The Choir of Clare College,

Cambridge, was warm,

true and magnificent.

Peter McCallum - Sydney Morning Herald


Asia Tour Blog - Day 4

Date: Tuesday 06 September 2016 12.00pm


Today saw the long-awaited free morning, a relief for the jetlagged/hungover/food-poisoned (delete as appropriate) choir. Leopold 'Casanova' Benedict was certainly grateful for the time off after his trouserless adventures through Kowloon in the early hours, and indulged in an intimate massage with countertenor Joe Payne. Others were keen for a more active morning and trekked up the Peak for panoramic views over the city. After hours of arduous journeying they reached the summit, selfie sticks at the ready, only to be greeted by a wall of fog. Several of the choir went for dim sum at the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world. The delicious dumplings sharply contrasted with the chicken feet laid on the table, which, for those who had enjoyed the night before more than others, almost induced a round of burp or vom. As we ambled through the beautiful flower markets, #sweatcam became #wetcam as the heavens opened, rendering the City Hall showers unnecessary. Arriving at the concert hall sodden,the choir attempted to dry off with varying degrees of success: Joe Payne was forced to change into black tie for the rehearsal, treating us to another vibrant shirt. Inspired by Joe's pristine appearance, Alice Halstead declared the choir's bowing technique unsatisfactory. Harking back to her glory days in the National Youth Choir, she revealed the secret to a stellar bowing method - which she is certain secured her rise to BBC Young Chorister of the Year 2006 - is reciting "Have I tied my shoelaces? Yes I've tied my shoelaces!" whilst bowing (for further detail, see Alice's upcoming pamphlet 'Bowing Booboos', due for release in 2017). Now that the choir had perfected this technique, appreciative Director of Music and BBC Young Chorister of the Year circa 1973 Graham Ross felt sure that the choir could tackle a sight reading session of Mozart's Solemn Vespers in preparation for our appearance in Singapore. He erred, however, in allowing us to 'just chillax' and save ourselves for the concert, and the unexpected result could adequately be described as "all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order". We were therefore encouraged to bring our scores as in-flight entertainment on the plane to Singapore so as to do ourselves, our college and our Queen and country proud. Dinner was an array of local delights in a restaurant nearby, and of course Bananagrams made an appearance as we waited. The classically-minded among us had progressed to playing in Latin, which made for a much slower and more painstaking process, so Kit Holliday was horrified to see his lovingly arranged words unceremoniously ploughed to the side by the waitress as she presented him with his char siu and rice, his cries of 'miserere mei!' falling on deaf ears. He consoled himself by eating Toby's dinner as well as his own; Toby was left eating his replacement meal alone as everyone left and was forced to play the cruel game of 'danger change' with just minutes left before the start of the concert. Thankful that the Solemn Vespers was not making an appearance in this concert, the choir were greeted by a 400 person strong crowd for their concert in Hong Kong City Hall. All went smoothly, with Toby managing to keep his wild mid-concert stage wandering urges under control on this occasion, and all bows were executed with military precision and panache ('Have i tied my shoelaces? Yes I've tied my shoelaces'). We were far from in the clear, however, as the encore was yet to come. The Chinese lyrics of the 'Jasmine Flower Song' had initially posed a problem, but we were well practised and quietly confident as Graham raised his hands and silence fell. All of a sudden, in a stroke of divine inspiration, Organ Scholar Michael Papadopafopalos made the addition of the chime stop in the introduction to simulate a Chinese harp - a poor imitation, potentially a case of #culturalappropriation - and the choir lost it. Some managed to regain their composure, but the entire alto section, bar stalwart Catherine Clark, were in hysterics for the entire piece. Thankfully, this incident has been documented in the form of video evidence. When asked what impact he thought his actions had on the performance, Papadopafopalos declined to comment. Ending the concert smiling with the chimes still ringing in our ears, a reception was held at Grappa's bar which the choir eagerly attended. The siren call of a bar selling £3.80 pints meant that the party later migrated elsewhere where we played a revealing version of "Would I Lie to You" into the early hours of the morning to celebrate our final night in Hong Kong. Little knowledge of what was to come was had by Leo 'Casanova' Benedict or Kit 'sotto-voce' Holliday, however, as the next day trouble struck before our flight to Singapore........