In August, I had the wonderful opportunity to perform in London at the famed church, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and it was WONDERFUL!
Giving some back story:
Using the recording from my first Temple Square recital in May ’09 (second is Feb 19 (or this), for those of you in SLC), I applied for this program. I figured it was a long shot, as it was freaking St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a music center known round the world for great music. So, I sent off my materials the middle of June and heard nothing until the middle of September – a very long time for someone like me who wants to know, either way, in a short time line. To say that I was happy or even excited was the understatement of the year. I was so giddy, I’m sure I was unbearable for at least a week. I submitted an all 20th century American art song program (probably something that tipped the balance in my favor, and in my opinion, was absolutely wonderful) that was slightly heady for those who enjoy that sort of thing, but still very approachable and enjoyable, featuring Celius Dougherty, Amy Beach, George Crumb, John Duke, Jake Heggie & an encore by everyone’s friend, George Gershwin. The next issue to tackle was to find someone who would play (accompany, collaborate, etc. [choose your verb]) for me in London. I had lots of pianist friends say that they would love the opportunity as well, but I would have to pay for their ticket. To which I replied: HA! It’s not that I don’t love my pianist friends, it’s just that I am poor. Getting to London was hard enough; paying for someone else would have been impossible. So, I let this issue marinade for a while, as it wasn’t an issue that needed immediate attention. I figured the universe would just send me someone or get me in touch with someone who “knew a person”. While visiting the Boif in Tucson (U of Arizona) for Valentines’/President’s Day last year, I asked his song lit professor, Paula Fan, who visits the UK due to her formerly being married to a Brit, if she knew of anyone over there that would be willing to play for someone like me, thus eliminating the issue of an additional plane ticket. She said she’d think about it get back to me the next day. The following day, she sent Boif an email on FB (because she’s cool like that) offering to do it herself, as she is usually in London around that time, and would I be open to such an arrangement? Boy howdy, was I surprised. Pretty much, Paula is a big deal (as her bio will reveal). That she was willing to play for lil old me was amazing, but now that I know her better, not very shocking, as she is a wonderfully kind woman. Anyway, fast-forwarding to April, when I went to see Boif’s Master’s recital, we had 2 long rehearsals during my visit, and we had so much fun just going through the rep and exploring it together. It was at that point that we decided that another set of rehearsals & a pre-performance run would be a good idea, and thus planned to have the preview in Salt Lake the weekend before our departures after a blitz-rehearsal the night before.
Now, if you will remember from my last traveling post, I was without my passport at the beginning of July. This held true for most of the month. About 2 weeks before I was to leave, I had made the decision to just get a new passport and declare the old one lost. I found an website that would get you your passport via courier for some ungodly amount, but you could get it in 5 business days. I had some problems getting the cash flow to do this, but eventually got it, and this was then the Thursday prior to my leaving. I went to the post office down the street to get the passport stuff signed and all so I could FedEx it that morning, and was told that they don’t do passport stuff until later, but I could go to a city north and get it done, or, go to Salt Lake, and there was a company in the same building as a different passport office that could do the whole thing for me for a little bit more. I eventually decide to go with the service that was based here, as I felt a little more comfy with that prospect. Despite getting my paperwork to them by about 10am, it would not get sent until the next day, and then taken into the regional office in LA until Monday (note: MONDAY! I was really about to freak out, but what good would that do me, really?) and I would get it back on Wednesday (WEDNESDAY?!?!?! the day before I was to leave). I get a call on Tuesday afternoon from the agency and they said that there was a problem at the center (not with my passport, thankfully), but that it would not be in until Thursday (THE DAY I LEAVE), unless they overnighted(and I payed for) it to SLC. Since my flight wasn’t leaving until nearly 2, I said it was OK, and I would pick it up that morning, on my way to the airport. [Side-note: Flying [internationally] middle of the week in the middle of the day is AMAZING! You can sleep in and not worry about running around like a chicken with your head cut off.] Of course that’s not quite how my morning played out-it never is. I woke up a little later than I would have preferred, and was a little manic, but the endearing amount, not a high level. We get to the agency at 10:30 and I get that infernal little bit of paper and finally head for the airport, where Delta’s Sky Club is waiting for me (you know I took advantage of that Groupon when I saw it… ) Once I get on my flights, I continue my wonderful ability to get free booze from the flight attendants, who seem to like me quite a bit. I think we can all agree free booze on flights = the awesome, so, I never discourage it.
Wow. When I started out this back story, I never thought it would take this long just to do that portion of the story. Mi dispiace.
Yay! We’re finally to the London part! (FRIDAY) So, I arrive in London and our family friends pick me up and we go to their place in Chorleywood (totes cute, right?), about an hour NW outside of London by train. We get some food, and, in an effort to battle my seemingly non-existent travel exhaustion (can you get jet lag going east?), we go on a walk around the common, which is actually quite nice, despite being somewhat chilly. Later that night, we went out clubbing in a nearby city where I felt so very old, as a lot of the people that frequent clubs in this town, at least, are 18-21, but still had quite a bit of fun, as the people I went with were rather entertaining. That, and the booze was cheap (UK 1, USA 0), so there’s that. Next day (SATURDAY), I was meeting Paula for our first & only real rehearsal, and mutual friend Robyn (then a student at U of A, now at ASU in Phoenix, who had done a YAP in Oxford the 2 weeks before) who was turning for Paula for the rehearsal & performance at the Schott music studios. I was a touch late due to my train having some detours and my getting a little turned around after getting out of the tube. Rehearsal went well, and when looking for lunch, Paula then did the greatest thing ever, and suggested we go to Pret a Manger (they have some in NYC, Chicago & DC currently). This is such a great restaurant-I really don’t have any words for how great it is. What makes them so great is everything is made in-house that morning, and is [mostly?] organic and all that good stuff. The best part about them is whatever food is left over at the end of the day is given to shelters so it isn’t being wasted. How great of a policy is that, right?! Whenever possible, I/we ate at one the millions of locations around the city.
Following this delicious lunch, Robyn & I desperately needed our Starbucks. Her, for her coffee, as the Brits’ coffee is…well, not really great. Me, for my soy chai, as I had done quite a bit of singing and it was going to hit just the right spot. After we had been sufficiently caffeinated, we started walking, taking the long route, to Trafalgar Square to check out St. Martins. Doing so put us walking through the West End, London’s Broadway, which was a real treat. En route to the square, it had started to rain. As you can tell form the picture above, I wasn’t really in great rain clothes to be walking around, but I ‘manned up’ and went along with the group. Upon arriving at St. Martins, they were closing up in preparation for a concert that evening, but I just wanted to poke my head in to see the space and which I was accommodated to do so. To kill some time waiting for the rain to stop, we went up the street to the Charring Cross train station to have a pint and talk music stuff, which was lots of fun and a great way to not get wet. After getting sufficiently dry, we went out exploring the city more, ending up having some delicious noodles at Wagamamma on the other side of the National Gallery. We ended our day by walking through Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park and by Kensington Palace en route to our tube stops.
The next day (SUNDAY), Paula was going to be spending the day with her step children and their kids, so Robyn and I were on our own, with plans to hit the British Museum as the main attraction, and the rest of the day had more fluidity to it. I sang in our friends’ church, along with her daughter, for Euchrist, and then RAN to the train stop so I could meet up (already running late) with Robyn. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a number to get in touch with her to let her know. (UK 1 Mitch 0). I finally got to the museum about 2.5 hours late due to the trains running on a Sunday schedule + detours. (UK 2, Mitch 0) I start going through the main floor of the museum trying to find her with no luck. I get to the other side, which is the entrance that most people use (go figure) and don’t see her outside, and I see a pay phone and forget for 1 second that Paula is with her kids all day, but give her cell a call to have her tell me she’s nowhere near the museum, and that she hopes that the two of us connect. On the way back inside, I see her sitting on the steps. (UK 2, Mitch 1) Apologies are just flowing from my mouth, but she is very forgiving, understanding that stuff like this happens, and that all was well. We went in with a general idea of what we wanted to see, with the Rosetta Stone being my main interest and the Elgin Marbles (friezes formerly atop the Parthenon) for Robyn.
So, pretty much, the British Museum rocks, there’s lot of cool stuff, like what I call Venus, 2.0, as it is looks quite similar to the Venus de Milo, housed at the Louvre. (At the end of the post, I will post all of my pictures from the museum in a gallery.)
After being all learned from the museum, we went walking about the city, not really doing much, just killing time until we were to go on our ‘spooky London’ walking tour in the early evening. Earlier in the trip, I had mentioned the desire to go see a show, if it would have worked out, and Wicked came quickly to mind, as I had never seen it before (or, come to think of it, ANY professionally produced musical theatre show). We went to the ticket kiosk, where you can supposedly get cheaper tickets than the theatre’s box office, and saw a sign saying that Whoopi Goldberg was going to be playing the Reverend Mother for the first few weeks of the London run of Sister Act, so we asked what those cheap tickets cost, and we were [un]pleasantly surprised that they were £60 for the nosebleed seats! Now, I love me some Whoopi, but not that much. We also asked about Wicked, and was quoted something like £40, which isn’t bad, but, as a student, you can [theoretically] get better day of, so we waited. And went to lunch. At Pret. (Who’s surprised? because I know I am) So, the thing about London is, in business areas (vs tourist areas) everything has limited hours on Sundays, and if you’re in that area on Sunday night, and you’re hungry, you’re SOL. We had to get all the way over by the Tower area to get some food. No Pret this time, but good ol’ American KFC (the ONLY food place open as far as the eye could see). Now don’t get me wrong, I love eating foreign foods, but sometimes eating foods from your home country is nice and refreshing. So, we went on our ‘spooky London’ tour, and it was a lot of fun! Our tour guide was not only knowledgeable about the spooky stuff, but of London’s history as well, also, he was hysterically funny. In addition to telling us historical & funny anecdotes, he was rather informative about some of the architecture we were seeing. After walking around for about 2 hours, which went really quickly btw, we ended at St. Paul’s and I bid Robyn adieu so I could get my beauty rest before my recital the next day.
The next day my friends were leaving for the States & to go to a family wedding off the coast of Honduras on the bride’s family’s island. This is of note, to me, at least, because they came back from Nepal about 4 days prior. So, I woke up the first time at 5:30 to say good bye and get any last instructions on what to do when I was leaving. After they left, I promptly went back to bed until about 8:30 to get ready for the day & recital. I get to St. Martin’s, suit and other stuff in hand, about 11:30 so I can get a real feel for how things will go, also I was meeting my sound guy who was recording the recital for me. Paula & Robyn arrive a little after 12 for my sound check/rehearsal. After my sound check, I get shown to my dressing room. This was a big deal for me, as I have never had my own dressing room before; it has always been a group room (which is fine, but your own room totes rocks).
Once I was all situated in my room, Robyn told me some of the greatest news ever: she found tickets to Wicked last night on the theatre’s website for £14! That got me all sorts of excited, so I convinced the person who was helping me to let me use her computer to send Boif an email saying that we were going to Wicked that night after the recital. Also, I had apparently forgotten to give him directions on how to meet us. *whoops* I had previously told him which stop to get off at, but nothing beyond it. So, I gave more detailed instructions on what we were doing and what to do after arriving in London (from N. Ireland). [Note: In case it isn't apparent, I am kind of a control freak; I like to have everything in a neat order. So, when he never responded to my email, I thought that he had already left and had not received my email. GRRR (this is important later)] The recital went wonderfully. There were some moments, like there always are, that I wish I could change, but, overall, I am pleased with how it went. And, more importantly, the people there, about 300, really seemed to enjoy my singing & program. After the concert, this Russian woman was waiting to speak with me (or so I thought), and with just one word “beautiful” (pretend it’s in a Russian accent), she gave me a CD of some Russian soprano singing Russian folk & art songs. After this kind gesture, Robyn and I got to meet Paula’s family, who were all wonderful and excited for us as well, re: Wicked. Afterwards, Robyn’s friend from the program she just finished, who came for the recital, and the two of us went to get food, Pret of course, and ate lunch by the river. Once we were done with lunch, we said goodbye to her new friend and went to get our Wicked tickets! Good news/bad news about our tickets. That £14 offer was only good online, but, since we are students, they can give us tickets for £25 ($40) instead of their actual retail value (which was about £90). Boif and I had tickets about 10 rows back from back on the floor, but still way good seats, and Robyn got a front middle section, middle of the row seat, which was AMAZING! While we were getting ready to leave, some woman came up to the box office with a bottle of wine, gave it to the people behind with her name, and they said it’d be ready at the interval (intermission). That is definitely something that doesn’t occur in the States. The Brits do like to entertain themselves during their brakes though. When I was in London after my Italy trip in ’07, I went to Covent Garden, and the scene in the in-house bar was redic. I digress… We finally get back to Robyn’s hotel, so I can drop off my suit and stuff. Let me tell you about how long it takes to get to her hotel. The train station has 2 main exits: one at the street right there and the second a long tunnel walk away. You can guess that the easiest way to get there is to go through the tunnel, which really isn’t that challenging, it’s just that it’s not close (which becomes important later too). In an effort to kill some time before meeting Boif at the train station around 6:30 (his flight came in~5), we went to the Science museum and had a ball learning about sciencey stuff. We are waiting for him to come until 7, when I send Robyn to the theatre, with her hotel card with me, and wait for him all by my lonesome. I think, well, maybe he got past me when I was looking in the other direction, and so I go outside looking and see nothing, but, who should I see when I turn around, on the other side of the exit! There was much happiness in the land at that moment. I was totes excited that he was here, he was all of that plus the fact that he actually found me, as since he had never been to London before, there was some trepidation about using the tube for the first time. (I totally felt this the first time too)
So, we walk down the really long tunnel, drop off his stuff, and run back to the train station to get us to the theatre and we get in our seats at the end of ‘Dancing through life’. I wasn’t too keen on the Elphaba before ‘Defying gravity’, but she really brought her A-game to that song and won me over. It really was an amazing performance. My personal favorite though, was the Glinda, who was being sung by the cover. You could tell that her character’s excessive perkiness was due to her singing that evening. It was clear, at the very end, that she had a classical background, as during one passage in the finale she went from a musical theatre style of singing to a full on classical sound, and the audience literally gasped at that moment. And it totally made me giggle. After the show, we meet up with Robyn, pick up some food (Pret, obv) and take it to her hotel so we can take our stuff back to where we’re staying. We eat & chat for a while, and I look at the clock, and it’s 11:30. PM. So I rush us out, wish Robyn safe travels, as she is going back to the states the next day, and we RUN back to the tube station, suit & laptop bag in my hands & Boif has his sad, sad suitcase in his. Since it is night, the tube people lock the tunnel entrance, so we have to go on the streets. Luckily, Robyn showed us the correct route when we were going to the hotel. We had to make 2 transfers and made, no joke, the last train to Chorleywood with about 3 minutes to spare. I have no idea what we would have done had we missed it.
Next day, we leave my friends’ place and drop off our luggage at Paula’s hotel and go off to explore London. We had lunch with Paula over by St. Paul’s and then headed over to the Tate Modern, which is a rocking good museum. When I was in London before, they had an awesome exhibit of Dali’s work in all mediums that rocked my face off. It would be amiss if I didn’t mention that we got
lost misplaced getting to the Tate. I misread the map and we went parallel to the river for a little bit, but saw some pretty cool architecture as a result, so I consider it a draw. (Those pictures will also be in the gallery below)
Next stop after the Tate Modern was Trafalgar Square (National Gallery & the West End). The main point of us going to the National Gallery was to see the Van Goughs and Monets. And they were so purdy. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend much time with them, as we went to the wrong side looking for them. *whoops* Saw some great stuff, but not enough of those two. Lots of Jesus stuff though. It was like we went to the Louvre, where I firmly believe that they have an entire wing (over by Mona Lisa) devoted to Jesus himself. Outside of the gallery, there is a statue, I shit you not, of George Washington. What is he doing there? I haven’t the foggiest. Boif thought it necessary (as did I) to get a picture of him.
Also outside, but less permanent, as different art is featured there, there is a really, really big ship in a bottle. Totes cool
After having our fill of art, Boif was making noises about being hungry, so, naturally, I suggested Pret for our last meal in London. However, none of the Prets that we went to (approx 5) had what I wanted. And you all know that once you have something in your head, you don’t want anything else. So, instead of eating there, we went around the West End looking for somewhere to eat that wasn’t ungodly expensive. During this process, I showed him the Royal Opera house, since, you know, he’ll need to know how to get there when they offer him roles upon roles…
As our hunger was getting the better of us, we finally found somewhere to eat, this cute restaurant that was more bar/social areas on the main floor and real pub upstairs. I think I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
After dinner, we headed over to Westminster Abbey and the like, as no trip to London is complete without it. And I may have had a diva picture taken. See if you can figure out which one it was…
After our excursion here, it was time to pick up our luggage from Paula and head to the airport, where our hotel for the evening was located. It was sad saying goodbye to Paula & this great city, but, the states were calling our number to return.
Our hotel, Yotel (coming soon to Times Square, allegedly), was great…mostly. They are a Japanese based brand, and have rooms that are just bed, bathroom & space for luggage. Beyond it being a little smaller than I anticipated, it was great. The Yotel in London is located right in Terminal 4 (Delta/KLM/AirFrance/SkyTeam), which makes the morning of flying SUPER great. This hotel rents for as little as 4 hours (nice for layovers) and up to a daily rate from there. All things considered, it was way cheap, given its location. I think I paid something close to $100. This is especially nice since hotels in London tend to be very pricey anyway, and ones close to the airport (which is near nothing, btw) are outlandish.
It is of note that I got through security in like 5 minutes. People bemoaned to me the time that it takes to go through it in London, and I think they’re all smoking crack. It’s ridiculous. 5 minutes, people! 5 minutes. Anyway, Boif walked me to my gate and I got on my flight to Amsterdam. Nothing really eventful occurred on this flight except great service. If you can ever fly [internationally] on KLM, DO SO. On a flight that couldn’t have lasted more than 1/2 hour, I got drink service AND a sandwich. That totes rocks, folks. Here’s where the fun begins. As I’m getting on my flight to Detroit, I notice that there’s quite a few seats in first class open, and I ask the flight attendant if I can have one, as I have the required mileage to get auto-upgraded in the States, and get this: she said YES! So, instead of sitting in coach for the long flight, I got to sit in my fancy dancy first class chair, which btw reclines FLAT, so I could sleep. When I landed in the great state of Michigan, I may have been a little happy, if you know what I mean. And then the same thing happened on the way home from Detroit. I love my luck flying. *knocks on wood* As promised, below is a copy of the recital & a gallery of photos. Enjoy & thanks for reading!
Ah, Love, but a Day!
Primavera – Celius Dougherty
Three Songs by Browning, Op. 44 – Amy Beach
- Ah, love, but a day!
- I send my heart up to thee
- The year’s at the spring
Two Early Songs - George Crumb
- Wind Elegy
Luke Havergal - John Duke
i carry your heart – John Duke
from The Faces of Love - Jake Heggie
I shall not live in vain
As well as Jesus
At last, to be identified
Encore: Blah, blah, blah - George Gershwin