New York (May 2014)

Synergy represented by (L-R): Michael Dore, Micaela Haslam, Heather Cairncross, Andrew Busher


“Will and I flew to New York the day before the rest of the team, and a day before my birthday, in order to enjoy a free day in the Big Apple together.  Our visits to the USA seem to come in waves.  Not having been at all for three years, this was our second of four trips across the Atlantic in 2014.

View from hotel


The lovely view that greeted us from the hotel window in the morning was bathed in sunshine, and we headed out to make the most of it.  The first place I was determined to visit was Ground Zero.  I’m pleased to say that I had seen nothing in the news of what had finally been built on the site so had no idea what to expect.  I knew that various ideas had been proffered, but hadn’t kept up with the proceedings.  Anyway, my hopes were far exceeded by the breathtaking waterfalls in the footprints of the original twin towers.


Inscribed panels around the edge

9/11 Memorial Pool












Having witnessed the devastation soon after the awful event (Heather and I were in New York just a couple of weeks later, when the site was still burning), it was wonderful to see this beautiful, tranquil, respectful memorial to those killed in the 9/11 attacks.  I would strongly urge anyone visiting New York to make it their first port of call.  Its simplicity is incredibly moving – with the water falling (a long way!) down into the granite squares, then again into another central well.  There’s something very poignant about the fact that you can’t see the bottom of the inner well, wherever you stand around the pool.  It’s as though the water just disappears into nothingness.  All the names of the victims are stencil-cut in bronze around the sides, and this has also been done so beautifully – with friends’ and colleagues’ names carefully placed together, as they were in life.  Each panel is numbered, so that you can easily find any name you might be looking for.  Next time, we’ll definitely make a booking to go into the museum.  Mike Dore did that very thing later in the week, staying for several hours – transfixed by the stories of those who lost their lives so tragically.

Having paid our respects, our next pilgrimage was, of course, to our favourite bridge.


Brooklyn Bridge

View from the walkway










When the others arrived, our first rehearsal in the Lincoln Center was for the singers alone – four Synergites and the inimitable Rinde Eckert, who has a voice like no other!  Rinde can sing baritone, tenor, alto and soprano – the high stuff more like an opera singer than a choirboy.  He also has a wonderful speaking voice and stage presence, but best of all, he’s a really lovely bloke!


Rinde & Micaela

It was great to see Rinde again – and of course our guitarist friends in Catch (Patricio Wang, Seth Josel, Mark Haanstra, and the “new boy” Aart Strootman).  As usual on a Dreamhouse tour, we nine “soloists” arranged a group dinner with Steve Mackey the night before the gig (actually two nights before in this case, as we didn’t want to risk any alcoholic after-effects on such an important occasion).  Boosey & Hawkes were in town, making a documentary about Steve, and they came along to film us all at the meal.  They asked us to “just relax and look natural”, which wasn’t very difficult as we were all genuinely excited about our New York premiere, and pleased to see each other.  I imagine the flowing wine also helped with the relaxing bit.  Goodness knows what B&H picked up from the various conversations in the room – I think we covered everything from musical matters to ski-ing, village fetes, world population and bacon flavoured chocolate!  Speaking of which….

This was a particularly special week for me, as my old friend Georgee Corley Wiley had arranged to fly up from Atlanta to see us.  I stayed with Georgee on a school music “exchange” when I was 15 years old (about a hundred years ago).  Georgee had been to Newcastle the previous year, but hadn’t stayed with me because I wasn’t at the school in question.  I just tagged along on the exchange because they needed a bassoonist – lucky for me.  Anyway, I still clearly remember the wonderful time I had in Decatur with Georgee and her family.  I remember her mum Jeanette in particular, because she was so sweet and motherly – always trying to feed me new things like grits, bacon with maple syrup, and iced tea.  The whole family was just great – Mom and Dad with four kids (Ed, John, Georgee and Lori) and Elvis the dog – in a three bedroomed white clapboard house.  I instantly thought of The Waltons (which co-incidentally I loved at the time!).  It was so good of Georgee to travel all the way from Atlanta to New York to see us.  She very bravely came to both concerts (never having been to anything like it), and we thoroughly enjoyed hanging out and catching up.  And she made us eat some bacon chocolate!


Georgee & Micaela

We were lucky enough to be able to rehearse on the stage at Avery Fisher where the concert was to be held – so we could get used to the staging and the sound.  I threw a minor spanner in the works by requesting (at short notice – sorry!) that we four be moved slightly upstage behind the violins.  On previous occasions, all nine of us were in a line across the front of the stage, but the problem was that the people on the far right (Andy and Mike) couldn’t see the conductor at all without turning 90 degrees side-on to the audience.  It’s very tricky to sing like that when the microphone is on a stand in front of you – and it doesn’t look great from the audience’s point of view.  The stage crew were very accommodating and, though we were a little bit squashed, it was definitely a better arrangement.



Jayce Ogren was at the helm, and was extremely well-prepared.  Dreamhouse is quite densely scored so needs to be carefully balanced by the conductor.  There are also some very tricky corners for the players, but the New York Philharmonic made light work of them.  We were delighted to be back at the Lincoln Center with this amazing orchestra – and to see some familiar faces, both in the orchestra and on the administrative team.  We had two performances on consecutive nights, which is always great.  It sometimes seems as though you put such a lot into the preparation of a piece, then the concert is over in a flash.  It’s a rare treat to be able to have a second go – and I think it also takes the pressure off the first night a little bit.


Dreamhouse formed the second half of the concert, the first being Anthracite Fields by Julia Wolfe.  I felt a little bit sorry for Steve Mackey having to follow such a gritty large-scale piece.  There was a huge amount for the audience to take in – but I’m pleased to say that Dreamhouse received an extremely warm reception on both nights (as did Julia’s piece).  It was great to hear Rinde and Catch in top form, and to work with an orchestra and a conductor that made our job so much easier.  Andy Busher was on the Dreamhouse team for the first time (Rob Kearley having retired from singing a couple of years ago – now a very successful opera director), and he did a brilliant job, as usual.  I’m so grateful to him, and to the other Synergy singers who are so diligent and reliable.  There’s a lot to be said for having a few years’ experience behind you!  We were all rewarded by copious amounts of champagne in our dressing rooms (thanks so much to the New York Philharmonic and the Lincoln Center – very generous and much appreciated).

There was one final sunny day to enjoy in New York before our evening flight home.  The obvious choice was a nice stroll through Central Park.  Where better to sit and have lunch, and enjoy a spot of people watching?



Lunch in the park

Central Park












So farewell to New York for now, but we’ll be back in September for a Steve Reich/Philip Glass spectacular at BAM.   We hope to see you there.”





Barbican, London

These New Puritans  Field of Reeds
with The Heritage Orchestra conducted by Edwin Outwater

April 2014


“The Synergy Vocal Ensemble is particularly thrilling, as they sometime pick up on Jack Barnett’s phrase endings and bring them to another level entirely. The whole thing sounds powerful and effortless.”

In Between the Tracks


“Synergy Vocals added an alluring if never merely cosmetic sheen”

Classical Source

Miami Beach (February 2014)

Synergy represented by:

L-R: Michael Dore, Micaela Haslam, Simon Grant, Tom Bullard,
Amanda Morrison, Gerard O’Beirne, Rachel Weston, Heather Cairncross

“We couldn’t have picked a better time to go to Miami – 26ᴼC and sunny, while the UK was more or less under water!  The New World Symphony Orchestra had kindly offered us apartments in the “Musicians’ Village” (named by me), where the orchestral players live.  This enabled Will and I to have a few extra days in the February sunshine.  Just what the doctor ordered!

Our apartment neighbours consisted of a very friendly percussionist on one side, and a very diligent pianist on the other.  We didn’t mind her practising at all because she was really very good.  There was one amusing afternoon, however, when she was practising the opening of the 5th movement of Sinfonia over and over again.  It is a tricky solo moment for her, me and the flautist, but enough was enough.  So I joined in with my solo from the other side of the apartment wall – that did the trick!

Everglade airboats

Having walked and cycled the length and breadth of Art Deco Miami Beach, and with a whole free day to ourselves, Will and I decided on a visit to the Everglades and a trip on an airboat, so that we could pretend we were in Miami Vice.  As you might expect, the set-up is a bit touristy, with a shop and a café and an alligator “show”, and I wasn’t surprised to see (just by this walkway on the right of the picture), a huge replica of an alligator in the water (presumably to make the tourists go “ooh look!”).  I resisted the urge to reach down and touch it, which was just as well as, when we returned from our airboat ride, the same massive alligator “replica” was sunning itself on the slipway!


We met a few of his slightly smaller friends whilst out on the water, including this character (N.B. picture taken by Will, without zoom, with boat engine switched off – and me crouched on the other side of Will!)










As we were staying just a few blocks from the venue, we headed down to New World Center to check out this amazing new building – a collaboration between Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and Frank Gehry (who of course designed the amazing Walt Disney Hall in LA).  NWC was purpose-built as the home of the New World Symphony Orchestra, and it houses a fabulous state-of-the-art concert hall where these top-notch postgraduate orchestral players can hone their skills and continue to learn from the best conductors and international orchestral players.


We bumped into Anna – my main contact in putting this concert together – and she and Maydela (MTT’s very cute puppy), gave us a guided tour of this fabulous building.  I was particularly envious of MTT’s office and meeting room at the top of the building – just next to the roof-top garden.  I know where I’d spend most of my time if I worked here!


Listening in to players’ rehearsal

MTT invited me to the orchestral rehearsal the following morning, where I bumped into three familiar faces from LSO who were in Miami to coach the “fellows” – a lovely surprise.  After a very productive and delightfully collaborative rehearsal, Michael then invited us over to his amazing water-side house for dinner – along with some of the “fellows” and NWS associates.  I don’t know how MTT finds the time to do all he does.  Such generous entertaining was way beyond the call of duty – but how very lovely!

A bit of Art Deco – Miami style

It was a real pleasure to rehearse with MTT and these wonderful players.  Michael asked me to chat a bit about each movement just before we rehearsed it.  It’s great to do pre- and post-concert talks about Sinfonia but it’s even better to be able to share our knowledge with the players, having performed the piece so many times over so many years.

After a strenuous afternoon in Macy’s, a lovely Italian meal and lashings of key-lime-pie-cheesecake-ice-cream (gorgeous!), the concert day was upon us.  Miami Beach was pretty busy by this stage, as it was in the throes of the annual boat show.  Once upon a job, Will used to sell boats.  He reckons that owning a boat is like standing in a cold shower tearing up £10 notes!  That said, I reckon I’d settle for this one if I had to.

Micaela’s boat

The first half of the concert consisted of several small-scale pieces by Scelsi (my favourite being the one for flute and oboe – never thought I’d say that! – it was played so beautifully) and Berio’s Linea for 2 pianos and 2 percussionists (starring BOTH my neighbours) – very impressive.  Then, at the beginning of Sinfonia, MTT chatted to the audience about the piece, and we were treated to a short film about one of the “fellows” (a great idea to promote the orchestra, showing the players as individuals with personalities, funny stories etc).

A fine job was done by all and Sinfonia was warmly received.  Michael had made a small mistake in the 1st movement (I bet no-one even noticed), so when he came back on for his 2nd bow he turned to the audience and announced that he’d like us all to play that movement again.  This was an admirably selfless gesture.  He clearly wanted this performance of such an iconic piece to be as good as it could be for these young players.  I think we should repeat the first movement in every performance of Sinfonia.  Everyone’s much more relaxed the 2nd time round!

Taking a bow

A roof-top reception followed, during which time we chatted up as many of the NWS associates as we could, in an effort to persuade them to employ a resident group of 8 professional singers.  You never know…

Art Deco sunset

Finally, MTT invited us all to attend the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra concerts on the South Bank in March.

We all went along to the marathon that is Mahler 3 yesterday (March 16th).  It was a triumph, received with a standing ovation and much cheering.  MTT was marvellous, and “man of the match” definitely went to the principal trumpet – brilliant.  “Women and children of the match” were the ladies of the LSO chorus and the boys of St Paul’s Cathedral, who all sang from memory and were incredibly well-disciplined.  They did us Brits proud!

So, same time next year in Miami Beach….?”


Royal Festival Hall, London

Steve Reich  Music for 18 Musicians
with The Colin Currie Group coached by Micaela Haslam

November 2013


“As for this performance – it’s hard to imagine any better. The sound setup by Sound Intermedia was exemplary, and the ensemble played with focus and ease. This was apparently Currie’s first time performing the piece, but you wouldn’t have guessed, and his ensemble were brilliantly drilled and bursting with enthusiasm. Synergy Vocals has the best CV for this repertoire, and their contribution was unsurprisingly excellent as well. During the performance, I was caught between gazing in amazement at the focus of the players and the complexity of their task, and shutting my eyes and basking in the sound they made”



The concert culminated “in a magnificent account of Music for 18 Musicians

The Independent


“The performance of Music for 18 Musicians (1974-76) after the interval that saw the Colin Currie Group team up with Synergy Vocals was as fine a rendition of this work as you could hope for. Conductorless and fluid, it is a work where all must play their part, covering backs, swapping places, listening out for correct entries and exits. The ensemble were as attentive as I have ever seen a group of musicians.  Synergy Vocals were especially outstanding in delivering those tricky rhythmic calls, but everyone played their part.”


“The performance was technically impeccable and musically overwhelming; richly deserving of the lengthy standing ovation.”

The Guardian


KKL, Lucerne

Steve Reich The Desert Music
with Lucerne Academy Orchestra conducted by David Robertson

August 2013

“a high-precision account of Steve Reich’s 45-minute “Desert Music”….. it was a revelation when words came through like a beacon”

The New York Times

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Luciano Berio Sinfonia
with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ilan Volkov

(Edinburgh Festival) August 2013

“what a concert…. with the shining vocal group, Synergy Vocals …..a cracking night”

Herald Scotland


“In the inner circle of the huge orchestra sat eight members of the excellent Synergy Vocals, microphones in hand.  If you ever have the chance to hear this piece live, you may, like me, wonder how the vocalists pitch their opening note-cluster with little obvious reference.  Perfect pitch or amazing memory seem the only options.  As impressive as the singing was the impeccable timing of the spoken word, while retaining natural speech rhythms…This excellent and committed performance went down a storm.”

Bachtrack (Alan Coady, 12Aug13)


Gdynia (July 2013)

Synergy represented by:

L-R: Amanda Morrison, Micaela Haslam, (Jonny Greenwood!!),
Heather Cairncross, Caroline Jaya-Ratnam


“Steve Reich (playing piano 4 in Music for 18, as usual) was due to meet us in Poland at the sound check.  Meanwhile, the day before our performance Mandy, Heather, Caroline and I flew to Frankfurt for a brief “music minus one” rehearsal with Ensemble Modern at their rehearsal studio.  Having concluded that we all knew Music for 18 Musicians rather well, we went out for a very nice lunch and headed back to Frankfurt airport for our group flight to Gdansk.


Ueli (piano 2) and Jurgen (piano 3) in EM’s
Frankfurt rehearsal studio

It was a nice surprise to see Jonny Greenwood on our Dinky plane to Gdansk. He was due to play Electric Counterpoint just before us in the gig, having performed the piece with us in Krakow a couple of years ago.  He had since re-recorded the guitar tracks (because he thought they could be better) and played the piece in Sydney. Electric Counterpoint is quite a way outside the comfort zone of his Radiohead fans, and I really admire him for doing it at all.  He’s clearly a big Steve Reich fan and definitely “gets” Steve’s music.

So, after a free evening and a leisurely morning in Gdansk, we headed over to the Open’er Festival stadium to meet Steve and have a sound check.  It was a beautiful day and we were very excited with our “access all areas” backstage festival passes.  I just wish I could have been out front to hear Music for 18 through this sound system – it must have been amazing!


What a stack!

What a stack!

Mandy and Caroline have arrived

















The main stage is a somewhat precarious place to be at events like this, as each crew seems only concerned with the destination of its own gear – no matter who might be standing in the way.  Finally we managed to get ourselves set up and played through a few sections of the piece to check that the microphones, foldback and speakers were all doing what they were
supposed to be doing.


Steve warming up

Steve warming up

Clearing away the Kings' kit

Clearing away the Kings’ kit






Steve looked like a very cool dude – clearly born to be a rock star!


My view from the stage

My view from the stage

As we rehearsed, I watched the bouncers being briefed for the evening. Having seen them in action, I now realise what an important (and precarious) role they were to play in the proceedings.


Mandy on a blow-up Chesterfield

Mandy on a blow-up Chesterfield

Artists' sandpit

Artists’ sandpit









Mandy and I decided to hang around for the rest of the day.  Our chill-out on these deckchairs was somewhat short-lived.  Just after this photo was taken, my chair collapsed and I threw my cup of coffee all over my shirt! The blow-up Chesterfield sofas were hilarious.  This hangar was kitted out with several suites of blow-up Chesterfields and lots of potted palm trees. Unfortunately, there were also a gazillion swallows’ nests up in the roof, so several large nets had been suspended to catch the stuff you’d rather not have land on your head.  It was still wise to check the floor and the chairs before sitting down!



It was fascinating to watch all the comings and goings of the various artists, their entourages, the press etc.  The Kings of Leon all arrived in separate cars (don’t they like each other?), and at one point Rihanna wandered through to chat with them.  One of the crew tried to take her photo but she had a man with a special light machine that made sure he wouldn’t get a decent photo.  What a crazy world she lives in.


Corridor for squashed girls











Following a support band or two, we went down to the main stage to hear some of the Kings of Leon set.  It was sheer madness beyond the bouncers, yet we could just wander comfortably around backstage – that felt a bit weird, though very nice weird!  Just in front of the stage, we watched the bouncers pulling girl after girl from the crowd, sending them running down this corridor back into the edge of the crowd.  A few of them were hauled out (rather unceremoniously) unconscious and there were medical teams on hand with stretchers.

The band did sound great and I liked some of their songs.  Caleb Followill probably wouldn’t thank me for this observation, but I reckon there’s a hint of Phil Collins in his voice.  Have a listen and see what you think….


Ready for action in our dressing room


Finally, we were driven down to the stage to watch Jonny perform, before going straight into Music for 18.


Jonny in action

Jonny in action

It takes some guts to go onto a stage straight after Kings of Leon and play Electric Counterpoint, but that’s just what Jonny did – and extremely well. Steve Reich was down at the sound desk with the marvellous Norbert Ommer, and at one point even punched the air as he was so delighted with what he was hearing.

Then finally, well after midnight, it was our turn.  Although it was very exciting to be where we were, it was bleedin’ freezin’ on that stage!  All the warmth of the day’s sun had well and truly evaporated, and the stage seemed to act as a giant wind tunnel.  In fact it was so windy that most of us had large sheets of Perspex over the music and/or clothes pegs pinning the music to the stand.

The audience was great – many treating Music for 18 as a connected “set”, clapping in the links between sections where the texture thins out.  I reckon that made all of us think about the piece in a new way – very refreshing!

So, Glastonbury next year perhaps?  We asked Jonny if he could put a word in…..”


Paris (May 2013)

Synergy represented by


L-R: Simon Grant, Michael Dore, Tom Bullard, Heather Cairncross, Rachel Weston, Gerry O’Beirne, Amanda Morrison, Micaela Haslam

“This was Tom’s first Sinfonia with Synergy and it was great to have him on the team, as always. We had no rehearsal before heading to Brussels, so it must have been a bit strange for Gerry singing with a completely new desk partner at the first orchestral rehearsal. Tom has sung tenor 2 in Sinfonia a gazillion times, so we knew there’d be no problem – which of course there wasn’t – but it’s always good to keep everyone on their toes!

We all prefer to take the Eurostar to the continent when possible – no airport hassle to contend with – and this journey was as delightfully quick and straightforward as ever. We headed first of all to Brussels to rehearse with the Brussels Philharmonic, before continuing to Paris the following day. We had a very fine people-carrier waiting for us at Brussels Midi. The only downside was that no-one had told us where to find the driver. We kept our eyes peeled at arrivals for someone with a sign, then headed for the taxi pick-up area – no-one there for us either. Finally we found our man (after several phone calls to and from Brussels Phil) standing in front of Sam’s Café – nowhere near the Eurostar arrivals, nor indeed the taxi rank, so an interesting choice…. Still, we finally got to our hotel which was the main thing. Unfortunately, we had virtually no turnaround time before our singers’ rehearsal with the conductor. Our driver-scouting had used up precious time, and the traffic in the centre of Brussels was awful. Apparently, François Hollande was in town, so the whole place was gridlocked. I know it’s not exactly strenuous sitting on a train for a few hours, but I always feel as though I need at least an hour’s chill-out time before starting work after a long journey. I think it’s something to do with getting into the right head space – or is that just me? Anyway, ‘twas not to be on this occasion.

We hailed 2 cabs to the rehearsal venue, which was only about 3 km away, but about 30 mins in this appalling traffic. Heather, Mike, Rachel and I had a kamikaze taxi driver who whizzed through petrol stations to jump queues, pushed into any space bigger than a foot, and even drove down the middle of the road towards an oncoming tram at one point. Fortunately, he managed to squeeze back into the line of traffic before we were taken on a ride back up the road attached to the front of a tram.

The conductor, Michel Tabachnik, went through a few sections of the piece with us, a cappella. After about 10 minutes he declared that we didn’t need that rehearsal. That’s all very well, but I could have had my hour’s chill-out in my hotel room! Anyway, we cracked on with the tutti rehearsal and finished in time to head out for a very nice meal just around the corner from our hotel – easy staggering distance back to our rooms.


Sam’s Café


The following morning, we headed back to Brussels Midi to take the train to Paris, only to discover that our train was delayed by an hour – another hour I could have spent in my hotel room (actually the Mercure Hotel in Brussels wasn’t great – I had an incredibly noisy room, so I wasn’t missing it). Having done the round of the station shops, we camped back in old Sam’s Café, until our train finally showed. Thalys provided a substantial packed lunch on the train because it had been delayed. You wouldn’t get that in the UK!

Finally we got to Paris and to our hotel (Hotel Mercure directly opposite the Cité de la Musique – previously a Holiday Inn) – just in time to head straight out to the sound check! Once again, no rest for the singers. Having got the monitor levels sorted out, we retired to the hotel while the orchestra played through Mahler 1, then returned for the Sinfonia run-through. I know that things always sound different when the orchestra gets going and the front of house speakers are mixed in, but I’ll never understand how (stored) monitor levels can change so radically from one rehearsal to the next. I spent most of this final rehearsal running to and from the sound desk because monitors were too low / completely off / individual voices were sticking out etc. Michel kindly chose to ignore my comings and goings, and we seemed to get everything sorted in the end – fingers crossed!


Simon & Tom – cool, calm and collected before the gig


I’m happy to report that all was well for the concert. The monitor levels were good and the team performed well. There’s always a corner or two (different every time) that I’d like to improve on but, all in all, I was pleased with what we did. We were sitting among the players for this performance (often the singers are arranged directly in front of the conductor), with the sopranos and tenors on the outside. It’s not what we were expecting, but actually I rather enjoyed it. It’s nice to feel like a member of the orchestra, rather than being stuck at the front, and I felt as though we had built up a good rapport with the players after our two days together.


Post concert dinner


Best of all, Sinfonia was first in the programme, so we had plenty of time to enjoy a good meal (and a kir royale or two) in a delightful restaurant across the road!”


Amsterdam & Leeds (March 2013)

Synergy represented by:

L-R: Tom Bullard, Heather Cairncross, Micaela Haslam, Andrew Busher

“We all met in London – at St Giles in the Barbican – on the day we were travelling to Amsterdam. The four of us had had a rehearsal a couple of weeks earlier with Andrew Greenan who was stepping bravely into Brindley Sherratt’s shoes to sing the role of Christus. This was now the first meeting of the whole team, so Andrew really had to hit the ground running. There’s no recording of the piece (a luxury we’re all so used to these days when learning new music) so this was a tough gig for him, with very little tutti rehearsal. Andrew was sweetly self-deprecating, but actually did extremely well. It turns out that he and I sang Jephtha together at Manchester University about 100 years ago – small world. He assured me that he wasn’t a stalker though, or indeed “Mr Memory” from a travelling circus – he’d simply found the programme in his score.



Will Conway steered us all cheerfully and calmly through the piece, and we headed off to Amsterdam with renewed confidence. We were staying at The Mövenpick Hotel, right next door to the Muziekgebouw – always a happy experience. Most of the gang headed straight to the hotel bar to enjoy a beer or two.

Beer for ladies

Beer sizes










Which one of these is for the lady, I wonder….? Some of the ladies I go on tour with can drink the boys under the table! I did the sensible thing and headed straight to my room. Still suffering from a horrid incessant dry cough, I thought my “tower of isolation” [©John Milner – sonic sculptor] would be the best option the night before a concert, and of course I had this offer from the hotel to put to the test……!


Promises, promises!

After a splendid breakfast and a chill-out morning, we met for the balance/rehearsal. The Muziekgebouw has wonderful (adjustable) acoustics, and we opted for a more resonant sound. To my mind, Since it Was the Day of Preparation….. works best in a church, but a concert hall like this is the perfect alternative. We put Andy and Tom up in the galleries for their long recit solos.


Tom Bullard doing his thing

This looked great – at least it would have done if Andy’s spotlight hadn’t blown during the concert. He had to sing his entire 3 minute solo in complete darkness. Just as well he knew it from memory!

My biggest worry was that my voice would pack up completely, having sung nothing at all for three weeks. Every time I’d tried, I would start coughing uncontrollably, so I just had to surrender to the steaming and hot honey with lemon, and hope for the best. It’s amazing what a bit of adrenalin can do and thankfully I made it through the concert, which was really well received – a standing ovation, no less. The others all sang and played wonderfully and I felt very proud to be in such an amazing team.

The band – Gabriella, Liz, Steve, Yann & Will

The following day, our only job was to get to Leeds. Sounds easy enough, except that there had been yet another dumping of snow in the UK, resulting this time in the closure of Leeds/Bradford airport. Gabriella managed to get a flight back to London in order to pick up her harp from home and drive up to Leeds. In Amsterdam, she’d borrowed a harp – not the easiest instrument to take on tour. The rest of us waited and prayed that the airport would reopen for our early evening flight. Thankfully, it did, though we landed in quite a snow storm. Normally, I wouldn’t like that, but having endured a horrid turbulent flight from Glasgow the previous week, landing in what felt like gale-force winds, this was a breeze.

It may have been 9pm, but our hardy crew ventured into Leeds, braving the deep snow and ice, in search of a curry. Once again, I did the diva thing and retired to the hotel, but I did manage to persuade them all to return to the same curry house (Akbar’s) the following night – so at least I didn’t miss out on the delicious spicy fare and the monster naans.

monster naan

I’m afraid I didn’t really enjoy the concert in the Howard Assembly Room. The acoustics were too dry for this piece, and the air was too dry for my throat! After the Amsterdam gig, I was running on one vocal cord, and now felt as though I was clinging on for dear life – never a pleasant sensation in a concert. By the end of the gig, I was completely voiceless. Curry and beer in the noisiest restaurant imaginable provided the final nail in the proverbial vocal coffin, but at least I’d made it through – phew!


Taking a bow in Leeds



Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow

Steve Reich Drumming
with The Colin Currie Group

March 2013


“The grand praise heaped upon them earlier by the composer was well deserved.  I’ve heard this piece in recordings before but was blown away hearing it performed live.”

Glasgow Punter


“when all nine percussionists are playing the three marimbas on stage, and the whole is topped off by the two female singers of Synergy Vocals, it is hard to imagine music that is any richer”

Herald Scotland