BLOG: Boston Music Tour (October 2011)

The music department is on tour to Boston in the United States. Kieron Howe, Director of Music, aims to keep parents and friends of QE informed of events in Boston through this blog…

WEDNESDAY, 19TH OCTOBER, 9 P.M.: News has arrived at the School that the flight has arrived safely in Boston. Mr Howe reports, "We had an excellent flight and the behaviour of the boys and girls (from QEGS) was exemplary. I received many positive comments about our pupils from other passengers, including a group of Headteachers and Assistant Headteachers from York, an air hostess who lives in Barnet and one of the Governors from our neighbouring school, the Wren Academy."

THURSDAY, 20TH OCTOBER, 4.20 A.M.: Mr Howe updates, "It has been a very long day and the boys and girls have shown great patience and stoicism in getting through check-in, security and the very long flight. As previously mentioned, the boys’ and girls’ behaviour was noted by people who are very aware of both of our schools and the exceptionally high standards expected of and delivered by the pupils of both of our schools. Immigration went relatively well with only one pupil chosen randomly to be delayed slightly.

We moved into our ""hotel in heavy rain and managed to finally sort out who was going to be in which room.

We were given an excellent dinner in the comfort of our hotel. Unfortunately our caterers were not prepared for our nut-allergy sufferers, however Miss Jakeman and Mr Scally were able to source enough food to keep them satisfied. The evening ended with a briefing from the senior boys to their registration groups on a very full and exciting day tomorrow as we visit the hostorical heart of Boston on the Freedom Trail and Faneuil Hall before a concert in the afternoon at the Old South Church.

The boys and girls were asleep by 2230 to enjoy a much longer length of sleep than last night in any case."

FRIDAY 21ST OCTOBER, 6 A.M.: ""In his latest update, Mr Howe reports, "Our first full day in Boston has been a really good one. We looked out of windows this morning to see very low and heavy cloud cover which meant a slightly damp start to the day as the boys and girls embarked on the Freedom trail, learning about the historical side of Boston including sights such as the US Constitution.

After lunch at Faneuil Hall some returned to the hotel to collect the instruments and return to lovely acoustic of the South Church, while others exhausted all that Faneuil Hall and the surrounding streets could offer. ""We had our first concert of the trip as the choir and members of the string orchestra performed a number of items at the Old South Church. The concert was always intended as a musical ice-breaker for the trip, however the performances the groups put together were excellent. The repertoire was suitably religious for the home of William Billings, the first American composer to actually write his music down.

After a short walk to Boston Common the groups split off to enjoy the wonderful parks here, meeting in front of the impressive State House, en route to dinner, back in Faneuil Hall. We also celebrated Alex Liangas’ 18th birthday by giving him a Boston College T-shirt which he will hopefully cherish to remind him of his birthday spent with us all.

While the senior boys were being briefed, the younger pupils wasted no time in getting to sleep in preparation for another very full day tomorrow."

SATURDAY, 22ND OCTOBER, 5.25 A.M.: Mr Howe’s account of Friday’s activities in Boston has arrived. He says, "We started the day at Boston Latin School, one of the foremost academic schools in the country. We were given a tour of the school by the Head of Fine Arts, Paul Pitts, taking in the fantastic auditorium where we would later play. We heard that Boston Latin had some fearsome alumni including four signatories of the constitution, the founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and in the last century, the great Leonard Bernstein.

We, with the Latin school, performed two short concerts. The concert started with the Wolfettes, a 13-piece female a capella group, and their beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The Symphony Orchestra performed Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance No.8 ""and the medley of music from Pirates of the Caribbean which was received rapturously by the c.550 staff and students who came to hear the concert. We then heard from our hosts’ 120-piece Concert band playing the March of the Belgian Paratroopers. Our String Orchestra played Faure’s haunting Pavane, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and the wonderfully witty arrangement of I’m Beginning to See the Light and other songs from that period. The concert finished with the Boston Latin Concert Strings playing the first movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The concert finished exactly on time, despite the enraptured reaction to every piece from the large audience.

We then had roughly 8 minutes to clear the stage and set up for the second concert featuring the Big Bands from both our schools, the premiere of the newly-formed Latin Wind Ensemble and finishing with the two Bollywood pieces with the dancers which brought the house, now re-filled to an even larger audience of roughly 750, to its feet. An excellent way to bring the working week to a close for the Boston Latin students. However the corridors outside the auditorium was filed with the vast number of BL students who resisted the urge to go home in favour of talking to the boys and girls from England. The most popular request it seems was to ask our pupils to say ‘Harry Potter’! I think our boys and girls will go away with a large number of new facebook friends across the Atlantic.""

Although we had completed two concerts already, there was very little time to relax as we had to travel back across town to the hotel to collect the Concert Band instruments and then turn round and head to the far corner of Boston to get to Boston College, all during the Friday evening rush hour.

The full Concert Band were lucky to be invited to play on the steps of the Conte Arena as the fans arrived to watch Boston College play their rivals The University of Massachusetts in ice hockey. The boys and girls had a fabulous time watching the game and listening to the BC pep band who played for segments of between 5 and 50 seconds at regular intervals in the game, as dictated by the speed of play. We joined with the massively partisan crown in celebrating our newly-found team’s win over UMass, 4-2. The keen eye will notice a vast amount of yellow and red clothes with ‘Boston College’ cropping up in Barnet and the surrounding areas in the next couple of weeks as the boys and girls express their support for their team.

After waking a number of the boys to get them off the coach, a relatively early night was had as we prepare for a much more relaxed day in Cambridge tomorrow."

SUNDAY, 23RD OCTOBER, 6.10 A.M.: Mr Howe’s latest report from Boston has been received. Describing the activities of Saturday, he writes, "We spent the day over the water in Cambridge. We split into two groups at the start of the day, the dancers heading for the Cambridge Youth Dance Project ""where they gave a scintillating performance of our two Bollywood pieces accompanied by a slimmed-down Bollywood Orchestra, and great whoops and applause form our hosts. Interspersed with these were performances from the American girls from the dance school who performed a Bollywood piece of their own, which suited dance fabulously and was really imaginatively and interestingly choreographed. They finished off with some fantastic tap pieces. We were very grateful for the chance to perform at another venue and to combine with more American students.

Also in the morning we all managed to fit in a walking tour of Harvard University which was fascinating. Just at the end we bumped into the pep band from Princeton who played a number of very interesting popular pieces before the traditional Princeton anthem. The pep band ""were on their way to the American football game with Harvard for which we also had tickets at the historic Harvard Stadium. Some enjoyed learning a bit more about the sport while all at least did enjoy the spectacle even if they didn’t grasp many of the finer details.

After the short walk back down to the banks of the Charles to watch a few of the last races, sample some of the food in the marquees along the banks and enjoy some time in the park, we had quite a trek across Cambridge to the Galleria foodcourt where the boys and girls had a choice of a very wide variety of cuisines from around the world.

A short ride back to North station on the replacement bus service, to remind us of London, followed by a short walk to the hotel finished off our day on our feet. I think we will all be relieved to see the coaches pull up at the hotel tomorrow morning."

MONDAY, 24TH OCTOBER, 6.54A.M.: Routine maintenance to the School’s email server has caused the delay in posting today’s update from Mr Howe. He reports, "The day started in bright sunshine for our trip to Fenway Park but turned quite chilly as the clouds rolled in over the city. However this didn’t dampen the boys’ and girls’ enjoyment of the tour round the home of the Boston Red Sox, the oldest stadium in the country. We were able"" to visit some very expensive seats, some original seats and seats that money can’t buy, in the press box. All that was missing was a game of baseball.

We then went for lunch in the area around Faneuil Hall and prepared for our two performances in the area outside City Hall. We were asked to keep the volume down at the start of the 3.00 performance of the Concert Band as there was another concert in City Hall, right nextdoor, however we were able to let loose as the audience came out for their intermission and joined our audience, I think they all returned to the indoor concert, though perhaps only because of the weather!

The Concert Band performed extremely well in crowd-pleasing numbers such as Londonderry Air and the ""Abba medley. We were also joined by five of our dancers for the performance of Chicago. We were very happy in our hoodies and I would like to think that the boys’ incessant rushing was in sympathy for the girls in their leotards in the plummetting temperature.

Some members of the large crowd were convinced to stay on for the second performance, this time from the Symphony Orchestra, who played pieces including The Old 100th and Elgar’s Nimrod, finishing with the piece which seems to have captured the imagination at every concert, Pirates of the Caribbean.

After loading our instruments back on the coach the senior boys successfully navigated their groups through the streets to our dinner venue, Fillippo’s. The staff here had prepared a feast for us and we were very grateful for the warming pasta and meats which they provided in abundance with a warm welcome.

Some of the groups were able to return to the hotel on the coach while others enjoyed a gentle stroll over then along the Charles River to see the beautiful night cityscape of Boston reflected in the calm waters. A fitting end to another wonderful day."

TUESDAY, 25TH OCTOBER, 5.05 A.M.: Today was a another excellent day with a number of challenges at various stages, in particular as the group split in two straight after breakfast, for two separate performances in very different parts of the city.""

The String Orchestra and Choir managed to find time and a large enough room at the hotel to rehearse before setting off into the heart of Boston to perform again at Faneuil Hall. The weather was again very kind to them and a decent-sized crowd gathered to hear the excellent performances of pieces including Faure’s Pavane and the Hallelujah Chorus from the slightly reduced numbers. The boys then were able to replenish their energy reserves by finding lunch in the surrounding area before returning their instruments to the hotel. All of the members of these groups then went back into Boston to visit the Prudential building skywalk for the beautiful panoramic views across the city.

The Big Band and a much-reduced Bollywood Orchestra ""had time to relax in the area around our hotel and take the short walk up to the Bunker Hill Monument and then up the monument itself to see the views and also enjoy the wonderful acoustics of the stone 294-step spiral staircase. After getting our breath back and finding our legs again we set about our rehearsal. A regular event of the last couple of tours has been our outdoor impromptu vocal rehearsals. Today was that moment! We needed to rehearse to make sure that the dancers were able to work their choreography for the Concert Band version of Chicago to vary it to make it work with the slightly different Big Band arrangement. We grouped the Big Band together and they ‘sang’, or at least vocalised, their part as the dancers re-worked their choreography.

We then returned to the hotel to change and get on the coach to travel to the Avid offices. Once we had quickly set up we were taken on a tour of the Avid offices and were fortunate to see the Grammys, Emmys and Oscars that Avid had been awarded and also the engineering department and the putting green.""

The Big Band and the Bollywood Orchestra performed to an invited audience of Avid employees who were thrilled to hear all of the performances, particularly the pieces involving the dancers who performed fantastically. We were very pleased to see senior members of the Avid board Kirk Arnold who is the Chief Operating Officer, Jodi Sweeney, the Vice President for Customer Success and Barbara Riordan the Senior Director for Market Solutions who came to the concert and Kirk was very generous in her praise for the boys’ and girls’ performance and invited us back on our next tour in two years’ time.

Both halves of the group reunited at the Hard Rock Cafe for a very fitting and stereotypical American dinner.

This is the last report from our trip. I hope you have enjoyed reading about what we have been doing while we are over here. Roll on 2013!