After descending into Heathrow Airport, the group made a smooth transfer to Winchester. This was a familiar stop for Tour Director Mr. Peter Butterfield, who spent the better part of a decade living here while singing professionally all across Europe. In fact, he is quite famous in Winchester town and it seemed at every corner he was greeted by a past friend or recognized as a well-known performer! It may interest you to know that Mr. Butterfield performed a solo during the wedding of a godson of Prince Charles’, where many members of the royal families of Europe were in attendance. Of course, this included the Queen and Prince Philip. In a whispered aside during a procession, Prince Charles is said to have remarked to him, “Well sung, well sung!” Mr. Butterfield’s insights were most valuable over the course of our stay here.
An early bus transfer to World Heritage sites Avebury and Glastonbury was in store for the group on Sunday morning but first was an important visit to the renowned Winchester Cathedral to hear the outstanding choir and the organ in full song. It was spectacular, and in particular the choir performers were most impressed.
Despite some very strong winds nearby, the weather held off just enough for everyone to enjoy the English countryside and the mystical properties of Avebury and Glastonbury. All the students walked among the ancient standing stones at Avebury with many taking the opportunity to take in as much history as possible about their potential origins. Then it was on to Glastonbury, the home of the famous Glastonbury Festival. The students were given time to find some lunch and wander the town that has hosted many famous musicians over the years. It is also well known for a Tor that has stood above the town for centuries and those who took up the challenge of climbing to the top were rewarded with an outstanding 360-degree view of the area.
On Monday morning, The American International School in Surrey welcomed us for two performances. The first was for a primary-aged group of students and the second for the upper school. Held in a tidy little theatre, our students represented themselves well and their short sets kept the audience engaged and certainly impressed with our varied programming.
After the morning’s performances, we headed into central London and for a two nights’ stay near the River Thames. Almost immediately upon arrival, the group headed out to see the first of two musicals, Come From Away, which simply smashed all expectations. The incredible story of the little town of Gander, NL on 9-11 and the following days had many students laughing, crying and proud to be calling Canada home.
Tuesday was a big day. In fact, it was a really, really big day! In a choose-your-own-adventure type event, students selected different excursions led by one or two of the chaperones. Some took in the British Museum and the National Gallery with Mr. Butterfield, others ventured to Buckingham Palace (the Queen and the Duchess of Cambridge were sighted and photographed) and towards the shopping district with Mrs. Hogg-Jackson and Dr. Tresoor, while another group went in search of some world-famous music shops with Mr. Farish. Yet another group took up the challenge of seeing as many sites as possible on foot in a single day; the report was that they covered 17 km. All the students had fantastic days out and returned with weary feet and lifelong memories.
After all that sightseeing, we still had our last evening in England ahead, which was spent at one of two musicals. Both Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Hamilton were exceptional events, with Hamilton fulfilling its billing as the hot show in town, and Jamie surpassing all expectations.
Now the group moves to the final leg of its tour and with Italy in their sights, thoughts of pizza, gelato and espresso are exciting things to consider!
The first leg of the Spring Break Europe music trip took the SMUS group to Germany. You can read about that experience on the SMUSpaper.