Estonian - and understanding it! - hooray... & our Estonian folk song went well too...
We performed our show, from Madrigal to McCartney... indeed, Madrigalist McCartney'ni

The overnight snow turned to slush, which was a shame, but everyone still turned up... 
Hope to explore Tallinn & Estonia a bit more, now the concerts have started... (we do have a day off)... However, on to Jõhvi tomorrow.... which only has a population of 11,500 {Tallinn by far the largest Estonian city with 400,000; the country as a whole - 1.3m.}

Best of British (German) reviews

Bad Kreuznach  newspaper review

Bad Kreuznach radio review too - (scroll down a bit and you'll find it!)

B.o.B. flourishes...

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Baltic Times

We have arrived in Estonia, and we had a stop-off at Riga, Latvia, thus we have already sampled two Baltic States...
Not too cold here in Tallinn, delightfully... tho' a reassuring amount of snow is on the ground; they had thier first snow here right at New Year, instead of the normal November [last winter there was heavy snow all through October to April]...
We saw our concert hall for tomorrow night looking splendid, and with a huge poster of us on one side... & we met in the restaurant the guy who played there tonight [sadly we arrived too late to see him perform], Ukrainian guitarist Enver Izmaylov.
So all systems go for our first Estonian tour... just got to get those introductions in the mind yet...
But for now...

head ööd