USA 2020 Part 6 (by Alan Thomas)

We’d had a nice restful travel day

Well rested after our Orono-Selinsgrove road trip stop off at Danbury, Connecticut we’re back on the road and heading for Susquehanna University.

The mammoth journey from Main to Selinsgrove, PA

In the various masterclasses we’ve given over the last fortnight we often get asked how we cope with being away from home and spending so much time on the road. Bar the odd ‘barrel’ from Mr Gee there’s been very little animosity and a real sense of unanimity and team work. The tour bus gets loaded efficiently without need of a word, the driving, navigation and blog writing shared. The back of ‘the bus’ is always a variation of slumber, laughter, clatter of laptops keys, rustle of sweet wrappers and hushed voices of FaceTiming the wives, girlfriends, kids and puppy, not to mention that unmistakable pungent aroma and rummage of the cheese ball grab. As the ‘older statesman’ of Septura I can probably appreciate the most how modern technology has made touring far easier. FaceTime, WhatsApp, free data roaming, noise cancelling headphones, in-bus WiFi as well as non-iron travel chinos (Huw’s pants are still missing btw) all make it a much easier experience and allow us to keep in touch with our ever patient and supportive families.

Still mostly getting on!

On such a long tour with such huge US highly calorific food portions and hours sat couped up in the hamstring shortening tour bus, many of Septura have been hitting the gym to keep the tour paunch at bay. A combination of Matt Gee’s yoga, Huw Morgan’s HIITs, the whir of Pete Smith’s seated bike and my treadmill all frequently interrupted by the yelp and dropping of Coxy’s heavy dumbbells. 

Alan reunited with fellow Birmingham Conservatoire alumnus Eric Hinton

We’ve made it to Selinsgrove and Susquehanna University. This was a particular venue I was looking forward to as I was to be reunited with former Royal Birmingham Conservatoire PHD conducting student Dr Eric Hinton. Eric was studying for his PHD in the Art of Wind Band conducting with the legendary Guy Woolfenden, and regularly conducting the wind orchestra and brass ensemble whilst I was studying as an undergrad fledgling trumpeter. Dr Hinton is now Director of Bands at Susquehanna and we saw many of the fruits of his 16 years hard labour in two thoroughly rewarding masterclasses.

West finally finds a seat to fit his ego

That evening we treated a large audience to our ‘Borrowed Baroque’. Most noticeable were the resplendent uniforms of 30 boys from St Louis de Montfort Academy, who were incredibly keen and inquisitive during our interval and post concert CD signings. 

The large contingent from St Louis de Montfort Academy

Concert done, off to celebrate Matt Knight’s birthday. A couple of beers, nothing silly. A medal of commendation to designated driver, part-time vegetarian and teetotaler for the night Matt Gee.

Canton, New York. It’s been bugging me where I’ve heard of Canton before. Finally, passing Scranton on the tour bus my memory is jogged. Memorable days in the East Sussex Prepreparatory Course in Music choir singing Sammy Davis Jnr’s ever popular classic ‘Rhythm of Life.’

‘Daddy spread the gospel in Milwaukee, Took his walkie-talkie to Rocky Ridge, Blew his way to Canton, then to Scranton, Till he landed under the Manhattan’

Perilous driving conditions as we head further and further north

Having braved blizzards and minus temperatures we finally arrive. Full from a lunch stop at Gangnam Style Korean Restaurant we head straight into our sound check and concert at Peterson-Kerman’s Performance Hall, St Lawrence University, Canton, New York. A gorgeous, resonant acoustic sets off the Maddalena Casalana and Lassus in our One Equal Music programme beautifully, and the audience receive the, new for this tour, Clara Schumann Piano Sonata with thrilling applause.

We came so close to Westy’s homeland…

Tomorrow sees travel to our final destination, San Francisco. Septura Artistic Director Simon Cox will soon breathe a huge sigh of relief. He has almost single handedly organised this whole trip. All flights, van rentals, hotel bookings and liaisons have gone without a hitch, no mean feat! I’m sure I can speak for all the members of Septura, audiences, venues and universities are all truly grateful. 

Almost worth the drive for these views!

Blog done, pass the cheese balls!!!!!

With thanks to Keelie Schock from Susquehanna University for including the Cheese Balls in our rider!

Tour stats

Concerts: 10

Distance travelled: 10512 miles

Time on the bus: 44 hrs

States driven through: 12

Gee’s barrels: Still only 1