It's 2:55 and I must go to bed. This will be a quick blog.
Going to London last week was a blur, a very fun blur. Like Christmas morning as a kid except there weren't any presents or Christmas trees or my sister in London. Despite the unforgiving time change, weak dollar, and unrelenting schedule, we had a great time performing alongside Welsh mezzo-soprano opera phenom Katherine Jenkins. This young woman can SING and is a huge star in the UK. The National Symphony Orchestra that backed her put out some amazing sound and were lovely people. "Lovely," by the way, only comes across well when it's spoken by the British; definitely not in blog form. They say "lovely" about everything in the UK. Oh, this is your first time performing in England? How lovely. You all were mates in university, yeah? That's lovely. You need me to help you find an iron ten minutes before you go onstage so your suit that you've had rolled up in a garment bag all day looks somewhat presentable in front of a thousand potential new fans who may or may not judge you on your appearance alone? Of course I'll help you, love. (ly)
The Brits realize the average American tourist in their country is somewhat to definitely dumb. We walk around thinking that just because our countrymen won the war back in 1776 that everyone in England drives on the wrong side of the road and puts a u where it doesn't belong, like in colour, honour, flavour, behaviour... You know these words when you see them and your brain's all like "Whoa! What's that u doing in there?"
Maybe that's too harsh of a word, dumb, but when you have to paint "LOOK RIGHT" and "LOOK LEFT" on the crosswalks so people (i.e. us) don't get clobbered on the street while on a late-night mission for a kebab, you are obviously the brighter of the bunch. As a tourist, you don't think about it until you come to your first intersection on foot and "pull an American," as we came to call it, soon realizing why the giant block letters of warning are at your feet, staring up at you blankly as if to say "May want to look the opposite way than you're used to, chap." I often pulled an American despite my best efforts to look out onto the traffic contrary to my natural tendencies and was struck (figuratively) by how forgiving - perhaps gracious is a better word - a particular FedEx driver was to me. He probably thought I was an idiot as I half-trotted half-scooted across the street, waving at him while mouthing the words "Sorry, thank you, my bad," but the shorts and DSW flip flops I was sporting in the 50 degree weather (or whatever that is in Celsius) probably gave that away before me narrowly escaping blunt force trauma to the noggin.
We had a day off the day after arriving in London and did all the touristy stuff - Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Parliament, Trafalgar Square - which was really cooler than it was cheesy and touristy (chouristy). I'm a nerd and like that kind of stuff, though, but I digress. The coolest and most random thing of the trip, however, happened while Seggie, Tyler, Dan, and I toured Westminster Abbey, which I learned is not a place to ask someone "What's the deal with all these British people buried here?" (That didn't happen; purely for comedy's sake. I know you were concerned.)
We split up shortly after entering the church and we've all got our audio guide doohickies up to ears listening to Jeremy Irons spell out the thousand year history of the joint, we catch up with each other periodically, catch each other up on cool tombs we saw, this lady and that dead guy (Geoffrey Chaucer, by the way, was a tiny dude), and we find ourselves altogether again in the section of the Abbey where many of the former organists, composers, and musical figureheads of England are buried. As opposed to current organists, composers, and musical figureheads of England that are buried there.
People, we're talking the likes of George Frederick Handel (the guy who, despite being dead for a long time, still somehow makes people across the world stand up spontaneously anytime his "Hallelujah Chorus" is performed, lucky bloke).
Ralph Vaughan Williams, the guy whose song about a zither or a maiden or something I sang in Solo & Ensemble contest my sophomore year of high school. Not really up there with Lennon & McCartney, but I thought seeing Ralph Vaughan Williams' marker on the ground was cool. (Reason #417 why I'm a professional a cappella singer...)
Edward Elgar, the gent who composed that catchy "Pomp and Circumstance" tune that engrained itself into your brain when you crossed the stage at graduation and shook your principal's hand, right before each of your 340 classmates did the same thing and you had to sit around for an hour because you're the third of the A's, waiting...
where are my parents sitting?
humming along like a soulless cyborg to "Pomp and Circumstance" and waiting for Steve Zimmerman to FINALLY get his diploma so you could stand, turn your tassel, chuck your mortarboard into the air, and give high fives and hugs to people that you never hugged or high-fived in the hallways but that's OK, that's what you do at graduation.
Anyway, we're hanging out and up walks a gentlemen who quietly pardons himself for interrupting (it's a church after all) and asks, "Are you guys from the States?" We answer yes, we are from the States. He proceeds with "Do you sing?" Weird follow-up, side glances are exchanged, yes, yes sir, we are singers indeed. And then this guy (Tom was his name) drops the bomb on us and ends his line of questioning with "Are you guys in Straight No Chaser?"
Amidst a small collection of graves in the nave of Westminster Abbey of all places we get asked if we're in Straight No Chaser.
A small old woman in a flowing green velvet robe stepped aside from the tour she was leading and shut my jaw for me.
"Yeah," Tom says to me, "I thought it was you when I heard you talking about Pomp and Circumstance. I recognized your face from "The Christmas Can-Can" on PBS. My wife and I saw you guys at the Midland Theater in Kansas City in April. I play your albums all the time in my office." He said it like hearing this wasn't going to be the most memorable highlight of our trip.
Again, we're in Westminster Abbey. It's our day off. We're sightseeing, taking pictures, trying unsuccessfully to calculate currency exchanges in our heads, that kind of thing. This was very, very odd to all of us. (Except Isaac Newton, who looked up his nose at us, ho-hummed at this chance meeting playing out on top of him, and rolled back over smugly. Smarty pants with your apple and all. Ooh, gravity. Whatever, man.)
We met Tom's wife, who couldn't believe it (neither could we), and well-wishes of safe travels, enjoyable visits, and see-ya-next-time-we're-in-Kansas-Citys were soon exchanged. I still can't get over how crazy meeting Tom and his wife was. (If you two are reading this, you made my trip.)
So much for a quick blog. If you'd like to see the pictures I posted on Facebook, SNC 2010 Pt. 2 and 3 are the names of the albums. It's now 4 AM. What am I doing up?! Sorry, future self tomorrow morning.
Remember, kids, PLEASE, next time you're in the UK, keep an eye out for FedEx trucks driving on the wrong side of the street, don't stand on Charles Darwin's grave (you never know what your future kid may turn out to be), and remember that all those people sitting in the dark that you sing for every night on tour may actually remember who you are now and then, even if they saw you in Missouri in April and you're in Westminster Abbey in June.
Now, isn't that just lovely?