August 6, 2011

Liblog: USA Tour 2011 - Part Two

Friday was a ‘concert day’ for us. A ‘concert day’ consists of relaxation in the morning, followed by a big lunch and a sound check in the afternoon. In the morning we went to the Minneapolis Media Institute, where we saw loads of iMacs, mixing desks, and tons of electronic music gear where students learn how to mix a song for release on radio or CD. It was really good and interesting, particularly for us boys who are interested in carrying on and using these for our own ends eventually. We were also treated to a mini jazz concert performed by Paul Peterson - who had been the conductor at the Starkey concert - playing bass, his mother (an amazing jazz pianist), Simon (our drummer who specialises in jazz), and the famous singer Tom Tipton! So it was a great, music-packed morning. But the afternoon yielded only our musical fruit, for we had a sound check and a concert to do. The venue for this concert was the Cathedral of Saint Paul. What a beautiful building. Honestly, it was so grand, so spacious, and the acoustic was fantastic. It really added to our ethereal sound; plainsong-based songs like Lamentione and Te Lucis really stood out and sounded magical. And we had an excellent turnout, considering the size of the place! It was a very successful concert. Well, that was two concerts down, and a gala performance. The next day we drove up to Chicago, Illinois. It took most of the day, but it wasn’t so bad; we had Happy Feet on DVD to watch, besides many more films, and a few people (like myself) slept throughout. Except for lunch, where we stopped off at our beloved Cracker Barrel. If it has not been aforementioned, the Cracker Barrel is our favourite stop-off place on long-haul coach journeys. Anyway, when we got close enough we could see the Willis and John Hancock towers peaking out over the horizon. Another amazing thing we experienced in Chicago was the Ritz Hotel where we stayed – whose chain, Four Seasons, have given us a lot of help for the whole tour. Even luxury is not a luxurious enough word to describe the place! It was posh down to the shaving cream and little tubs of complimentary shampoo! And the view from every window was amazing – but that is because Chicago is a beautiful city.

We woke up quite early on Sunday morning to go to the Moody Church. It was a spectacular and unusual church; it’s shaped like a big tent, like the ones D. L. Moody used to preach in in the 1800s. It’s got quite a low ceiling, but it’s very wide and sort of domed. And it’s also made out of brick, which are a very humble material to make a church out of. We were there to sing a few things in the service: Gloria, Exultate, Glory to Thee and How Shall I Sing. They all went down very well with the congregation. Everyone there was so welcoming and it made us feel less nervous when up on stage. The rest of the day was normal ‘concert day’ routine, and we did a concert in the Rockefeller chapel, near where President Barrack Obama grew up. We saw some faces from the service in the morning at the concert, which was encouraging, and also our faithful fans who are always there. That concert went smoothly as well, and the grandeur of the place certainly enriched the atmosphere.
The next day was a fairly late start, followed by a trip to the big Science Museum in Chicago. We spent most of the day there, because it was so big – and we STILL didn’t manage to see everything! One really cool part was a toy-making machine, and you could make your own gyroscope-spinning-top-type-thing (I don’t really know what it is, but when it spins on the inside the outside remains still and it can balance on a fine tip). That was really cool. There was also a really interesting exhibition on the U-boats used by the Nazis in WWII, and there was an enormous one in another room, which the Americans had captured. It was all really interesting and lots of fun; most of it was interactive, so you really felt like you were a part of what was going on.

After the Museum we went on a 90-minute boat ride down the Chicago river. It’s amazing – if you’re in Chicago, I would recommend it! To your left and right there are fantastic buildings, and then you go out from the lock into the lake where you can see the whole of Chicago – we went just as the sun touched the horizon, which was really beautiful. Afterwards we went to a buffet where two women had an argument towards the end, and one threw a chair so the police were called, which wasn’t so beautiful. But it was funny from a safe distance!