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Easy like Sunday morning

23 February, 2015

Katie has today’s blog:

“The second day of a long tour can often be one of the most tiring of all. By this point, the excitement of having arrived in the States has just about worn off, and the time difference has crept up on us all with a vengeance. We were particularly pleased, then, to be spending the morning of our second day here travelling to one of our very favourite US destinations. The group first came to the town of Davidson, North Carolina, in 2011, and it rapidly became apparent that it would be a special place for us. This chilly February Sunday would be our third visit, and the excitement was palpable as we checked out of our hotel in Raleigh, Durham, and got ready to hit the road.

“It’s a peculiarity of our line of work that during our travels we become intimately acquainted with a wide range of different hotels, motels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and all manner of other hostelries. It’s a luxury for which we are all undoubtedly grateful (at the very least, it keeps us in miniature toiletries and hotel-branded biros all year round). But some of the richest experiences and fondest memories we gain from life on the road can come from the collective caring and generosity of the families that open their homes to us as we wend our way up, down and across the United States.

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“All manner of other hostelries…”

“Back when I joined Stile in 2012, the group’s first time in Davidson during the previous year had already acquired legendary status, due in no small part to the fact that the singers stayed with host families while they were there. There was mention made of balmy weather, beautiful countryside, and most importantly of all a wonderfully warm and enthusiastic reception from the community of the Davidson United Methodist Church, where we have performed each time we have been here. I was not disappointed on any of these fronts when we made it the seventh stop on our 2013 trip. Meeting mine and Eleanor’s hosts, Dave and Alice Garbrick, and staying in their beautiful house brought a touch of real life to a long and intense tour. It felt, in a way, like home away from home.

“As we arrived in Davidson this afternoon, we felt once again the genuine kindness of the community here, led from the front by the impossibly cheery and energetic Minister of Music and Worship at the Methodist church, Kevin Turner. Hugs and greetings were exchanged, and almost immediately people were chattering away to each other like old friends who haven’t seen each other for twenty years. The sense that everybody here is excited and glad to have us back is fully reciprocated by the group, and looking out into an audience of well-known, smiling faces as you walk out on stage is a great feeling.

“So staying with a host family while on tour can be a haven of peace in what is often a frantic schedule of flights, concerts and car journeys. It offers us the opportunity for a night’s sleep unbroken by noisy lifts, humming mini-fridges and over-excited teenage volleyball conventions (all genuine real-life scenarios), the chance to indulge in some amazing home cooking, and to meet some wonderful people, friends new and old. But what’s it like on the other side of the fence? I thought I’d impose upon my lovely and very obliging hosts just a little bit more, and try to find out what hosting twelve jet-lagged, tired, hungry musicians with various allergies, complicated dietary requirements and idiosyncratic habits is like. Dave and Alice very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about what life is like for our hosts during our short stay.

KS: What made you decide to host us when the group came here for the first time?
DG: I sing in the Chancel Choir in the Methodist church, so when Kevin first asked for help with accommodating a group of British singers, I thought we should get involved. That’s how most people have ended up doing it, through the church.

KS: This is the third time you’ve had members of the group to stay with you, so we must be doing something right. What do you like about hosting?
DG: I like the fact that you get the chance to explain to us about your lives as singers and about the group – like how you all survive living in hotel rooms for weeks at a time!
AG: Yes, as Dave’s a singer, his focus tends to be on the musical side of things. For me, the interesting thing is getting to meet people from another country. Had it been an American group, we would still have done it, of course! But the real attraction for me is the chance to learn about life and culture in another place.

KS: Did you know what you’d be letting yourselves in for?
AG: When we offered to host, we didn’t really know anything about who would be coming – for example, we didn’t know how old you’d all be. It’s nice to have some young people around!

KS: Do you think that Davidson as a place has something to offer to people staying here?
DG: Definitely. We are lucky to live here in that Davidson is an affluent area, but what makes it special as a community is the fact that nobody acts aloof – everybody knows each other and will look out for each other.

AG: We’ve lived here for twenty years, and been connected with the Methodist church for at least that long – our son helped us choose it as our regular place of worship!

KS: So the church community is a very important one?
AG: Absolutely.

KS: What’s been the best thing about the experience?
AG: Definitely having the same people to stay more than once. That’s how lasting friendships are made.

I should finish with a massive thank you to all our Davidson hosts from this tour: Mary, Dave and Alice, Tom and Frieda, Keith and Cindy, Henry and Lisa, Chuck and Jennifer, as well as Kevin and Susan from the DUMC. You are all amazing, and we are so grateful. See you next time!”