Synergy represented by

Micaela Haslam, Amanda Morrison, Rachel Weston, Heather Cairncross
Andrew Busher, Gerard O’Beirne, Gabriel Gottlieb, Paul Charrier

“Well, it was touch and go as to whether we’d have any sopranos at all for La Commedia. Poor Mandy got caught up in the US visa system, so by the time Will and I flew to LA on 6th April she still didn’t know whether she’d be coming on this tour or not. Then I went and got a lurgie which got worse and worse, to the point when around 9th April, I couldn’t even speak, never mind sing. Thanks goodness our first “alto”, Rachel, is a soprano in disguise. She was on standby to be the only soprano in the piece – with no rehearsal. No pressure, then! In the meantime, Will and I tried our best to enjoy our few days “holiday” in LA. The Millennium Biltmore hotel is in the downtown area – not quite the same as downtown New York. In LA, everyone goes home to the suburbs after work, so the centre of town is all but dead. That said, there are a few eateries dotted about and, thankfully, a marvellous wholefood store (Ralph’s) where we could stock up on fresh fruit and cereal etc. The Millennium Biltmore used to play host to the Oscars in the early days, and its lavish public rooms have provided the setting for many films, including Ghostbusters, True Lies, Independence Day, Ocean’s 11 and many others. Even the underground pool, modelled on the decks of 1920s luxury cruise-ships such as the Queen Mary, has starred in the movies.

Millennium Biltmore lobby

Filming in the bar

During the day, downtown LA seems to be one big film set. Only in LA-LA Land do you find a couple of enormous pristine Fresian cows hanging around outside a coffee bar. Most streets in this area of LA have been featured at some time or other in Heroes of course (sadly we didn’t bump into Zachary Quinto) – and occasionally you even find yourself in a movie.

Cows on film

Downtown LA

Smile - you're on camera!

We spent a lovely day in Long Beach where we saw preparations for the upcoming Grand Prix, and of course the Queen Mary. It’s unquestionably a wonderful old ship, but we weren’t convinced that its current owners are making the best of it. It is part tourist attraction and part hotel, neither of which seems to be managed with much vision, sadly. The tour is non-existent. You just get lost and stumble into the occasional interesting room or artefact. If I were staying there, I’d hope to experience the glamour of the original ship – not a slightly tacky coffee bar stuck on to one of the decks. Still, the history of the ship is fascinating (best to look up online before you go) and it’s wonderful to imagine all the stars and royalty promenading round the decks.

The Queen Mary

The Promenade Deck

On the way home, our train went past what seemed to be a training yard for telephone mast workers – fascinating!

We also managed to catch up with an ex-Swingle colleague, Jenny Fowler, who lives and works in LA and whom I hadn’t seen for over 15 years – eek! Kimberley Akester (also in the Swingles with us) was staying with Jenny so we got together for a good catch-up, despite the fact that I could only whisper!

Micaela, Jenny and Kimberley

Finally the rest of the gang came out to LA, including Mandy – hurrah! – whose visa had finally shown up the day before she was due to fly. I find it incredible that after all the years we’ve spent to-ing and fro-ing across the Atlantic to do concerts, the US Embassy still have to drag us through the bureaucratic, patronising, officious, nightmare that is the P1 visa application. Surely, after 10 (or even 20!) approved P1 visas, you should be entitled to a life-long version?

Disney Hall

Rehearsing in Disney Hall

Disney Hall is one of my favourite buildings in the world. Designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 2003, it looks as though it’s made of tin foil, twisted into wave-like shapes that reflect the sun like a mirror. It’s stunning on the outside and, I’m very happy to say, equally amazing on the inside. I really enjoy singing here, even with amplified sound. It’s truly a wonderful space. Fortunately for me there was only one day’s rehearsal. Having taken every vocal remedy that Ralph’s and Rite-Aid had to offer (and believe me, there are many!), my larynx crawled slowly back to life as D-day approached. I sang as little as I could get away with during the rehearsal. I’d decided to go for it in the concert on the basis that my voice would either work or it wouldn’t. Goodness knows where the top Db came from at the end of the piece, but it was there. (It would have been even better if the batteries in our radio mics hadn’t packed up by then, but that’s another story!) The orchestra played brilliantly, as ever. La Commedia is a real tour de force for the conductor and players but it’s worth all the effort. It’s a fantastic piece. The soloists, as ever, rose to the occasion, making this concert version (in my opinion) even better than the original production in Amsterdam. The music is so strong, it holds its own without staging and screens, though I was glad to see surtitles for the audience as the piece is in 4 different languages.

Everyone seemed pleased with the show so, flushed with success, we all headed to the nearest Irish Bar for several beers in preparation for our flight to New York the following morning.”

Post concert Synergy


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