Sent to Coventry and Royal Windsor

The national all male choir of NZ singing from a balcony in Coventry's 10th century Guild Hall.

Post Eisteddfod, bleary eyed, we met for breakfast (huge again) and the after match analysis in Chester.

It seemed everyone had the same feedback, that the Choir had performed really well and maybe we deserved a different result, but however, it was a valuable experience and we won’t talk about northern hemisphere judges!

What do you mean you couldn’t grasp the Maori songs?

Back on the buses and off to Coventry for a wee (both meanings intended) stop-over on our way to London.

Apart from coach drivers who couldn’t see the signs for the bus park (even though every backseat driver did) it was a very enjoyable stop.

Most people had a look around the modern cathedral with its amazing stained glass windows and enormous glass engraved panels but we were all enchanted by the ruins of the original Cathedral that was extensively bombed in the Second World War.

Here the choir sang in front of the ‘peace altar’ (photos included) and it was a resonant, beautiful performance in a evocative setting.

From there, we all squashed into the Guild Hall which dated back to the days of Mary, Queen of Scots’ incarceration.

The men squeezed themselves into the gallery (built for people 4′ 11″ and under and weighing less than 55kg) and gave a hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Oh What A Morning”.

Most of the party (males obviously) were entranced by the statue of Lady Godiva who, in protest to her husband raising the taxes on the poor, rode around town naked. There wasn’t a horse statue but there was a clothesless Lady Godiva.

With dreamy grins, the choir (and WASP’s – (see previous blog) without grins) piled back on the buses and off to London.

St Giles Hotel, where we were staying is a stones throw from Tottenham Court Road tube station and at the beginning of Oxford St.

For those who don’t believe there is such a thing as an English summer, I take great pleasure in telling you it was stinking hot (some men more stinking than others after a days travel) but no pleasure in mentioning there wasn’t any air conditioning!

The evening of our arrival was celebrated in many different ways but nowhere could we escape from the football world cup final. Thousands were crammed around any TV screen they could find, streets were gridlocked and the police vainly trying to instill some sort of order.

It was a great atmosphere and very enjoyable until about 3am when the Spanish were still celebrating! Breakfast seemed to come around very quickly that morning.

Our next performance venue was at the very exclusive St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle (thanks to Margaret for her contacts enabling this to happen); it is known as The Queens Chapel and was where she had a memorial service for Sir Edmund Hillary. Getting there was a bit of a mission as one of the buses broke down on the way.

We tried selling Choir CD’s on the pavement so we could afford a taxi but commuters and people rushing to get to work seemed strangely reluctant to stop – can’t think why? Aren’t they regularly accosted by women wearing black shirts trying to sell foreign CD’s on the street every morning?

At the castle , the WASP’s were sent in one direction while the men were sent in another. The women were first coraled into age groups (?), then told they couldn’t be a group as they hadn’t booked to be in a group in advance, then finally told, after 20 minutes of waiting, they could be the group that they were but only if there was one payment only!

After much money changing between the patient, tight lipped women they managed to gain entry. They were given their tickets with great fanfare and huffing – only to walk two steps and give the tickets back to someone else and they were in!

Great British Bureaucracy in (non) action.

The men were far more appropriately treated. After having passports checked, they were taken to the Dungeon. Honestly!

They all had to get changed there in a gloomy, musty room with no toilet facilities but it did have a piano, the barest essential. Every step of the way we were escorted and supervised and there was little room for mischief or minor anarchy.

When the time came, we were taken across to St Georges Chapel where they were to perform. It was an amazing sound as the chapel has a 5 second echo so the place was awash with music. Several hundred people stopped to listen and we were inundated with questions and requests for programmes.

In the audience was a very special listener, Air Commander Ian MacFadyen who is in charge of Windosr Castle when The Queen is absent. His attendance was a real honour and it was very special when he came to talk to the men after the performance.

Later, the special moments continued when we were given permission to have the Official Choir photograph on the steps leading into the chapel as they are reserved for the Queen only. Windsor Castle and the performance in St Georges Chapel will remain very special memories for us all.

Back onto the buses and back to London for an evening of entertainment and rehydration after another hot day in the elusive English summer.

The following day was a free day and many of the Tour Party took the opportunity to visit shows in the West End. Ticket prices ranged from $180 down to $40 so expectations of the shows was high.

The results – Wicked, some loved it and some were pretty ambivalent, ‘Love Never Dies’ – great special effects, great singers, unmemorable songs and a very weak story line, ‘Sister Act’ – amazing set, amazing singers, great songs and hugely entertaining, a definite must see from everyone who went.

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