November 1, 2012
There are some special things in life that you can only experience with Cunard. Only with Cunard could you experience the thrill of performing on stage as part of a 100 strong choir supported by the National Symphony Orchestra whilst crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Well that is exactly what happened and here is the blog to describe the magic.
On Queen Mary 2’s recent Westbound Transatlantic Crossing to New York, guests had the unique opportunity to perform in a choir with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by renowned Conductor Anthony Inglis. Grammy nominated Conductor and Musical Director Anthony Inglis has featured more times at London’s Royal Albert Hall than anyone else in the building’s history and has been described as “one of Britain’s most popular conductors”. His association with Cunard stretches back to the years of Sir Samuel Cunard! Inglis’ ancestor is the famous Scottish Engineer Robert Napier, the man who installed engines in the first Britannia Class steamships. Anthony’s association goes back to QM2’S naming ceremony in 2004, since then he has organised, arranged and performed the music for the naming ceremonies of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth and the popular Around Britain voyage concerts.
The Daily Programme featured details of the performance and on the 2nd sea day of the crossing around 200 guests attended the sign up with Anthony in the Royal Court Theatre. On the performance night the stage needed to accommodate the choir alongside the National Symphony Orchestra and their instruments, so the group was divided into first and second seating dining. There was already a sense of camaraderie with Anthony and the choir, he helped reassure those who were worried about their singing skills and said that “Everybody can sing, you just need to train your ear to know the difference between the notes”
There were two rehearsals during the crossing where the choirs were divided up into 4 parts: sopranos, altos, tenors and basses, everyone was given their music sheets and the fun began! The choir would be leading the rest of our guests in Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory at a special ‘Last Night of the Cunard Proms’ performance on the last night of the crossing. They would also be performing a 4 part harmony of the chorus from The Mikado (The Executioner’s Song) – which most of the choir weren’t familiar with…a lot of practice was needed before the big show!
Anthony and our guest choir had great fun during rehearsals, with his many quips and stories! After only a couple of hours singing together, guests were singing in great harmony and sounded liked a professional choir!
In between rehearsals there were two performances of ‘An American Evening With The National Symphony Orchestra Under The Direction of Conductor Anthony Inglis’ to a full house in the Royal Court Theatre. The orchestra were really fantastic, and it was wonderful to watch them play their individual instruments and hear the end sound come together so brilliantly. A very talented young man called Richard played a fantastic piece on the piano: the audience were completely enthralled, hanging onto every note he played.
Here’s a tip for you – whether it’s a comedian performing or the National Symphony Orchestra – don’t walk to the front of the theatre if you are late for the show, unless you want to become part of the performance! A delayed member of the audience found that out when Anthony invited her to the stage to play the Liberty Bell (the ship’s bell) alongside the orchestra. Happily, she was a great sport and played her part on cue…eventually!
The night before arriving into New York, it was time to perform. The Royal Court Theatre was full and the Captain was in the front row. Guests all had a programme and a Union flag, the orchestra started playing and the choir led the audience, alongside Royal Cunard Singer Martin Lawson and West End Star Philippa Healey, in the National Anthem.
The orchestra sounded great, the choir sounded amazing and everyone in the Royal Court Theatre was getting involved waving flags and singing along. The audience then became part of the show as Anthony invited them to clap along in unison for the Hornpipe. It proved less than straightforward and Anthony had everyone laughing as well as clapping as the music accelerated to its frenetic conclusion!
Captain Oprey was then invited on to the stage and swapped jackets – and his captain’s hat – with Anthony. It was now the Captain’s turn to conduct! Captain Oprey asked how the orchestra will know when to stop playing, to which Anthony replied “When there are no dots left, they’ll stop playing!”
Captain Oprey did a fantastic job at conducting as Anthony looked on. Asked how he knew how to start the piece of music, the Captain revealed that he had googled it on the web!
The evening really hit its stride as orchestra, choir, soloists and audience raised the roof with first Rule Britannia and then a climactic rendition of Land of Hope and Glory. With flags waving and the audience on its feet in full song, it really was a night to remember. Thank you Anthony, the National Symphony Orchestra, the soloists and the Queen Mary 2 audiences – you were all fantastic!
You can join Anthony and the NSO for another ‘Last Night of the Cunard Proms’ featuring the guest choirs next year aboard Queen Mary 2’s transatlantic crossing from Southampton to New York M320D on 2-10 September 2013.
So – well done Anthony , well done the Orchestra, well done Queen Mary 2 and a huge thank you to the 200 guests who performed so well and created the magic. I hope to travel with the orchestra next year – why don’t you book to come and join us.