When your work involves the arts, a visit to England wouldn’t be complete without stopping at the birthplace of William Shakespeare. And following up that visit with a performance at the University of Birmingham’s legendary concert hall, The Bramall, is the cherry on top.
We left Chester for Stratford-upon-Avon, a medieval market town in England’s West Midlands where possibly the greatest writer of the English language was born. The site of Shakespeare’s birthplace is by far the town’s main attraction. We learned that the English word “Avon” means river, which meant that the town name translates to mean Stratford on the river.
Our group toured the legendary playwright’s home encountering staff dressed in period clothing and answering any questions posed by tourists. In the courtyard outside of the dwelling, was a small stage where local actors took requests from tourists to recite small scenes from Shakespearean plays or sonnets. The stage also presented an opportunity for tourists to participate in the impromptu oratory performances. One of the students in our group joined in the fun, sharing a scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to the delight of the audience.
From Stratford, we traveled an hour or so to Birmingham, the second largest city in England where our evening concert would take place. Once in Birmingham, it was a quick check-in, change, and walk to the restaurant for our group dinner. Despite the not-so-positive reviews England’s cuisine has been known to receive, we were very pleased with the quality of the meals we experienced during our stay. Even ordinary items like a hamburger, or spare ribs, and of course the french fries (chips) tasted better than we expected.
After navigating the unanticipated challenges of Birmingham’s city traffic, we arrived at the concert hall in just enough time to gather ourselves backstage before hitting the stage. The hall was both visually and aurally beautiful. It was something that we had come to expect of the venues we visited during this U.K. tour, each offered something different and exceptional to the experience. Once on stage in front of the audience, muscle memory took over and the powerful voices sang. To the choir’s credit, the rushed set-up did not hamper the quality of the concert.
With another stellar performance in the can, it was back to the hotel for our only overnight in Birmingham.