The ninth day of the tour meant we finally were going to see London, England’s capitol city, and what a magnificent city it was! With a population of more than nine million, London has nearly twice as many people as the entire country of Scotland. Before setting out to explore London we first had to say goodbye to the Docklands and our comfy accommodations right off of the River Thames.
The tour organizers arranged for our group to see London from an Afro-Caribbean perspective. Local experts joined our group for a morning bus tour of the many neighborhoods/boroughs in London. I found London to be similar to Baltimore in some ways, but of course on a much larger scale. Baltimore has many neighborhoods and communities throughout, as does London with as many as 32 Burroughs. Much like many American cities where there is a delineation between two different “sides of the tracks,” in London the delineation was determined by what side of the Thames that you lived on.
Some of the famous Burroughs that we visited were Brixton, Deptford, and Castle Station. In addition, we made stops at the iconic Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. We were surprised to discover that Martin Luther King, Jr. now has a statue among the many other saints adorning the outside of Westminster Abbey. This is a great testament and acknowledgement of the international appeal of our African-American martyr. After our three-hour bus tour of London which could have easily taken more than an hour to drive from one side of city to the other, we exchanged our terrestrial mode of travel for a more scenic water route. We enjoyed an hour-long ferry ride up the River Thames seeing all the buildings, landmarks and popular sites from the water. There is no better way to see the city than by boat.
At the end of our cruise down the Thames, we disembarked the ferry in the famous maritime town of Greenwich, England. Greenwich is known around the world as being the home of the Prime Meriden, a geographic coordinate where zero degrees longitude resides. All time zones are based against this point either plus or minus from the Prime Meridien. For example, Baltimore is -5 hours from Greenwich, however, Helsinki, Finland is plus 2 hours. The equivalent point in latitude is the equator, which is zero degrees latitude. Many of us who have compasses on our smartphones calibrate against these two axes. This was exhilarating for me to be at a point where the compass read zero-point, zero-point zero degrees longitude! Having wrapped up a visit to the Prime Meridien, it was time for a prime lunch and the fare of the day called for traditional British fish and chips at the Cafe Rouge.
Following lunch, we had an hour to prepare for the tour’s last concert taking place at the Gresham Centre at St. Anne’s and St. Agnes Church. The presenter was a bit concerned because although the concert was free to the public, you needed to make a reservation to attend. The venue ended up overbooking by about fifty people. Luckily, there were enough seats for the capacity audience. The space was quite intimate, and by far this crowd was the most enthusiastic of all of our audiences we’d performed in front of during our time in the United Kingdom.
With another stellar performance in the can, it was onto to supper back at the hotel. To the surprise of our choir, President David Wilson, who accompanied the choir to the UK, picked up the tab and treated the choir for dinner.
The next day would be our last full day in London and we planned to make the most of it with a variety of activities, including a visit to the American Embassy and a choral masterclass by the acclaimed choral British choral/arranger, Bob Chilcott!
Second half of Gresham St. Church!