First concert of NZ National All Male Choir’s UK tour

WELCOMING WELSH: NZ Male Choir manager Taffy Davis meeting the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Ian Lebbon (left) in North Wales.

Well, now slightly refreshed after a good nights sleep, enough to keep the jet lag at bay, Tuesday started with an official meeting and the ubiquitous fines session.

There are too many to mention, but some of the highlights revolved around missed communications leaving people stranded, the beautiful taupe trousers being decorated with various gastronomic delights and the unnamed musical director being upgraded, not once but twice – I’m sure there is a musical term for it…

A certain well known South Island tenor was lucky to get away with just a fine after pinning a terrified Arab against a lift wall and asking him his opinion of Saddam Hussein. Poor guy didn’t even speak English (the Arab, not Stu)!

As promised, there are up to date images, including some ‘camel riding’ photos on the flickr link but unfortunately we missed the shot of the youngest, fittest and most supple choir member being the only one to get on and fall of the camel in one graceful move.

After the meeting, the men had a fairly grueling rehearsal until  a very sumptuous lunch at the hotel.

Meanwhile, the supporters ably supported by going shopping in Chester, going to the Sebastian Coe Fitness Centre attached to the hotel or doing the wonderful task of hand washing. It costs $5 to have a pair of knickers washed so hand washing leaves more for spending (canny lot these supporters).

In the afternoon we were all bussed the hour’s journey into Llandudno, a holiday resort town on the coast in North Wales, to rehearse in St John’s Methodist Church for a concert later in the evening. It’s a beautiful wooden church built in 1865 with great acoustics. The hosts were extremely obliging and helpful, lots of juice, tea and biscuits to feed the men’s stamina – more on waist lines later.

We had a couple of hours after rehearsal to find somewhere to eat with choices ranging from fish ‘n’ chips to fish ‘n’ chips and yes you guessed it, more fish ‘n’ chips.

Oh, there were some pubs that did meals with a variation on fish ‘n’ chips, Ploughman’s lunches complete with two huge pickled onions and a whole apple plonked in the middle of the plate to the UK’s national dish, curry. Almost fully sated, there was time for a short walk around town.

We were threatened on the street with the phrase “It’ll be daggers on Saturday” only to find some members of a choir that we are competing against in Eisteffod, had come to town to hear how good the choir sounds. It was all very friendly in a “Guild of Assassins” sort of way (refer to Terry Prachett Disc World series) but it was most pleasing to hear their conductor state firmly that “We’ve got some work to do boyos (sic). “

The concert itself was a complete sell out and many people wanted to make sure we knew they had cousin’s/aunties/long lost relatives/visited people and usually wanted to know if we knew these people personally.

A few vague answers later and the punters seemed happy. Many had visitors that had made the journey but none could have been more shocked than the Keelty’s who had friends turn up from Holland for the treat! …..

The first concert in the Northern Hemisphere was a great success with the audience suitably impressed. If there were any mistakes, they were so well covered that no-one noticed, not bad for a jet lagged choir; the performance in the faces belied the fact they had only arrived in the country 24 hours previously.

The audience were so enthralled that when I went up the aisle to see if there was any interest in the CDs, I was inundated with £10 notes waved by frantic women wanting to take the men home with them.

Wearily we got back onto the two buses and back to the hotel for a well earned sleep although it is reported the ‘blue’ bus beat the ‘red’ bus in the snoring stakes, but it is early days yet.

Wednesday was a blissful day for the men as they got to spend time with their wives and supporters. Being a true English summer, we all wandered around Chester in the rain but that did not detract from the prettiness of the town and the awe inspiring Roman relics.

Back to the hotel for a rehearsal at 4.30pm, the men had to sing until (for) supper and then back again for another rehearsal later. Some of the lucky ones, the hierarchy managed to escape the rehearsal under the spurious excuse of going to Llangollen to represent the choir  at the opening ceremony.

The representatives of  over 40 countries were there but our men managed to secure the most prominent position centre stage, next to the compere and drew a huge, enthusiastic round of applause from the 3000-ish audience.

So on that note, its time to say goodnight and looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!

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