Am happy to report that all went well on the journey to London. Uneventful flights from DFW to Philly, fhen Philly to London Heathrow, on time and actually 30 minutes early at Heathrow – meaning 6:00 am!
Can’t believe we’ve still been here less than 48 hrs. and here’s some of the things we’ve done:
1) Made the 24-mile trip from Heathrow Airport to Blackheath village, borough of Lewisham, greater London, three of us schlepping our average 40-50-lb. bags behind us, via a) the (expensive) Heathrow Express from the airport to Paddington Station, b) then underground line (Bakerloo) to Charing Cross Station, and c) finally the aboveground Southeastern National Rail to Blackheath, before walking the approx. 1/2 mile remaining to the hotel; the latter two train connections were made using our newly-acquired Oyster Cards, a reloadable card for all London travel modes – trains, buses, underground, etc.
2) Checked into the absolutely delightful Clarendon Hotel – a recently-restored, historic, very British hotel situated on the heath (open, uncultivated land) of Blackheath village. The hotel touts itself as “the finest Georgian hotel in SE London.” We’ll be here 10 nights;
3) Had our first sit-down dinner in London: at a very good Nepalese/Indian restaurant called the Saffron Club Ltd.;
4) Had our first (included) full English breakfast in the hotel – featuring such British standard options as baked beans and grilled tomatoes (as well as the more traditional choices, of course!);
5) Had my first rehearsal with Suré Eloff in London, at the home of composer and conductor Gregory Rose;
6) Attended The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre; great, edgy, pins-and-needles live show, with lots of unexpected screams and loud noises spooking the audience when least expected; (not long ago made into a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, but the live theatre version is vastly superior to the film).
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Couple of early impressions upon our arrival in the UK/London reminded me that we are NOT, musically speaking, in Kansas (the US) anymore! Read on…
First was the restroom stop just off the plane, still inside customs, at 6:00 am on Friday, 3/7. The music permeating both the men’s and women’s restrooms was a very familiar and famous Miserere, very probably by an English composer, and (my daughter Grace tells me, since she has a William Byrd station on Pandora!), even more probably by William Byrd, which it very plausibly could have been (I wasn’t 100% sure, but I believe she was right). Regardless of the composer, it was definitely beautiful Renaissance a capella choral music filtering through the area where most visitors to Britain would likely make their first stop, and hence a place of unusual influence and significance where England sends its first foreign-visitors message! Most nobly done. Marge, Grace and I immediately noticed and commented on this choice.
The second experience was a conversation I had with the general manager of the Clarendon, Mr. Ben Miller, on the same day, March 7, 2014, that we checked into his hotel. After he learned the reason I was in the UK in the first place (to play two concerts), he wistfully told me about a piece he had just heard on the radio this week – the Poulenc Rondelle – which had so impressed and moved him that he found a copy and downloaded it to his iPod. He also went on at length about a number of famous jazz and legit musicians who had stayed at the Clarendon, some of the interactions he had with them, etc. I was very impressed that he, as what we might be tempted to call a serious-music neophyte, knew and cared as much about music as he obviously did, with passion and interest. Again, serious music had obviously permeated the non-professional ranks of society in a meaningful way.