Our last full day in London was a bitter sweet affair. Ten days of constant traveling can be a challenge but oh was it worth it!
The day’s first activity was a tour of the newly constructed United States Embassy in London. The cost of the construction for the structure was a whopping one billion dollars, which we learned did not come at the expense of American taxpayer dollars, but rather from the U.S. sale of properties it owned in several very exclusive London districts. When we arrived at the embassy, we were told that we could not bring any cameras or electronic devices into the facility, however, the embassy photographers would capture our visit.
We were greeted by Kim Dubois, one of the embassy’s public affairs officers, who happened to be from the Baltimore area and attended Milford Mill High School. She made us feel very much at home in the embassy and gave us a personal tour providing details and descriptions for the commissioned art work we encountered throughout the building. With the U.S. president’s pending visit to the city, much of the embassy staff remained on high alert as they prepared. Presidential visit aside, a number of embassy staffers had been on hand to hear our three-song segment. Before leaving the embassy, the staff held a small reception for us, complete with tea and biscuits (cookies) and the gift of a US/Great Britain pin, which signified the special relationship between the two countries, for each member of the choir.
After the embassy visit, our group went to the famous Piccadilly Circus shopping area to discover yet another section of this world-class city. Much like New York City’s famous Fifth Avenue, Piccadilly Circus boasted a number of high-end shops. We all went our various ways to either eat lunch or to buy the last souvenirs of the tour before leaving London.
We then walked to the building where we would have a masterclass with none other than the English acclaimed composer/arranger Bob Chilcott. Due to his reputation for providing insightful advice to choirs, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to arrange a meeting with him since we were in his home city of London. We were also very excited about the prospect of performing some of his music for him, which we did with a selection of “Steal Away” and “Londonderry Air.” Chilcott seemed pleased with the performance and even provided us with some great feedback to use during future performances. He reminded us that as beautiful as the sound was, the words are tantamount to telling the story of the compositions. Performing for him was the perfect ending to a great week of concerts.
After the masterclass, we went back to the hotel to quickly turnaround for our farewell dinner. We took a ferry across the Thames to the other side of the river, where we enjoyed a succulent English meal in a restaurant called Smotzensky’s. Knowing that we were going to have a 4 AM wake-up call for our morning flight back to the US, we knew we had to get back to the hotel right away to pack and make sure that we did not leave any trinkets behind in our hotel rooms. What a great last day in London!
Eric Whitacre’s Sleep during the Masterclass