If it weren't for

Clare, I wouldn't

be the singer

I am today

Elin Manahan Thomas, soprano (1995-98)


USA Tour Blog September 2014: Day 4

Date: Wednesday 24 September 2014



We woke up to an excellent breakfast at the Hampton Inn, Collegedale. Having visited our first liquor store and had our first downtime the night before, the lie-in to 10am (for the only time this tour!) and make your own waffle machines went down a treat. Most of the choir avoided the white bechamel like ʻSouthern gravyʼ but sausage patties, bagels and breakfast syrup (maple syrup-like) went down a treat. The choir hopped on the bus to Nashville, also in Tennessee.  We had an uneventful journey through the rolling hills of Tennessee, with a few wide rivers and the Chatanooga Choo Choo on the way. Vanderbilt University, our performance venue, is a large campus which spreads across the area near downtown Nashville, though sadly we werenʼt able to see Nashville proper. We were welcomed by Tucker Biddlecombe, the choir director of the Vanderbilt University ʻCore Choirʼ. This group of about 30 singers joined us after our rehearsal to participate in a joint masterclass with Graham and Tucker. They sang an impressive Poulenc song and a bitonal Ives ʻPsalmʼ, and we offered a completely constrasting Renaissance motet by Batten. Together, we sang Brahmsʼ 'Schickalslied' (a sight reading for Clare choir!), and worked on things with both choirs. But the best part of the masterclass was the joint rendition of the Vanderbilt Choirʼs special version of ʻHappy Birthdayʼ - our unfortunate new tenor will forever be known as ʻItty bitty Alexʼ and was serenaded in a gospel style. We also exchanged ʻchoral accentsʼ, switching between ʻgawdʼ and ʻgohdʼ to explore the broad American and prim English singing vowels.

After the rehearsal we joined our new friends at dinner, at an objectionably early time of 4.30pm. The Vanderbilt choir were exceptionally friendly, and over dinner we discussed each otherʼs choir experiences, home towns, subjects and university plans. We also enjoyed my vast amount of food including a wonderful Pumpkin Pie, a Southern speciality that we were looking forward to!

We had some free time between dinner and the concert, where the esteemed blog writers found a park and went on some childrenʼs swings, and found a large ceramic dragon. Two of our number made a break for glory and attempted to get signed to record labels in Nashville proper. They took a taxi to downtown Nashville and went to a country-rock bar, enjoyed Budweiser, and brought back memorabilia.

The concert - at the end of this long day, since the time change extended the day by an hour - went well, especially thanks to our new friend Lighting Chris who swathed the stage in a variety of red and blue lights and different shadow effects. It was certainly a spectacle. Since Vanderbilt did not have an organ that we could use, the repertoire was entirely a cappella, Grahamʼs inventive ʻGreat British Pairingsʼ programme.

Our host families were exceptionally welcoming, and we met the parents of members of the childrenʼs chorus at the Vanderbilt Blair School of Music where many were treated to a second dinner!  Another long day of tour!

Sophie Horrocks (Can Sop 1) and Janneke Dupré (Can Sop 2)