Atlanta Music Tour 2006: “A British Invasion”
Tour photo taken in Waynesville
On 10th April, 26 members of the Choir and Swing Band set off for Atlanta for an 11 day tour. It was an early 6am start and miraculously almost everyone, except Alex Batt (Betts), managed to arrive in time to leave for Gatwick airport (even Milo!) Other than being 8 hours long, the flight to Atlanta was pretty uneventful. However, as everyone knows, American airports have a notoriously strict security procedure and on going through customs, Gemma Beech found herself pulled aside – perhaps due to the excessive accessorising!
After the initial shock of sunshine and warmth (26°C), the first destination was Oconee High School, Watkinsville, to meet the host families. They were very welcoming and after a surprisingly light buffet meal, everyone went home to rest.
The next day comprised of a visit to the University of Georgia (UGA), the oldest university in the US, and later on a joint concert with the school. After having a tour of the campus, we watched the UGA Jazz band which was very impressive.
Despite the events of the rehearsal earlier on in the day, the concert in the evening was a success. Although the audience numbers were not very high, the reception towards us was good and inspired both the Choir and Swing Band to perform well.
The Smokey mountains
On Wednesday 12th we visited Stone Mountain Park, the largest outcrop of granite in the world – wow! Some would say it was a rather memorable day. Some of the “mature” members of the tour embarked upon a ‘Foot Skayting’ expedition down the mountain, whilst I saw some of my distant relatives and no, Alice, I was not talking to some random Korean people I’d just met for the fun of it!
The last evening in Watkinsville was spent with our host families.
The next destination was to Waynesville, North Carolina, a 6 hour coach journey. We went via Dohlonega Gold Mine, where we panned for gold and Helen, an American interpretation of a Bavarian town. To make the journey even more enjoyable, Mr Bryant decided to have a Choir rehearsal on the coach, and at that point everyone “happily” stopped listening to their music or in some cases, bothering people, and sang unaccompanied. It has to be said that the scenery surrounding us was beautiful.
Choir singing in Grace Church in the Mountains, Waynesville, NC
The next performances were on Good Friday and Easter Day at Grace Church in the Mountains. Music included works from Karl Jenkins’s ‘Requiem’, ‘Stabat Mater’ (Pergolesi) and many others, not forgetting Mr Bryant’s own ‘Gaelic Blessing’. After the service on Good Friday, a mass order of pizzas was delivered and much appreciated by everybody.
On the evening of Easter Day, a barbeque was kindly organised by the host families in honour of us. Unfortunately this involved the breaking of a hammock and “in-tune” unaccompanied singing by the Choir. That was interesting but good fun all the same.
Our final destination was Walton High School, Marietta. On Tuesday 18th, everyone had an assigned guide (pupil at the school) who took us round to three of their lessons. Many of us experienced tests and subjects that some of us happily gave up when we entered the 6th form! We also had a lot of Americans saying “How cute” our accents were!
Choir rehearsing at Walton High School
The concert in the evening was by far the best. It was a joint concert with the numerous choruses of Walton High School and the turn-out of 750 was amazing. They gave us so much support. There was a fantastic performance of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by the US students. We took part in a joint item ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ by the Beatles. This involved dancing as well as singing. We also sang our own programme: ‘Home is a special kind of feeling’, ‘I got rhythm’ and ‘I will follow him’. Inspired by the joint item, we decided to make ‘I will follow him’ a bit more exciting by adding actions and we received a standing ovation! The Swing Band opened up with ‘Shaft’, then ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’, ‘Fly me to the moon’, ‘Summertime’ and ended with the Latin version of ‘Take Five’ (in four).
Kimberley Martin singing solo at Walton High School
Visits over the next couple of days included CNN (Sam read the weather), a walk through Centennial Park to the Aquarium and on the last day, we went to the Coca-Cola museum, Underground and the Martin Luther King Museum. Those who have not yet experienced the Coca-Cola Museum be warned, as some of the flavours made in other countries are not to be taken (lightly!). By the time we walked around the Martin Luther King Museum, the general feeling was exhaustion, despite the sugar-rush earlier on in the day.
We left Atlanta airport and 18:15. Once in England there were immediate comparisons made. The most obvious being the weather.
The tour was a complete success and I do not think that anyone would disagree that the hospitality of our hosts was second to none (although, we found some of the questions we were asked rather amusing, for example: “Do y’all have churches in England?” and “Have y’all eaten pizza before?” The tour would not have been possible without Mr Bryant, Mr Jenkins (gang-leader of J-Crew), Miss Dann and Mr and Mrs Snary. To sum up the tour in three words…exciting, memorable and awesome.