“We need more chairs!”
The Great Hall in Hexham Abbey looked full ten minutes ago, and we are running out of space for the audience to sit. We stand in the back of the room, spotting folks from our workshop earlier that day, singers from the Tynesdale Community Choir who will be opening for us, and our lovely hosts who have generously opened their homes to our music making for the past four days. Volunteers run to storage closets and chairs are brought out, 60, 80, 100 and people keep coming. By the time we start we are playing for our largest crowd (outside of central Asia!) and couldn’t be more excited! We had arrived in the UK less than a week before and this was certainly a grand welcome. Many thanks to the wonderful David Oliver who was a publicity wizard and to Kat Davidson for her incredible singing and conducting!
We had performed the day before in the Newcastle Lit & Phil Library, which turned out to be a beautiful place to sing, amidst piles and piles of books, to a wonderful audience. Banjos, bibliophiles, and books; what more could you ask?
We packed up shop and spent a few days busking around the North. In Newcastle we played on the Millennium Bridge and were filmed by a French TV crew. In Whitby we played at a drawbridge, climbed the 199 steps to the ruins of the abbey, and had cream tea! Our trips to York and Sheffield brought new busking box, trips to cathedrals, and lots and lots of smiles on the street!
The next stop was London, where we had our first encounter with the folk club circuit. We played in Watford and Uxbridge, both to enthusiastic crowds who loved to sing along! We enjoyed the floor singers and realized how fun it is to go to a event where you are both performing and listening to a concert on the same evening. That Thursday we went English Country dancing at the Cecil Sharp House, and played a set at the break, making some new friends.
In our spare time we took a little day trip to Oxford where we busked, feasted and…went punting! Of course, what punting outing would be complete without a Quebecois song on the boat?
We headed to Harwich, a lovely port town on the east coast where we played in the Electric Palace, an old cinema that is now used for performances. Beautiful stage, fun crowd, and one of the best post-concert pub sings of tour! Our host, Mick has been involved with Northern Harmony and Village Harmony for years and we spent a great morning singing a bunch of his original shapenote compositions. We also want to give a big shout out to Larry Gordon and Village Harmony for helping us get contacts for organizing the tour, we couldn’t have done it without you! It was time to head into our last swing of workshops and concerts, a crazy weekend jam-packed with singing in Bungay, Martham, and Castle Acre.
We also had the treat of singing one of our favorite Corsican songs, Stabat Mater, in the great stone hall of Orford Castle. What a beautiful, resonant space!
Throughout the tour we felt so lucky to be hosted by such amazing, generous people, to sing for such appreciative and enthusiastic audiences, and to be able to travel and sing with such wonderful friends. We are already planning next year’s tour, so we’ll be back soon! In the mean time, stay tuned for news about our fall and winter tours in New England and the East Coast! Bye for now!