Clare Choir feels

like my family and

a whole army of

my best friends

put together

John Rutter CBE, composer/conductor, former Director of Music (1975-79)


USA Tour Blog September 2014: Days 8 & 9

Date: Sunday 28 September 2014



We awoke in ‘Oooook-lahoma - where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain’ - City once again to our wafting-bacon-scented alarm clocks and after Mary hitched a lift along the freeway in a convertible we were off once again to a new city (or at least we thought we were, before having to travel back to the Church for newest member of the Choir, Matthew Nixon’s wallet).


Back on the road (take two), and three hours on a coach with a very emotional film about robots later, we had arrived at St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas. Although described as a Church, this term was to be used only loosely as certain parts of the establishment seemed a lot more like a hotel. ‘Frow’ (the ladies of the Choir) were happily led into the bridal suite, which included a balcony and 360-degree mirror, while ‘bra’ (the gentlemen) were left to fend for themselves in a lecture theatre.


After having been strongly advised that there’s ‘no food for miles y’all’, a few of the group walked the terrifying 15 minutes to the nearest café while the rest enjoyed a decadent pizza in the bridal suite. Upon returning the ladies made the most of our time in our ‘pad’ by conducting a wedding between Abi and a life-size cut-out of Elvis. It was a truly beautiful affair that was sadly cut short by the looming rehearsal.


We entered into the sanctuary and saw an excited St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church Choir sitting behind us. When, in true English choral fashion, we belted out I Was Glad by Parry with full organ behind us, the noise was deafening and the sound electric (with absolutely no added top Bbs from any other voice part other than the sopranos…).


The Clare solo rehearsal then commenced with a keen audience of fellow singers. The usual choralography literally reached new heights with members of the Choir scaling the heights of two balconies for Harvey’s Come Holy Ghost. It took Doctor Proctor and Alex Porteous who had opted for the highest performing space a long time to navigate the geography of the Church, after having tried all possible doors (“No, no, no”) before making it down to the stage area. The rehearsal was followed by yet another nutritious and modest meal…only joking. We were treated to enormous American offering of Mexican style food, and as we demolished our stacked plates of buffet food, the ladies headed off upstairs to the bridal suite for one final session with hairdresser-in-residence, Janneke Dupré, whilst the back row (uh!) packed in another round of BUMS outside.


For eleven members of the Choir, this was their final performance with CCCCC. The opening of Walton’s Twelve can only have been improved by the additional alto sonority, as well as the mention of beloved Great British Bake-Off judge Mary Berry in the mini cantata’s final pages. The audience was then treated to a glance of the Senior Organ Scholar’s highly-concert appropriate, bright turquoise footwear before taking a short interval in which the Choir tried to flog our remaining CDs to our American friends. Inspired by Senior Choral Scholar Hugo Popplewell’s somewhat distasteful ornamentation in RVW’s The Turtle Dove during our Conway performance, fellow Senior Choral Scholar Christopher Loyn decided to follow in his footsteps during his manly solo about flowers. He then went on to sing a beautiful opening to our encore, Howell’s Nunc Dimittis, and gradually as the piece went on, more and more of the leavers were no longer able to keep control of their emotions. As to be expected, at the arrival of the Gloria, we were severely down in numbers and there were several wet faces; many singers compensated for this with extra vibrato and a top Bbs from tenors Alex Walmsley (‘this is happening’) and L.A.D. Booth- Clibborn and bari-tenor Hugo Popplewell. After the concert, most of the bridal-suite tissues (and indeed those from the lecture theatre) were used to mop away the tears and we departed with our hosts with a heavy heart.


The following day we took the train to Dallas for a bit of last minute tourism, tat purchasing (including shot glasses carrying the motto ‘we don’t call 911 in Texas’) and a whole choir visit to the Steak House, which promised the true ‘Southern’ experience. We said goodbye to the leavers of this year’s Choir and thanked Graham for his hard work.


With all too familiar feeling of full stomachs (not least for Alice who had heroically consumed two desserts after her steak), we headed for Dallas airport and after a stop-over in Atlanta, where our life-size cutout of Elvis and some keen members of choir had a photo-shoot in the cockpit, we arrived back in Heathrow and said our goodbyes.  After travelling back to Cambridge, our longest standing member of CCCCC, Abi, carried out her final act of service to the Choir by ensuring that her husband and our newest member of the group, Elvis, settled into his new home in the Choir Vestry and helped source him the right sized robes for the start of his time in the Choir.


All-in-all we had a fantastic tour, and were sad to say goodbye to our Southern friends and Choir members both old and new. Finally, we must say a huge thanks to Graham Ross, James Proctor and all our host families/venues for making the tour so incredibly enjoyable. CCCCC would be more than happy to hit the South again! 


Last but certainly not least, a few twitter trends that we started on tour:




Keep them coming!


Mary Hamilton (Dec Sop 3) and Abi Gostick (Lay Clerk 2013-14)