We’ve now returned from our U.S. tour and can’t wait to tell you all about it!
First stop was Wesleyan University who looked after us very well indeed! Excited to be staying in the same hotel that both Kevin Costner and Danny DeVito frequented, we treated ourselves to a Hollywood star breakfast of ‘short stack’ pancakes…SHORT?! They were ENORMOUS. I instantly knew that this trip would be a success!
Surrounded by beautiful autumnal colours, we worked with amazing student a cappella groups, sang for 150 high school students and assisted, what seemed to be the entire university football team, learn Sacred Harp songs. We thwarted their attempts to keep us there by locking us in the concert hall by setting off the security alarm…We were also interviewed by NPR for a documentary about the Centre for the Arts at Wesleyan to be broadcast early 2014 so watch this space!
A couple of days later, we were celebrating our arrival in NYC with a spanish brunch of omelettes and Bloody Mary’s and spent a night in watching a cappella movie comedy, ‘Pitch Perfect’. It was so ridiculously brilliant that we were quoting it all week, our favourite words being ‘A-ca-scuse me?’, ‘A-ca-bitches’, ‘A-ca-awkward’ and ‘pitch-slapped’.
We were staying in West Village, just around the corner from where Merce Cunningham had his studio, surrounded by chic bistros and organic coffee shops – check out ‘Grounded’ if you’re ever over there. Their Pumpkin Whoopie Pie is amazing.
After working with composer, Toby Twining, on the new piece he’d written for us (‘Ferrara Redux’), we treated ourselves to a night at the pictures to see the utterly devastating ’12 Years as a Slave’. During the trailers, we were subjected to a sneak-peak of the ‘historical’ film, ‘Pompeii’ staring Kit Harington (aka Jon Snow in Game of Thrones) who opened the scene baring all bar a bit of fur and leather. Being complete GOT’s (and KH) obsessives, our audible gasp caused the entire row of burly blokes in front of us to turn around and start laughing.
Following a very cold morning walk across the High Line Gardens that follow an old railway line above the city, we made our way to the brilliant ‘SubCulture’ for our first gig. You can read a lovely review of it here
NY is full of musicians and we were treated to a smorgasbord of styles over the week. The subway buskers are just incredible, a lot more diverse than the ones you see in London. In ONE day, we were treated to ‘The Saw Lady’ (google her!) playing ‘My Heart will go on’ from Titanic on a saw, a classical cellist playing the theme from ‘Star Wars’ incredibly romantically, an accordionist playing Coolio’s 1990′s hit ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, a samba percussion duet playing nothing but empty upturned plastic paint pots, a nearby rubbish bin and the subway floor and what I’ve now worked out was a Chinese Erhu player!
We also went to two gigs. Firstly an american folk night at ‘Jalopy’ in Brooklyn which included blues, klezmer and country songs performed on guitars, banjos, violins, mandolins, double bass and hammer dulcimer. We followed that with a very intense concert of avant-garde vocal music from the brilliant ‘Ekemeles’.
Following an interview on WNYC’s ‘Soundcheck’ with John Schaefer which you can listen to here
, we went to the amazing Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. This is a secondhand book store run completely by volunteers to raise money for HIV/Aids charities. We went to this monthly event called ‘Ask Roulette’ in which strangers ask each other any question they want, big or small, in front of a live audience, both in the cafe and on radio. We were simultaneously disappointed/relieved not to get our names pulled out of the bag as the process can be a little intimidating. Questions ranged from ‘What things do you love about the world’ to ‘Chicken or Beef?’.
Our trip finished with a lovely concert in Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, prompting our best quote EVER from audience member 8-year-old Elliot. Having asked his mother whether she thought we knew Harry Potter (being British), on hearing us start ‘Go to sleep you little baby’ with lots of ‘sss’ and ‘sssh’ he exclaimed ‘do they speak Parseltongue?!’. Brilliant.
Composer Tarik O’Regan helped us finish our week in style by taking us out for the most amazing cocktails called ‘Stars and Garters’ and ‘London Maid’ very shortly before our flight back to blighty. VERY VERY SHORTLY. Turned out that our flight was cancelled and we only just made the earlier one…oops! But it turns out that Tarik was right – alcohol DOES help….
We had such a great time and cannot wait to go back – USA! USA!