October 3, 2013
Posted in: Special Guests
Orchestral Manoeuvres on the Deep
By Anthony Inglis
The National Symphony Orchestra and I always look forward to performing on board a Queen Mary 2 Crossing, and this year was no exception.
This time it was to be an 8 day crossing, which allowed us more time for rehearsals and also to perform on the penultimate night when everyone was dressed up rather than the very last night of the voyage. We signed up the passenger choir on the 2nd morning at sea and everyone was looking forward to performing on stage for the (almost) Last Night of The Cunard Proms.
We never know how many people are going to participate, but we needn’t have worried as no fewer than 160 guests volunteered to perform in two choirs, singing the well-loved favourites Rule Britannia, Jerusalem and Land of Hope and Glory in the big concert at the end of the crossing. In addition there was to be a choir-and-orchestra-only rendition of Amazing Grace – this arrangement was performed at the Naming Ceremony of Queen Mary 2 in 2004 and is now an established favourite of Cunarders.
First, though, the NSO performed at the American Evening, where and we played Rhapsody in Blue, which always goes down well, plus some Sousa marches and Broadway show tunes. This was well received, particularly by our US friends who waved their American flags with enthusiasm.
Then it was the turn of the British… We had heard on the way down to Southampton the sad news of Sir David Frost’s passing and we were glad to be able to pay our own tribute to him during the concert. We dedicated the Dambusters March to him, as on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs he had chosen it as his favourite piece of music. We also played Crown Imperial as a tribute to HM The Queen in her Diamond Jubilee Coronation Year.
Then it was the turn of the choirs, both of whom performed magnificently. All the rehearsing certainly paid off – the audience loved them!
As well as the choirs, there are always fun and games at a Last Night and this year didn’t disappoint. At the first of the evening’s two performances, Captain Oprey stepped onto the stage and he and I swapped jackets so that he could conduct the orchestra for the encore of the Hornpipe. Then, as I was contemplating, in my Captain’s hat and jacket, ordering a slight adjustment to the ship’s course to visit the Caribbean(!), Captain Oprey had me ‘arrested’ for impersonating an officer and taken off stage in handcuffs! In my absence, he conducted my orchestra through the music for Top Gun which he and they had ably rehearsed on the quiet! The resulting gale of laughter from the audience was in wonderful contrast to the crossing which was one of the smoothest I’ve been on.
For the second performance of the evening, we had another distinguished guest conductor – Lord King of Lothbury, the recently retired Governor of the Bank of England who was on his way to New York after steering the economy safely through some troubled waters. He was already singing in the choir (Tenor – or should that be tenner – of course!) and proved himself very adept at conducting the orchestra and very amusing into the bargain. I gave him a £20 note for his conducting which, I explained, started out as only £10 but with quantative easing and allowing for inflation, had increased to the higher amount. He took the £20 note with a smile and put it in his pocket (though he did gamely give it back later!).
The National Symphony Orchestra and I loved every minute of the crossing and we can’t wait until next year when we look forward to doing it again, with more volunteer passenger choirs bringing the house down.
Thanks to Anthony Inglis for his blog on the Last Night of the Cunard Proms. Anthony will be conducting the NSO and a new passenger choir on board Queen Mary 2 on her 8 September 2014 crossing to New York. For more information on this Transatlantic Crossing click here.
Watch our video on the Last Night of the Cunard proms here:
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