Warm welcome in Westerly
21 January, 2016
We had a great time visiting Westerly, RI, the first stop on our current US tour. Here’s Eleanor:
“After eight hours on a plane followed by three in a car, there’s nothing like a good dose of American hospitality to cheer us up and help us shrug off the jetlag. That’s exactly what we got when we arrived into Westerly, RI, on Saturday, and were greeted by our team of friendly hosts. After a well-needed early night, members of the Chorus of Westerly treated us to sumptuous breakfasts and scenic tours of the coast before our morning rehearsal.
“Having spent many a day practising over the past few months, our new programme was finally ready to be unveiled. Devised specially for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, this programme includes settings of Shakespeare texts together with pieces celebrating the reigns of his chief patrons, Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. It includes a couple of contemporary pieces which were written especially for us: Huw Watkins’ The Phoenix and the Turtle, and Nico Muhly’s Gentle Sleep, both commissioned by the Wigmore Hall. We were delighted to discover that we were giving the US premiere of Gentle Sleep in Nico Muhly’s home state, and with his parents there to witness it!
“The afternoon had a rather magical feel to it, partly because of the concert hall’s lovely resonant acoustic and the crowds who flocked in at the last minute to see us, but also because of the snow which gently started to fall as we sang our songs, madrigals and anthems. When we emerged into the cold fresh air, we were rather surprised to see the town covered with a beautiful white blanket, snowflakes still swirling in the air.
“Our audience included many members of the Westerly Chorus, and the following evening it was our chance to listen to their performance instead. They are soon to record their first ever CD, so Andrew and I attended a rehearsal and coached them on some of the Vaughan Williams anthems that they’ve been preparing. It was wonderful to work with such a friendly and responsive group; the evening’s exercises involved plenty of silly noises, flailing hands, and carrying furniture around, but the singers humoured us by approaching all of them with open-minded enthusiasm!
“Afterwards, many of us headed to the local pub, where we joined the rest of Stile in celebrating Will’s birthday. It’s rare that we get a day on tour which involves neither singing nor travelling, but Will was lucky that he’d had an entire day off to celebrate his advancing age. Prior to dinner and drinks, members of the group had set out to see the sights or Rhode Island and Connecticut, which included submarine Nautilus, Mystic’s aquarium, and the mansions of Newport.
“All in all, it was the perfect way to relax before our long journey to DC the following day…”