Spring Break 2018: England Trip

The Blair Academy Orchestra and Singers traveled to England for an exciting performance tour during Spring Break.

Much to the surprise of the students, the trip began sooner than expected; the day before the group was scheduled to depart, students and parents were notified that they would be leaving Blair a day sooner than planned due to an impending snowstorm. That evening, musicians arrived at Blair and boarded the bus to Newark to stay the night at a hotel near the airport. They traveled on a shuttle bus through the heavy snowfall to the airport before spending several hours there because of delays. They made the best of the situation, though, by exploring the terminal and playing card games. Students buzzed with excitement as they finally boarded their flight to London.

After roughly a six hour flight, the exhausted but enthusiastic group of performers arrived at Heathrow Airport in London. After meeting their tour guides and loading the buses, they embarked on their drive to Oxford, stopping on the way to see Warwick Castle, a breathtaking Norman fortress.

The next day, the Blair ensembles participated in a masterclass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Oxford with Dr. James Whitbourn, a Grammy-nominated composer and conductor. He instructed the Singers in a piece he composed himself, which was already part of the Singers’ repertoire, and yielded valuable advice. Dr. Whitbourn’s expertise improved their interpretation of the music, and taught them new concepts that they used during their concerts on the trip.

After touring Oxford, they began their journey by bus to Cambridge the following morning. They stopped at an American cemetery dating back to World War II, and the Singers offered informal singing at the chapel there. The Blair ensembles had their first official concert in England that evening at Great St. Mary’s Church in Cambridge. The Orchestra’s performance included the first movement from Dvořák’s New World Symphony and selections from An American in Paris, a musical by George Gershwin. The Singers presented pieces such as “Prayer of Cardinal Newman” and “Nyon Nyon.” The Orchestra and Singers joined to perform two combined pieces at the conclusion of every concert.

While in Cambridge, they took a guided tour of the town and the university. They attended Evensong at King’s College Chapel, which is renowned for its choral services.

The Blair music ensembles continued their music tour in the town of Ely, presenting an afternoon performance at its beautiful cathedral. They later traveled to London to perform an evening concert, the second of their busy day, at the Gresham Centre at St. Anne and St. Agnes Church. They ended the night with a reception for friends and alumni of Blair Academy.

The remainder of the trip consisted of sightseeing in London and visiting locations such as Westminster Abbey and the Globe Theater. The final night of the trip, the students and faculty gathered for a farewell dinner and saw Aladdin: The Musical in the West End.

Growing closer as a group and being immersed in music made their British tour unforgettable. The Blair Academy music ensembles had a fantastic experience performing in and exploring England for over a week.

(Copyright 2018 Abby Morris)