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Back in Back Bay

25 February, 2017

As we head down the East Coast to NYC for this evening’s concert, here’s Becky’s blog on our time in Boston.

“Day one of the tour saw us in familiar territory: the Back Bay area of Boston, where we have stayed on many occasions. The first concert day of a North American tour is always the most challenging. You feel wide awake at 5am but soporific by 8pm, just when you need oodles of energy to get through two hours of singing! You don’t want to exhaust yourself in the daytime but you can’t sit around doing nothing. At least half of the group decided to start the day with a jog (those who know me will not be surprised to learn I was not in their number) but others determinedly stayed in bed willing their bodies to sleep a bit longer!

“Having breakfasted, five of us headed to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, a gentle 30 minute stroll from the hotel. My mother has been telling me to go to this museum for some time and I have never managed to find time on my many visits to Boston. I didn’t realise what I was missing! Many of you reading this may well have visited the museum but for those who haven’t, book a flight to Boston now and go!! The wonderful Mrs Gardner, having collected a few pieces of art on European travels with her husband at the end of the 19th century (including The Concert by Vermeer, for which she outbid The Louvre in Paris and The National Gallery in London, but which tragically got nicked in 1990!), constructed an inside-out Venetian palazzo to house her collection and to expand it further. The building itself is a work of art, the focus of which is a beautiful tranquil courtyard with Roman mosaic floor, loggias and trickling water and tropical plants.

My enjoyment was somewhat marred by the ‘mood music’ provided by a violinist with the aid of an electronic track. Perhaps some people found it restful but I found it irritating. Oh well. Rooms full of Titian, Raffael, Mantegna, Fra Angelico and Botticelli amongst many others made up for it! There were also fabulous furnishings from all over Europe, tiles from Mexico and architectural features from Italy (including an entire huge carved wooden doorway!). There were also quite a few musical artefacts as Mrs Gardner was a great music-lover and put on many concerts. There was a signed photograph of Brahms, a cast of Liszt’s hand and many letters to Mrs Gardner from eminent musicians of the time, including Pierre Monteux. We didn’t even have time to check out the new Renzo Piano wing so that’ll have to be our mission for our next visit to Boston.

“Some of the others found their way to Boston Common and followed part of the Freedom Trail, respectfully visiting one William Dawes’ grave along the way!

“We made our way over to Cambridge for our rehearsal in St Paul’s Church, which by now seems reassuringly familiar, having performed there half a dozen times. Despite a general tetchiness which is, it seems, a feature of jet lag, we had a constructive rehearsal in the main with no major rows! Will and Katie were giving a pre-concert talk so it was only the briefest of breaks for them after the rehearsal. Those of us sitting in the vestry while the talk was going on couldn’t make out what Will and Katie were saying, but we could certainly hear the peals of laughter coming from the audience, so these two were clearly a big hit. A sideline in stand-up beckons!

“The concert went really well. Everybody seemed to manage to keep their concentration levels up, and the enthusiastic appreciation of the large audience sustained us to the end. The applause after Victoria’s O vos omnes, which the sopranos don’t sing, went on for so long that we didn’t think we’d ever get back on stage for the next piece! I think this speaks volumes for the warmth of the Boston audience. Boston, we love you! We’re already looking forward to our next visit.”