November 11, 2011
We Are Cunard
I left you last after my and the National Symphony Orchestra’s first performances of our American Evening on board the magnificent Queen Mary 2. It was appreciated by all the guests, but most of all by the many Americans travelling with us.
Our next performances were as keenly looked forward to, not just by the guests but also the orchestra. This was going to be a British Evening and therefore would comprise famous music from the United Kingdom, finishing with “Jerusalem,” “Rule Britannia” and “Land of Hope and Glory.” We would turn, temporarily at least, The Royal Court Theatre into The Royal Albert Hall.
To help us, the orchestra and I had two volunteer choirs, made up of guests on board who rehearsed and then performed before their friends and family and other guests. We were wonderfully inundated with volunteers and in the end had nearly 200 guests singing in the two choirs. The second rehearsal was no different from the first, which I talked about in Part One. There was lots of laughing and good-natured banter between the choir members and me, but ultimately lots of work to prepare them for singing in four-part harmony – some of them for the first time!
The song I had chosen for them was the Cunard anthem: “Amazing Grace,” that extraordinary hymn to freedom, written by John Newton. The last rehearsal was with the orchestra, and in the afternoon of the final sea day, we were ready!
At the first performance, the Royal Court Theatre was packed with guests waiting to hear 90 of their fellow guests give their all. I was nervous for them, as many were singing in public for the first time. But I need not have worried – they were magnificent, as I knew they would be!
For the second performance, word must have spread, as guests started finding their seats fully 50 minutes before the performance was due to begin. The stage was even more crowded for the second performance – never has the stage been so packed! They were equally magnificent as the choir in the first performance.
All too soon the shows were over and everybody had to go back to their staterooms and pack their bags. The orchestra and I loved the whole experience. The enthusiasm with which the audience joined in with the participation numbers, the joy with which the two choirs sang, and the feeling of elation we all had afterwards with two shows well performed and brilliantly received, was wonderful.
In fact, I enjoyed the voyage so much, I returned on Queen Mary 2’s 23 October Crossing to do it all again. This time with my wife and children, I had as good a time as I did on the previous voyage.