Unless you are a fan, you may have missed this announcement. Indeed, I was onboard the ship just recently, and I was not aware of its significance.
Little could I have guessed that I would soon be auditioning for a role in the choir…
As a casual fan of classical music, I found the music wonderful (I even snuck in on a couple of band rehearsals), and the musicians were friendly and accessible.
The series of performances hosted by the charming Anthony Inglis – the NSO conductor who has performed more times at the Royal Albert Hall than anyone else – and whose job to jolly up Queen Mary 2’s passengers and conduct an orchestra, often simultaneously, was truly quality entertainment.
As is tradition now, when the NSO crosses the Atlantic on Queen Mary 2, passengers are recruited as its volunteer choir, where they’ll perform on the Last Night of the Proms, leading the audience in song – and accompanying the noted orchestra. No auditions are required which means all comers are welcome.
There was a sales pitch or at least a bit of gentle arm twisting from my travel companions to participate (in total nearly 200 passengers volunteered!).
It sure did sound like fun to sing, from the stage, just behind the musicians but then there was the matter of three additional rehearsals.
And, I’m sorry to say, despite being intrigued, there was a concern: Would this get in the way of some of the less lofty activities on the agenda, like long lazy lunches at Todd English, massages at the Canyon Ranch spa (with time for the lounging at the spa pool afterward), curling up with books in the ship’s gorgeous library, on a sundeck, on my balcony? What about naps?
In the end the experience was incredibly rewarding.
Rehearsals turned out to be a blast with the irrepressible Inglis displaying a sense of goofiness and fun that might be slightly out of place at Royal Albert Hall but fit right in with Cunard’s Royal Court Theater. Learning the music was moving and meaningful. We sang “Rule Britannia,” “Jerusalem” and “Land of Hope and Glory” with full audience participation. And yet it was “Amazing Grace” – just our tenors, altos, sopranos and bass – and members of the NSO, on violin and cello, on timpani and harp, that was the concert’s shining moment.
During our performance Inglis continued the light-spirited hijinks that had been so entertaining during our rehearsals. At the early seating performance, he tells us: “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.”
But don’t take my word for it, you can watch the video of the performance.
In our second seating performance, fellow passenger (and volunteer chorister) Mervyn King (the recently retired Governor of the Bank of England), got a chance to be celebrity conductor (he did well).
Ultimately, the opportunity to sit behind the musicians on the stage at the Royal Court Theater and sing our hearts out to an engaged and appreciative audience, is a memory I’ll always treasure.
And I think about how I almost bypassed the experience for more time at the spa.
–Carolyn Spencer Brown
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