5 February, 2018
Stile Antico at the GRAMMYs
What on earth would persuade Stile Antico to fly across the Atlantic for a five-minute performance? Katie’s 30th birthday, of course… oh, and the 60th GRAMMY Awards! Becky and Ben sent this report about a thoroughly surreal weekend.
Brunch at The Breslin, Manhattan
Nine different aeroplanes had brought us to this meeting place for the most glamorous long weekend ever. The menu was eclectic, with harissa braised kale, curried lentils with poached eggs, seafood sausage and sourdough pancakes… but I digress. This was not the main focus of our weekend, delicious though the food was. We were there not only to perform at the 60th Grammy Awards Premiere Ceremony, but also as nominees in the Best Small Ensemble Performance category!
After brunch we headed straight to Madison Square Garden to our soundcheck in the Theater. This took almost an hour as it is not a performing space that naturally lends itself to sixteenth-century church music, so there was a lot of fiddling with mics, twiddling of knobs and to-ing and fro-ing between auditorium and production truck before we arrived at the right sound (which seemed to involve moving the mics further away from us. No offence taken!).
The afternoon was then dedicated to collecting all the paraphernalia needed for an event like this. First came our glitzy, shiny tickets and red carpet passes…
…and then a selection gifts from the ‘Grammy Gift Lounge’ for ‘Talent’ as we were so dubbed.
Thoroughly excited from this whirlwind of activities, we headed back to our digs, some of us in Airbnb accommodation, others of us staying with friends [note to self, must cultivate some of these NY friends] to glam up for the evening’s Nominees Reception at the Ziegfeld Ballroom.
The Reception was crammed with all the many hopefuls from the 84 categories of awards and there was a real buzz in the room. There was a wonderful jazz band made up of 18 talented student musicians culled from across America, who had only gathered together for the first time a few days before, and there were yet MORE gifts to collect at this event! First, an impressive medal made of bronze imprinted with the words “GRAMMY Nominee” and then a special lapel pin for each member of the group courtesy of Tiffany & Co!
After picking up a cocktail from the bar – which ran the length of the enormous ballroom – we were asked to head to the pop-up studio for an official group photo. After a dozen photos we went back to join the party, only to be told by our sheepish photographer that he’d accidentally pressed delete! So back we all went!
Sunday – the Big Day
Suited and booted, we arrived at Madison Square Garden for the Premiere Ceremony. Our two assistants ducked in and out of the dressing rooms talking into their radio headsets like secret service agents, and after some serious time in hair and makeup (mainly the boys, obviously), it was time to go down to the backstage area. The nervous excitement was palpable as we queued up waiting for the signal to go on… and suddenly we found ourselves walking out in front of a huge audience with lights and cameras trained on us. We sang just two pieces, Byrd’s Ave Maria and Gaudete in Domino by Giaches De Wert as they projected pictures of cathedral cloisters and stained glass to help set the scene!
And then we were backstage again waiting for the winner of our category to be announced. It was nail biting stuff, but in the end the award went to Patricia Kopatchinskaja for her album Death and the Maiden. The disappointment didn’t last long, however, and we were soon changing into our black tie for the rest of the evening’s events.
First stop, the Red Carpet! We were given the full superstar treatment, paraded in front of groups of photographers who dutifully snapped away, but we got the impression they were slightly more interested in the next customer down the conveyor belt – Lady Gaga!!
Then it was time for the evening awards ceremony at the gigantic Madison Square Garden stadium, more commonly associated with big-ticket basketball games.
After a decidedly C-list pizza dinner, we were shown to our ‘Gold tier’ seats (RRP $1,200!) and settled in for the show. It was amazing to see a live show with so many different acts in one evening. There were three stage areas, dozens of set changes and extraordinary lighting and projections throughout. And of course there were the awards! A good night for Bruno Mars and others, but some high profile upsets, including Jay-Z, who left empty handed despite eight nominations.
When the ceremony was over around 11.30pm (4.30am according to our body clocks) we staggered uptown to the Marriott Marquis hotel for the after-party. It was no small operation admitting thousands of guests to the party through airport-style security, but we eventually got in to find the event spread over two floors. Nile Rogers performed classics on a big stage, while the amazing bigband played on the floor below. All in all, a fittingly glamorous end to an incredible trip!