USA 2020 Part 2 (by Simon Cox)

Our drive to Davidson was a mere 90 minutes – child’s play compared to some of the epic voyages of our last trip Stateside. With plenty of space in the schedule we stopped off at California Dreaming for lunch, and couldn’t resist trying such local delicacies as onion ring loaf and fried crab claws. It’s a constant battle to maintain a healthy lifestyle when touring in this part of the world, so a few of our number ordered salads. Unfortunately they perhaps weren’t quite as low-cal as they were expecting (the croissants on the side were a particular surprise).

Failed attempt at healthy eating

Driving into Davidson it was clear that this was one of those rare American towns that has managed to avoid being dominated by the car. A lovely high street complete with book shops, cafés and restaurants all within walking distance of each other welcomed us, and we spent a while strolling around the nearby lake enjoying the scenery before heading to the United Methodist Church (venue for the next day’s concert) for a rehearsal. Kevin Turner, the church’s Pastor for Music and Worship and organiser of our concert, was on hand to greet us, and we were pleased to find a spacious room with high, vaulted ceiling and generous acoustics.

The church at Davidson

As ever rehearsal time had been tight prior to this trip, so this was our chance to polish up Stravinsky’s Pulcinella which features later in the tour. Matt Knight and I had made some tweaks to the arrangement since we last performed it 2 years ago in an attempt to make life a bit easier for the trumpets, and there was a real feeling of anticipation at the prospect of performing this superb music again.  A trip to a local Mexican eatery ensued (I backed up my triumph in the boxing ring with a comfortable edge in the unofficial extra-hot salsa eating contest), before it was off to meet the families who were providing our accommodation for the night.

The following morning we all spent time with our hosts, experiencing the legendary Southern hospitality in all its forms. Huw and I were staying with Jimmy and Charlotte (and their delightful dog Duff) in their beautiful home just outside Davidson, and were pleased to discover that he had a comprehensive tv sports package, even including access to the rugby back home. The rest of this paragraph was supposed to be about Wales continuing their unbeaten Six Nations run in their game against Ireland, but I’m running short on space so probably ought to skip ahead.

Simon and Huw’s companion, Duff

Alan and Pete were staying in Davidson itself with hosts Mary and Bob, who went out of their way to make sure their visitors were entertained for the full duration of their stay. It’s fair to say that they’re now the group’s resident experts on all things Davidson! Westy meanwhile so enjoyed his stay that he threatened to abandon the tour in favour of a new life in North Carolina, whilst Matt Gee was grappling with his need to avoid eating meat when in the home of an avowed carnivore. I think they reached some kind of understanding.

Alan’s bed for the night

Eventually we all drifted towards the UMC for our soundcheck, which was a little more thorough than we had planned due to the cancellation of our concert in Clemson. It’s always a challenge to perform a piece for the very first time, especially when it’s something as substantial as Clara Schumann’s Sonata in G minor, so we took the time we needed to really polish all the changes of tempo and character. Soon afterwards the audience began drifting in and we were pleased to see the locals had come out in force despite some bitterly cold weather. The concert even had to be delayed by a few minutes while Kevin printed out some extra programmes, always a welcome occurrence!

Everything went smoothly and soon enough we were into our usual post-concert routine of meeting audience members and signing CDs. It’s always gratifying to hear the lengths people have gone to to come and hear us live, and it was especially nice to meet some of the nearby brass professors and their students.  

The last few days have felt quite slow paced by our standards, but the tour gets going in earnest from now on. We have to be in Baltimore for a performance tomorrow afternoon, a mere 7-hour drive away, so with the battle bus packed we hit the road to make a dent  in the journey. Having all opted for a salad at tea time we’d by this point worked up a bit of an appetite, so a mammoth tub of cheesy puffs seemed the only sensible option. Racked with guilt and a little sleepy we pitched up at our hotel in Raleigh with the first evening concert of the tour finally under our now slightly loosened  belts.

Not even attempting healthy eating anymore

The morning found us driving through the pretty forests of Virginia in the bright sunshine. A couple of hours into the journey it emerged that our route was taking us through the heart of Washington, DC, so it seemed silly not to make a brief stop. A couple of photos and a slice or two of pizza later, we continued on our journey to Baltimore.

Septura in DC

By far my favourite tv show is The Wire, a 5-series epic set largely in inner-city Baltimore, and I was really looking forward to our visit. Unfortunately the nature of touring is that it’s very rarely possible to do much sightseeing in the places we visit, and given the tight schedule I had to accept that going to visit Orlando’s, the Pit and Kavanagh’s would have to wait for another time.

Our performance was at Goucher College, and we were to be the artists in the 60th annual Rosenberg lecture-performance. Flicking through the programme we saw a list of previous participants, and it gradually dawned on us what an honour it was to have been invited – we can now add our names to a list that includes Aaron Copland, Michael Tippett, Mstislav Rostropovich and Yo-Yo Ma! A 2nd outing of One Equal Music in less than 24 hours was the order of day, and we particularly enjoyed performing Clara Schumann’s sonata – it’s really bedding in now and it will be interesting to see how our interpretation develops in the coming weeks.

Full marks to our hosts for the post-concert reception. Excellent food and conversation with the series supporters (a particular highlight was Dan West being told he was a spitting image of someone’s 54-year-old son) was the perfect way to finish the day, and bed (via some boneless wings, obviously) soon followed. Tomorrow we’re up before the crack of dawn to head to Texas for part 2…

Tour stats:

Concerts: 3

Distance travelled: 4484 miles

Time on the bus: 11 hrs 30 mins

States driven through: 3

Tubs of cheeseballs: 1