In April, the Cathedral Choir embarked on a two week tour of the western states of America. Eager to hear all about the boys’ experience, and what our American cousins had thought of the Choir, we caught up with David Flood, Organist and Master of the Choristers, on his return and asked him to tell you all about it:
“The Tour started in Houston, Texas” said David Flood, “which is the home city for the new Patron of the Canterbury Cathedral Trust in the USA, former President George H Bush. We were welcomed by the community at St Thomas’ Church, arriving in bright sunshine and temperatures in the 80s. Before a rehearsal and a wonderful concert, we were given a fabulous tour of NASA. In recognition of this very special opportunity, we sang two short pieces to all those assembled in the cafeteria at lunch time. At the concert that evening, we were treated to our first two standing ovations and huge warmth and enthusiasm for bringing our music to Texas.
We travelled by coach for four days as we made the journey up to Dallas for our concert in the Church of the Incarnation. A short tour of the city, including the famous site of the assassination of President John F Kennedy, led us into a rehearsal and then into another wonderful concert, given to a packed church with standing room only.”
If anyone walked in thinking men-and-boys choirs somehow effete, this robust singing, from high treble to booming bass, would have dispelled any such notions. From the very first notes, you knew this was a choir accustomed to filling a very big space with sound.
Authoritatively led by David Flood, the Cathedral’s Organist and Master of the Choristers since 1988, this energetic, dramatic singing was all the more impressive coming mere days after the rigours of Holy Week services. Add a transatlantic flight Monday, a Houston concert Tuesday, then a bus trip to Dallas; these 18 boys and 12 men proved themselves real pros.
The Dallas newspaper
“We transferred that same evening to our hosts in Fort Worth, so we could stay with them for two nights. So, having recovered at a reasonable hour, we met to take a tour of the famous North Side, the Fort Worth Stockyards, where our colourful guide Steve led us around as much of the area as he could. We observed the cattle run by the famous Texas longhorns and had lunch at the Star Café surrounded by cowboy memorabilia. There was plenty of time to buy Stetson hats! Later that evening we were thrilled to receive ovations three and four.
The second part of the tour was on the West Coast, so we flew from DFW to San Diego. Our visit to the aircraft carrier Midway was fascinating and instructive but very wet if you happened to be caught on deck at the wrong moment. The concert the following day, in First United Mèthodist Church, was another great success during which the sunshine appeared. A visit to the famous San Diego Zoo, with special behind the scenes views, was a great way to spend the earlier part of the day as the city appeared in its true light.
Arriving in Los Angeles, we were guided through the Hollywood Walk of Fame, visited the area by the Chinese Theatre to see the handprints in the pavement and through the Beverly Hills district as far as possible. Lunch was taken on Santa Monica beach before a very short rehearsal and another packed concert with a euphoric reception. At all these places we were welcomed by very generous and enthusiastic host families. Some of those attached to St James’s Church certainly lived in style!
Turning west from LA took us out into the desert. We arrived at St Margaret’s church in Palm Desert, a large, modern building set on the edge of the parched landscape. Temperatures reached the 90s and we are told that in summer they can be over 110! The cool and airy church was a good setting for the concert, where the reception was just as we had hoped.
California is a huge state and the drive to San Francisco was seven hours. By now we knew our favourite lunch stops. Arriving at Grace Cathedral, where the choristers met and were hosted by their counterparts, was a real refreshment. The acoustic of the cathedral is huge and the building very impressive. After a ride to the Golden Gate bridge in perfect sunshine, there was time to visit Fisherman’s Wharf.
Next came the day which we all expected: the long drive to Portland. The journey was broken by regular pauses and crossing the hills into Oregon was a complete change of scenery. It seemed like a different country. At Trinity Cathedral in Portland, we were again very enthusiastically received, this time with calls of “Bravo” on top of the applause.
A relatively short drive up to Seattle brought us to Pike Place market for lunch. The Cathedral is an unusual shape and with a huge acoustic, with the organ at the back so that David Newsholme was in touch by telepathy rather than a clear view.
The final concert saw three ovations: one from the gallery at the end of the first half, so the tally for 9 concerts came to 19 as counted by many choristers.
The boys then travelled on to New York for a short concert for the Cathedral Trust, which was warmly received and which gave us a chance to go up the Rockefeller Tower and visit Time Square.
The tour was a huge success in bringing news of Canterbury to new audiences and helping to spread awareness of our tradition and our situation. Here’s to the next time!”
Article image: Choir perform in LA (Joe Konieczny) All other images credited to Chris Price.