Tour scrapbook, or, where was I?

When I last kept this blog in some semblance of a working order, it was nearly a year ago and we were in the US, then Dubai, then South Korea. I loved the process of chronicling the tour: it forced me to pay attention to the extraordinary experiences that are all too easy to take for granted. Since then, we’ve had plenty of tour adventures, but nothing that compared in terms of a joined-up stint on the road, and I’ve let the grass grow high on this page once more.

Well, here we go again. This time the itinerary reads: FL > GA > PA > MA > CA > SC > NC > GA > OK > TX, with two nights in our own beds before we head out to Russia via Northern Ireland. It feels odd to launch straight into another American tour diary without at least a recap of what’s happened in between, so here are some stray highlights from our touring life since last winter:

Sing-along-a-fugue with 40 other Swingles and ex-Swingles at our 50th anniversary party in December. Planning to surprise the audience with a taped message from Ward Swingle, then going to pieces myself when I hear it for real.

Winter sun on the red brick of Fossano, with the Alps a Hollywood matte painting behind it.


The 11,000-strong roar of a sports arena in Ankara.

Knocking back Kölsch and shots of something suspiciously green with a dozen singers in the last bar open Cologne; being repeatedly told off for making too much noise and making it anyway because that’s what a dozen singers do.

In snow-fringed Budapest, retracing a formative week from that summer of boundless possibility between school and university; soaking in the clammy, echoing warmth of Gellert baths.

Staring out from a jetty at Sochi over a slate-coloured Black Sea.


Guzzling snails at Paris’s Chez Chartier, and chocolate mousse at Chez Janou; stepping onto the stage of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées – site of the infamous Rite of Spring premiere – with the Orchestre Lamoureux swelling sumptuously behind us.

Lunch with Ward Swingle, then holding my breath as he listens to a new song of ours on headphones. Looking at shelves full of his scores, Grammy awards, and a framed handwritten page of Berio’s Sinfonia.

Waking up in Greeley, Colorado after the longest-haul of travel days; trudging through the most featureless of sun-sharpened suburbscapes (below) to a Wal-Mart the size of a citadel where they’d never seen a Chip & PIN card; having my preconceptions about the town confounded when we find ourselves in front of the liveliest and hippest of jazz festival crowds.


The beautiful Baroque church in Hannover where I spent 90% of the gig concentrating on trying not to sneeze.

The intoxicating blue of the Costa Brava sea; Girona’s old town made Technicolor with floral displays for the Temps de Flors festival; the best soft-serve ice cream I’ll ever lick, at Rocambolesc.


Larking about in a crumbling Edwardian swimming baths for our Piper video shoot:

The infectious energy of everyone at the London A Cappella Festival, keeping me running on fumes for four days, and again six months later at the London A Cappella International Summer School. Two huge ticks on the bucket list as we share a stage first with The Real Group and then with New York Voices.

Baking in the Quebec sun, then freezing in the Saint Lawrence River, at Domaine Forget vocal jazz camp; getting schooled by a deeply groovy bunch of French-Canadians.

Popping out onto the stage of a packed Royal Albert Hall for about 5 minutes for the Christmas taping of Songs Of Praise.

Of course there are the in-betweens, the weeks at home and the less Instagram-friendly travel moments. Like now, as I kill time in a food court at Charlotte airport with a cocktail pianist playing Journey and Céline Dion in the background, trying to decide whether I give into the siren song of the dirty BBQ joint, or seek out a healthy option, or admit that I’m not actually hungry so much as bored. Like the schleps to and from airports, or the frustrating Skype calls on bad Wi-Fi. In short, all the little banalities that can distance me from the truth that glares out as I read over the above: that this is a helluva way to make a living.

Well, that’s the housekeeping bit done. Everyone up to speed? Good. Check back over the next month to find out if I can still fit into my jeans. Just a few ribs never hurt anyone, right?

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