Another tour completed in glorious summer weather has left us slightly sunburnt, repeatedly wondering why we wear such warm gowns (come along next year to find out why we do!), but most importantly, with countless fond memories. Our gratitude to our generous hosts and audiences throughout the country cannot be expressed fully - tour would not have been possible without you. We would also like to thank our very own Rosie Hanlon for superbly organising it all. As the pictures show, we had a great time!
Saturday morning meant HOT WATER temporarily. Having attempted to cancel the breakfast the night before to no avail, we slipped quietly out to meet the group for our day trip to the Palace of Versailles. I’d never been before and was seriously excited to see it, and despite the Parisian public transport system trying its utmost to stop us, my excitement hadn’t diminished a jot by the time we got there. The labyrinthine gardens may look beautiful, but when you’re bursting for a wee and the only loos are apparently deliberately hidden in a Daedalian system of torture, they quickly lose their charm.
The palace itself is simply too much. The immense lavishness is just so great that the gaudy displays of wealth wash over you until they simply become normal, almost predictable. I found it was just impossible to process it all; how much money it must have needed, how many lives were lost in building it, how horrifically self-aggrandising the whole thing was. “Offensively beautiful” is probably how I’d describe it, but I’m sure the many people that know much more about it than I do could do a better job. After a long day of walking, we headed back to the capital and walked to Notre-Dame to meet fellow St Andrean, Sean Heath, for dinner (at the restaurant where we drank the night before). A très français meal of escargots and moules frites was precisely what the médecin ordered, and a couple of bottles of wine certainly helped. We braved the cold night once more and climbed the Eiffel Tower, the first time I’d been up at night (sounds like a double-entendre, isn’t). Lots of photos. Lots of jokes to scare the hell out of the acrophobic Maddy. Lots of fun.
[The majority of the male members of the choir spent the day ensconced in the hostel, enjoying the stabalising comfort of their beds and recovering from the previous night’s antics. When Craig, Johanna and I returned to the hostel to seek a recommendation for somewhere “authentically French” to have dinner from those in the know, we found them slightly more gungho, and Sebastian, Andrew and Edward joined us for a short stomp to the recommended Buillon Chartier with Charles and Laurence promising to join us later on. However, on reaching the restaurant we saw what appeared to be a lengthy and slow-moving queue to get a table, and decided on a more low-key restaurant for Craig to sample his second steak and chips and the boys to crawl back onto the wagon. A triumphant and slightly confused Facebook post from Charles and Laurence informed us that the queue had actually not been as much of an obstacle as we first thought, and they were now enjoying a sophisticated and romantic meal for two. A slightly quieter night in the hostel followed, as feet were rested, legs were stretched, and more revealing chats were had.]
Some of us attended mass at Notre-Dame Cathedral on Sunday morning, which was lovely, though it was rather strange with innumerable tourists shuffling past you taking selfies whilst you’re in the midst of prayer. Due to the unforgivably cold weather, we warmed up with a cheeky omelette in a nearby café and chatted away over our coffees. Despite having literally just finished our breakfast, we then headed to purchase the wares of a nearby crepe vendor, but not before Maddy had sampled everybody else’s. Leaving the gang at Sainte Chapelle, Sarah and I headed for yet another meal, this time with Lucy, our generous friend that kindly gave us shelter last time we were here. If you can imagine the three Christmas dinners scene from The Vicar of Dibley, you have a general image of Sarah and myself as we walked away from the lovely meal we shared with them.
[Determined to squeeze the most out of our final day, we all split up into smaller groups with renewed vigour to conquer Paris and all its sights. Whistle-stop tours of Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Moulin Rouge (and the outside of the adjacent sex shops), and the Sacré-Cœur - this time mobbed by tourists and the odd over-friendly cat - were completed, and we all adjourned back at the hostel in time to catch the train to the airport exhausted but with a wonderful sense of achievement.]
Eventually, it was time to say goodbye, and we finally found the boys chowing down on an enormous carb-fest in the hostel, in day two of what appeared to be the world’s largest hangover. Sad to be leaving our friends, still laughing at the hilarity of the weekend, and literally unable to feel our toes, we boarded our train at Montparnasse to head home.
Paris, thanks for having us. Edwin, thanks for joining us. We hope we'll be seeing you both very soon.
The Madlads x
The following morning provided Sarah and me with a series of disappointments with regard to our “hotel”. The first was the lack of hot water for showers, reducing me to scrub myself in the tiny tub with the tepid liquid issuing from the taps, which was also worryingly opaque. [In the hostel we were met with a different but similarly frustrating struggle, although our reward for the 20 minute wait for two Australians to vacate the two showers was at least rewarded with warm water and relatively satisfying water pressure.] The second was the breakfast, which cost us each ten euros a day and which consisted of a yoghurt, half a microwaved baguette and a small jug of coffee. [Again, our (included) breakfast consisted of leftover (cold) baguette, extremely questionable meat of some description, cheese, reassuringly British cereal choices, and tepid and equally questionable tea and coffee. Needless to say many of us resorted to a second breakfast (think Lord of the Rings) of authentic and delicious pastries from the boulangerie across the road from the hotel.]
Our day’s disappointments over, we met the gang at their considerably nicer hostel and headed over to the Louvre for a morning of classic touristy funsies. We then went for a brisk walk through the Tuileries, grabbed a ludicrously expensive lunch (€3.10 for a can of coke) then accompanied the tenors to the Champs-Élysées to purchase the clothes they’d forgotten to pack for the concert (#classic). [The other half of the group opted to walk through the misty morning Paris streets to the Louvre, arriving in time to see the rest of the MadLads being resolutely British and teaching the French a thing or two about queuing. "The walkers" decided that the crowds were too much for that time in the morning, and instead hopped across the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay for €5 coffees, other famous paintings and pictures with huge clocks (yes, CLOCKS, don't think I don't know what you think I wrote...)]
Whilst they readied themselves for the performance, [mainly eating more pastries and exploring the under-belly of La Madeleine, of course interspersed with some rehearsing], Sarah and I boshed off to Shakespeare and Company, the renowned bookstore near the Île de la Cité to purchase a couple of lovely books, mostly so we could then say, “OH YES I ACTUALLY BOUGHT THAT AT SHAKESPEARE AND CO,” whenever anyone goes near one.
4pm heralded the start of one of the most beautiful concerts I’ve ever heard MadGroup perform. They really are some of the most talented singers I’ve ever encountered, and it was such a treat to hear some of the old favourites as well as some new numbers, and to get to hear how well the new voices were blending with the old-timers. Hats off to them. [Thanks must be extended to Edwin for stepping in as recorder-and-filmographer-extraordinaire. Seeing his face beaming up at us from behind the camera definitely helped to make the vastness of our venue seem less intimidating!]
As any Old Madrigalian will testify, the end of a concert means the start of an evening of merriment, and yet again, the freshers performed. First, we had to endure our semi-disastrous meal, in which our charming waiter explained that they’d run out of all food except the three most expensive items on the menu, then suddenly remembered it was all available once we’d begun to leave, then left me with the bill, a pen, a calculator and the phrase “good luck” and finally charged me €25 for the water, but when that nightmare was all over, the festivities could finally begin. [Thank you for persevering Edwin!] Having aged in spirit over our year abroad, Sarah and I elected to have a more refined glass of wine with half of the group at a lovely restaurant near Notre-Dame. I wish I were able to recount all that the boys got up to, but I’m not sure they remember. [We were later informed that they had spent an eventful night putting the ‘ass’ in bass, and sampling the delights of the club which mysteriously opened up under the hostel at about 2am. I don’t think we want to know much more…]
Blog post taken from ex-VP and France's resident Englishman, Edwin Wilton-Morgan's blog, with inserts by current VP.
In another installment of “two random people go to exciting locations then don’t really succeed in describing them interestingly afterwards”, Sarah and I went to Paris for the weekend in order to partake in the world-renowned St Andrews University Madrigal Group’s Winter Tour.
Very late last Wednesday, at about 1am, Sarah and I decided to book a train which would arrive the following evening in order to surprise MadGroup’s Tour Manager, the ineffably lovely Olivia Clark, on the occasion of her 23rd birthday. Having managed to book something vaguely resembling a hotel at such late notice, we set off on our five-hour journey and swanned into the bar where our inside man, Rufus Sullivan, had informed us MadGroup had congregated. I hope the consequent surprise was a pleasant one, [it was indeed!], and that stripping the group of a full twenty-four hours to prepare for our arrival didn’t engender life-long trauma as a result. Any road up, we made it, and proceeded to invite ourselves along to all of the group’s activities for the weekend.
[The group’s journey to the City of Love was slightly more planned, and yet incredibly eventful for what should have been just a simple one and a bit hour flight. Having arranged a rehearsal on Thursday morning at Fiona’s house, the concept of actually turning up seemed to be too much for three members of the group to grasp. Charles was no-where to be found, prompting the creation of the hashtag #whathasbecomeofcharles?. He did eventually make it to rehearsal, so wins brownie points for that feat! Laurence realized he had not, in fact, left enough time to make it from The Other Guys’ tour to the rehearsal, and so arranged to meet us at the airport (bar) instead. And Sebastian suffered from the crippling effects of jet-lag, slept through his alarm, managed to hop into a taxi to rehearsal only to be re-directed to the airport halfway through his journey when it became clear he was not going to make it before we had to leave to catch the plane. After somehow all making it through security in one piece and not bringing the plane down, we only had to negotiate the train journey into central Paris with an extremely chatty stranger on board, and then we were safely checked into our lovely hostel.]
After finally surmounting Montmartre, and apparently leaving my lungs at the bottom, we caught our breath outside the Sacré-Coeur and surveyed the beautiful panoramic views of Paris at night. Except it was foggy so we could see bugger all. Undeterred, we went into the Basilica and sat in for part of their service of Compline. It was absolutely stunning, and my fellow theologically minded buddy Maddy and I were loth to leave that peaceful sanctuary, whose spirituality seems to hum through the walls themselves. But the eternal struggle between body and soul arose yet again, and our stomachs sent us on a hunt for crepes. [Undeterred by the action-packed day we had already had, a few of the male members of the group took it upon themselves to sample the delights of the hostel bar, although threatened with a painful death by Jonny, managed to keep a check on themselves. Exhausted, we collapsed into our comfortable beds and dreamt of the adventure to come.]
And thus concludes yet another fantastic MadGroup Summer Tour! As this is the first moment I've been able to relax for any extended period of time, you must forgive me for cramming four days into one post!
After our hectic day in East Carlton, on Friday we set off towards the beautiful Gloucestershire village of Lydbrook, to be welcomed with a huge lunch of sandwiches and cakes laid on by the extremely generous Juliet (Jess' mummy!). Another productive rehearsal ensued, albeit somewhat punctured by bouts of hayfever set on by the church's gorgeous flower arrangements [note to new committee: expose new potential members to extensive allergy diagnostic testings before acceptance...], before we headed back to Juliet and Philip's house for the best coq au vin I've ever tasted (+ cake + brownies + fruit salad + ice-cream + yoghurts...). A typically fabulous concert followed in Lydbrook Parish Church with the best bumbled gown talk from Miss Verrall, then, even more typically, MadGroup hit the pub. Drinks on the treasurer were the perfect way to round off the night before heading home to our respective hosts, although the bottle of wine greeting me as I went back to my host family meant it certainly wasn't an early night...
With the Death Cab, Boring-Bus (25mph in a 60 zone = not banter) and Craigmobile loaded up, and everybody fed to the brim with huge breakfasts from our benevolent hosts, we embarked on our journey to sunny Shropshire! As this was my stop, you must forgive me for being somewhat biased, but I bloody love Shropshire. This was the much-awaited 'Day Off' with literally nothing to do all day. For the majority of the group (namely, the sane members) this meant as soon as we arrived at my house, a day of sunbathing, splashing in the pool, and maybe a lazy game of croquet, still full from our fantastic lunch. For the perilously insane members of the group (namely, Jess and Craig), this was the perfect opportunity for yet another five-mile run and an 'eight-minute abs' workout, before doing lengths in the pool. Jesus wept.
My boldface typing earlier was actually in part not true; we did have one thing to do, our AGM. So after another huge/glorious meal, MadGroup gathered in the drawing room to review our year's progress and to elect next year's executive committee. After several speeches and emotional tweets from yours truly, the 2014-15 committee is as follows:
President: Jonny McNaul
Vice-President: Megan Bruce
Secretary: Craig Stevens
Treasurer: Matt Marriott
Tour Manager: Olivia Clark
And, being MadGroup, we naturally hit the pub. Many thanks to the Castle pub in Wem for accommodating us, for replacing all of the barrels we finished off and for not throwing us out after six drunken renditions of 'Fair Phyllis'... The annual six-pint challenge reared its frothy head, with the speed challenge going to Niall Kennedy in about 46 minutes, but quantity going to Edwin, who decided a great idea would be to down a celebratory seventh pint in the 59th minute. The MadGroup award ceremony happened, with everybody receiving an individual award according to their special talents. After I had inebriatedly convinced half of the population of Wem to come to our concert and attempted to begin several more madrigals, it was time for home. The basses (a people not renowned for their high levels of self-respect) decided that there was no need for swimwear during their 2am natations, and had I known this, I probably wouldn't have turned the underwater light on, thereby exposing poor Rachel to a sight no human should ever have to see. Sadly, the medical bills for post-traumatic stress aren't quite covered by the MadGroup budget.
Sunday morning = lie-in. The ungovernable wrath of the total eight pints and a bottle of wine meant I was awake much earlier than I had been in quite a while, so was able to catch an hour's sunbathing before a continental breakfast/croissant eating contest. We all then lay out by the pool, reading and getting invariably splashed by the labrador-esque Matthew Marriott, who thought 'swimming' equated to 'bombing and wildly thrashing about'. After a couple of hours of bronzing, I felt a little browner, and confidently swaggered in to eat the enormous Sunday roast my parents and indefatigable housekeeper Linda had prepared for us. The enormous Eton Mess had a rather soporific effect on me, so I crashed in bed as others also napped/played Ultimate Frisbee. 'Vermilion' is probably the colour I'd describe my back/front/face/entire existence as I went to our 5pm rehearsal. I think everyone presumed I was excessively embarrassed/oxygen deprived for the rest of the day, as I got up to do my gown talk with a face the colour of the gown I was describing. The audience were absolutely incredible, with quite a few faces from the pub the night before! It was lovely to see such a huge crowd turn out, and it was especially humbling to see a little kiddy come up to our collection plate to contribute his twenty pence. Home-time again for a supper well worth the wait, then it was time for MadGroup's Got Talent. The order was as follows:
Olivia Clark: Simultaneous singing and whistling,
Rachel Morrison: Belly-dancing,
Megan Bruce: 13 grapes in her mouth,
Struan Erlenborn: the ability to pressurise his mouth until he can breathe steam,
Jonny McNaul: the one-handed clap,
Matt Marriott: an eerily accurate Smeagol impression,
Edwin Wilton-Morgan: persevered to put both legs behind head, despite searingly torturous sunburn,
Niall Kennedy: downed half a pint of distilled malt vinegar,
Peter Cockcroft (winner): the best magic tricks I've ever seen. We're pretty sure he's in league with Lucifer.
Being constantly in agony whilst fearing I may shed my skin like a snake, I didn't actually sleep that well, but I'm told everyone else did. A glorious cooked breakfast with big door-stop bacon sandwiches sent MadGroup up North to our last concert in Parton, Dumfries, leaving me to help with the washing up! I'm told the Parton concert was a huge success as ever (although something about Cornelia's car being late because they stopped for a potted plant??) and it's one of our absolute favourite annual stops along our summer tour, which we've now been visiting eight years in a row. Many thanks to John for helping to organise so much, and for taking this fabulous photo below - I wish I'd been there! For more photos of summer tour, of MadGroup's Got Talent, and of us messing around in the sunshine, follow us on twitter and do a bit of stalking here:
So this really is goodbye from me! I'll be creating and sending out our Candlemas Newsletter this summer before handing over the reins to our new Vice-President, Megan Bruce, who, I know, will do an absolutely fantastic job. It doesn't make saying adieu any easier, especially as this is the last time I'll be able to sing with our fabulous fourth-years, Rachel, Rónán and Jess, who have made MadGroup for me. We love you guys, and can't wait to see you soon, so come back and visit us!
I've absolutely loved being Vice-President this year, and thanks to all our followers/readers for enduring my excessively flamboyant social media messages.
All of my madrigalian love,
Edwin (VP) xxxxx
What an eventful day! We set off this morning from our luxurious apartments, with Edwin practically passing a kidney stone trying to fit the van out through the tiny arch. We were soon on the A46, and the Death Cab (Transit Van) needed fuel. Unfortunately, I was accompanied by two of the most middle-class individuals ever to walk the Earth, who refused to allow me to stop at the first petrol station, as Cornelia "wasn't quite ready for her mid-morning coffee" and we would "have to wait at least seven minutes". With the promise of many petrol stations of sufficient calibre on the A1 ("I mean, it doesn't even have an M&S!") we embarked down the dual carriageway. Ca-chunk, ca-chunk. Our treasurer, Craig, was admittedly rather taken aback to receive the call that we had broken down in a lay-by on the A46 because our need for fuel hadn't quite coincided exactly with elevenses... Having saved us via the medium of the last jerry can in the next petrol station, Craig then got the call that he'd left his suit jacket at the apartments. Poor guy. His one and a half hour journey took four hours after Struan typed in the wrong postcode. Exhausted, we crashed on the sofa after a fantastic lunch chez Rosie Hanlon to watch The Devil Wears Prada. A productive rehearsal preceded a superb concert in the beautiful St Peter's Church, East Carlton, with one of the best crowds yet! Again, I must dash, as the wafts of Mrs Hanlon's chilli con carne are distracting me no end!
Lots of madrigalian love,
We're currently in Lincoln and finally have access to precious wifi! As per usual, tour is flying by and we are having a fantastic time! We started off with a very successful concert in our home town, before heading off on Monday to sunny Linlithgow. Despite a cheeky pitch invasion by a resident bird (feathered...), the concert went brilliantly and the audience were super, as usual. A gorgeous pasta bolognese from our treasurer's family, the Stevens, went down very well indeed, and huge thanks to them for both putting us up and putting up with us for yet another year! After a much needed night's sleep from our generous hosts, we were back on the road again for the long journey to Bamburgh. Our annual stop didn't fail to live up to its usual high standards, and everyone was typically friendly and welcoming and, although the inclement weather didn't allow us to bronze ourselves in front of the beautiful castle, the slap-up pub dinner certainly was great recompense! Only discovering the heating/hot-water switch after our rather cool night's sleep and cold showers in the cricket pavilion, a rather sleepy MadGroup headed off in the drizzle to lovely Lincoln! A cheeky stop at McDonald's for some McNuggets (feel free to sponsor us, Macky D's...) and a few hours later and we arrived in the beautiful cathedral city. This year we are getting to stay in four gorgeous luxury apartments, courtesy of the fantastic Andrew! Spoilt MadLadz! Many thanks to Richard for helping to arrange so much for our Lincoln concert, especially as he arranged for us to be recorded for BBC Radio Lincolnshire (94.9FM, details to follow!). Another superb concert from the lads, blasting out our Tippett spirituals with gusto, followed by a fantastic dinner back at the apartments. Speaking of, I'm late for it, so I'll sign off now! We'll keep you updated with the rest of the week.
Lots of madrigalian love,
So we're just about to leave Bamburgh after having been treated to wonderful hospitality as usual by the parish. The weather has been splendid all the time (many of the party are sunburnt from the beach yesterday..) and we had a well attended and enjoyable concert. Off to Lincoln in a few hours!
Yesterday we sang at Old St Paul's in Edinburgh where the choir sang well to a receptive audience in a beautiful building.
Some of the choir enjoying the beautiful day on the beach at Bamburgh yesterday!
For the first time we're going to run a tour blog this year! We'll post pictures, sound clips, videos and general ramblings from our tour. We hope you enjoy it and it either inspires you to come to one of our concerts (see future concerts page) or brings back old memories!
The build up to this year's tour hasn't been entirely smooth with new insurance arrangements to battle with but thanks to the support of the Students Association and the Proctor's Office, we're now good to go. All the red tape means we're now a little behind with things like publicity but we'll be doing a lot of that tomorrow, targeting local B&B's to try to increase the turnout at our concert!