Chapel Choir's US tour

23rd May 2016

News, Student news, Alumni news

During the Easter vacation 2016, Wadham Choir, with Director Katie Pardee, and Chaplain Wendy Wale, went on a tour of the Eastern United States, performing in Boston, New York, and Washington DC. Charlie Powell (English, 2015) reminisces on the trip.

Play Airplane takes off to US

Hersey railway station, Needham, Massachusetts. 8:37 PM. The orange glow of the sunset gives way to a cold frosty blue as the night draws on, over a single concrete platform forming an indentation into the pine forest off the unbroken curve of the railroad. It is quiet, the kind of quiet possible only when thick snow lies on the ground, and when there is not a single soul around, and not a single train.

Sitting on my luggage, the coffee in my hand – once hot, now luke-warm at best – I am given a chance to reflect on the choir tour so far and all its high points. The reason? Waiting for a train to rejoin the rest of choir in Boston, having visited my nearby family, I stood calmly on the platform as the 8:15 train pulled in, but naively failed to read the sign behind me: “PASSENGERS MUST WAIT AT UPPER END OF PLATFORM FOR OFF-PEAK TRAINS,” and ignorantly remained there, thinking that the train would surely stop any second now, any second… until it was gone. I didn’t even miss the train, I just failed to stand in the right place, and it rolled on by. The next train is at 9PM.

So, in this unique moment of stillness in the whirlwind of activity that is tour, I have the chance to remember what has happened. It’s safe to say there have been highs and lows. 38,000 feet above sea level was one. Having a two-minute long tannoy announcement on the importance of wearing footwear in the café car of an Amtrak Train after a certain member of choir had to be expelled due to her gros faux-pas was, to our great shame, another.

This piece might give the impression that our trip was somehow characterised by spending hours and hours on different types of transport to get from one place to another. This is absolutely true… but we did also do a lot of singing. Performing Loch Lomond to a packed University of Oxford Alumni dinner in the great hall of the Library of Congress was probably the highlight of the trip for all of us. Even having sung evensong in the massive and beautiful Trinity Church in Boston, this was a room to dazzle the eyes and had acoustics like no other. Though in our position on the balcony we struggled to hear Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson speaking, and could not hear the nuances of Chancellor Chris Patten’s expansive speech on safe spaces, the sheer size of the building made filling it with sound a fantastic feeling that I won’t soon forget.

Other highlights of the tour include watching some members of the tour discover Chipotlé for the first time, meeting current students of Sarah Lawrence College at a joint reception in Manhattan, a very ego-boosting spate of Tinder successes for some members of the choir, and building a snow-bass to commemorate my section.

Now, as the train pulls slowly into the station and I have remembered to stand at the correct end of the platform, I put my writing down, but not before remembering what I’ve learned on this trip (apart from my newly-acquired and highly nuanced understanding of Eastern Seaboard infrastructure and public transport): I am very lucky to be in Wadham Choir; Wendy Wale is a brilliant photographer; the people of Auburn, Massachusetts know where to get good pizza and are keen to share, and finally: never turn down the opportunity to sample anything baked by Episcopalians.

Video and text by Charlie Powell

  • Singing at the Library of Congress

    Singing at the Library of Congress

  • The first concert in Pakachaog church, Auburn, Massachusetts.

    The first concert in Pakachaog church, Auburn, Massachusetts.

  • The amazing and beautiful Trinity church, Copley Square, Boston

    The amazing and beautiful Trinity church, Copley Square, Boston

  • Singing a concert in King’s Chapel, Boston.

    Singing a concert in King’s Chapel, Boston.

  • The crew of Amtrak National railways were kind enough to give us all lovely hats.

    The crew of Amtrak National railways were kind enough to give us all lovely hats.

  • A walk in Auburn, Massachusetts.

    A walk in Auburn, Massachusetts.

  • Dan Mathieson, Organ Scholar

    Dan Mathieson, honorary Wadham Choir member and Organ Scholar at Worcester College, enjoying the organ at Grace Church in New York.

  • Ken Macdonald QC with Sarah Lawrence students

    Warden Ken Macdonald QC with Sarah Lawrence students who studied at Wadham on the exchange program.

  • Rehearsal in the Library of Congress.

    Rehearsal in the Library of Congress.

  • Admiring artefacts, from the contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the night he was assassinated to the original manuscript for the Chichester Psalms, at a Library of Congress exhibition.

  • Singing in a Wadham alumni reception in Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington DC hosted by Lissa Muscatine.

  • Members of the choir and Ken Macdonald QC discussing the 2016 US election with Lissa Muscatine.

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