July 16, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Mary 2
Countdown to Queen Elizabeth – 418 days
Thank you again for all the comments and the great feedback. There will be lots more news about Queen Elizabeth over the coming months and I know you’ll have questions that I’ll do my best to answer. In the meantime further to Freddie’s question regarding the naming of Queen Elizabeth, I’m afraid we don’t know who this will be yet. This probably won’t be announced until much nearer the time – typically around 3 months before the ceremony itself. Of course if there is any news like this I’ll let Bloggers know straight away.
This week’s Blog is a result of the very positive response from the last “A Day in the Life” Blog. Firstly though here’s “This week in Cunard’s History” for the week, 17th to the 23rd July:
July 22 1951
Caronia II makes her maiden call to Oslo, Norway
July 22 1990
QE2 completes her fastest eastbound Atlantic crossing in four days, 6 hours and 57 minutes, at a speed of 30.16 knots.
When I talk to guests and Bloggers there is always a lot of interest in our crew and in their lives, and as a new regular monthly feature it’s a pleasure to highlight what they do on board as well as a bit about themselves. The winner of the most recent “Star of the Month” award on Queen Victoria was Maurice Williams who is the Band Leader for the seven piece Queens Room Orchestra, who perform Ballroom music for our guests in the Queens Room every night.
I have had the pleasure in working with Maurice on Queen Victoria on this year’s World Cruise and I was delighted to hear that he won the award as he is conscientious in everything that he does. His enthusiasm for his work is contagious and guests and fellow musicians feel this energy every time he leads his orchestra in the Queens Room.
The Star of the Month title is awarded to just one crew member per ship each month as a result of guest and crew feedback and then consideration by our on board White Star Committee. The crew member is recognised in a special presentation where the Captain presents their award. A framed photograph acknowledging their achievement is displayed in the Grand Lobby of each ship for guests to see.
Although his mother is from Newton, Mississippi and his dad is from Memphis, Tennessee, Maurice was born in Chicago, Illinois. He has a brother and sister and now two sons of his own. He has been a professional Musician since 1972, with extensive experience in performing as a sideman and solo performer in numerous bands and on many ships. Here he is in one of his early orchestras; “Ajack’s Music Mania”.
As a musician Maurice is professionally proficient in Trombone, Tuba, Baritone Horn, Acoustic Bass, and Electric Bass. He also arranges and composes dance music for any occasion. Maurice has a degree in Music Education with more than 20 years performance experience as well as instruction and leadership in classroom string and wind instrumental music, and adult music education classes. He also holds qualified teacher status from the general teaching council of Great Britain. Whilst living in Birmingham, England he was awarded a grant from the Scarman Trust to organise, rehearse, and prepare community musicians from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds to perform as a single group called “The Note Benders” and here they are in rehearsals.
Maurice has other skills as well as he is also experienced and licensed in the repair and maintenance of electronic equipment working as a PC Board Assemblyman, Test Electrician, and TV Repairman.
Not unlike many musicians Maurice is a bit of a night owl starting his day late in the morning, but he does work late in to the night. I am always impressed by the amazing self discipline musicians have to continually practice their talent. Finding a place on board the ship to do this is not as easy as it may sound, especially on days when the ship is at sea as the public rooms are being used for guest activities. Popular areas end up being the Theatre dressing rooms or the crew recreation areas. Maurice likes to practice for at least an hour or two every day and also uses his day time to write arrangements for his orchestra to play. Sometimes guests ask for special tunes they would like to hear, so if he has the song in his library he arranges it so that the entire band can play it that evening. He also likes to write music for his own enjoyment.
As a Band Leader, he reports to the Musical Director and is responsible for all the music that his orchestra will play that night and as Maurice says “I am always concerned and aware of playing the correct styles and tempo because a lot of our guests are quite particular about dance music and have a variety of tastes, so I have to be knowledgeable as well as flexible”.
At the moment Maurice is also starting to work on his master’s degree which is proving to be quite a task requiring a lot of his spare time in between his work commitments.
His main work begins around 7pm with a warm up in preparation for the dance sets. He then spends some time with the Queens Room Vocalist to put together the order of music to be played that evening. He says “I want to make sure that the band doesn’t play the same songs as the vocalist and that each dance style is covered for that evening.” Typically they will work till 12.15am (with some breaks in between of course!)
Like most crew members he likes to get off the ship on port days, but sometimes stays on board to enjoy the ship being quiet.
I asked him what “We Are Cunard” means to him. He told me “As a team we share the goal of ensuring our guests are as comfortable and happy as possible. For the Queens Room Orchestra our aim is to bring as many dancers to the floor as we can and I like to see all of them smile and laugh and hopefully not notice that they have just danced for twenty minutes!”
At the end of this contract Maurice is excited to be using his “Star of the Month” winnings to rent an apartment. He says he doesn’t really have many hobbies as music surrounds his life constantly and he has never thought about doing anything else. The most frequent question he is asked is whether he likes his job. He says his answer is easy; “For a musician to make a living performing is a dream come true. My dream is to be able to continue performing as much as I can for as long as I can and am really enjoying my time with Cunard”
I think that sums it up really and as well as thanking him for his time on this Blog, we, of course, wish him well with his degree.
I’ll be back soon with more news and I look forward to reading your comments and questions. Cheers Alastair.