Chorister USA Tour
For the first time in four years, the Choir of New College Oxford embarked on an international tour to the United States over the first week of the Easter holidays.
The choristers departed early morning on Thursday 23 March from Heathrow to their first destination: Houston, Texas. For many of the boys, this was their first experience of Southern State American culture, with acres of green space for football and impressive servings of Texan cuisine. The boys’ first performance took place in the Stone Chapel of the Lanier Theological Library, founded by Mark Lanier in 2010 to pursue theological studies. After two nights in Houston, the choir departed Houston via the I-45N for a day’s travel to arrive in Dallas. Following a few breakfast burritos, the choir sang Sunday Eucharist at Saint Michael and All Angels Church. The stay in Dallas concluded with an evening performance as part of the church’s concert series to an audience of over seven hundred people. The boys were also lucky enough to share their stage with the Saint Michael Choristers for a joint performance of Howell’s Collegium Regale at the end of the concert.
Next, the choir departed for Charlotte, giving another outstanding performance at Christ Episcopal Church. Their concert programme consisted of a number of pieces by William Byrd as part of the events to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death, as well as famous choral works by English composers including Herbert Howells, Joanna Marsh, Edward Elgar and Edward Bairstow. Not only do tours offer fantastic performance opportunities in new locations and acoustic settings, they also allow an ensemble to refine and perfect their concert programme with rehearsal time that is not always readily available during term time. This performance led to a third standing ovation for their singing, and included a particularly impressive performance of Ne Irascares by Byrd, a Latin motet that describes the bleak desolation of Jerusalem which the boys performed with sensitivity and maturity.
On day six the choir departed Charlotte to arrive in New York where they spent the remainder of the tour. The choristers were hosted by Saint Thomas Fifth Avenue Choir School, the resident choir school that teaches 25 boarding choristers in the heart of Manhattan. As part of their stay, the choir performed two concerts, one of which was a joint concert of Passiontide music with the Saint Thomas Choir. This concert concluded with an incredibly moving performance of Gerald Finzi’s Lo, the full, final sacrifice. In between rehearsals for these performances, the boys were able to take in the sights of New York, visiting Times Square, taking the Staten Island Ferry, visiting the Nintendo Museum and, of course, multiple football games in Central Park. The tour ended with a joint Palm Sunday Service with Saint Thomas before we arrived back in Oxford the following morning. The boys had a fantastic trip filled with memories of music making, social time with their friends across the school, and spending time with cultures that are very different from their day-to-day lives in Oxford. This enriching trip will be remembered by all.