Friday: 5pm, Battle Creek MI
On the list of great bus journeys of the world, you’re unlikely to find St Louis MO to Ann Arbor MI in its upper reaches. It’s many many hours of remorselessly flat terrain, made occasionally more interesting by a slow right-hander, a couple of junctions, or, as in our current predicament, a flat tyre. The journey should take about eight hours, but with this little mishap we’re currently at nine-and-a-half hours, still an hour away from Ann Arbor. I have every confidence that we’ll be striding out on to that stage to deliver our final concert at 8pm – somehow – but in the meantime, we’re looking after each other and keeping spirits high with games, jokes, and for more than two hours on this journey, a general knowledge quiz.
The Tenebrae bus quiz is a venerated institution dating back some 5 years. By tradition it has been used to help the time pass on our nearly-annual drives across northern France to the gorgeous seaside town of Lessay, hosted with a firm hand by Adrian Peacock. Prizes are awarded for winners and losers, with the warmest applause reserved for those in last place (nobody likes a clever clogs round here). In Adrian’s absence we’ve turned to Ellie Minney to play quizmaster, and marvelously she did, too. We’re now all armed with the knowledge of which two animals experience menopause, and which is Asia’s coldest capital city: I’m sure these insights will add lustre to our performance tonight. Incidentally, today’s prize was shared between two teams which together comprised the oldest men on the bus. We have our uses.
Next morning, Ann Arbor MI, with a sore head:
We pulled in to the church parking lot at 7.10pm, after more than 11 hours on the road. A 10-minute soundcheck, a banana, a bottle of water, a quick change and then we were on. This is one of the USA’s most important concert series and we gave it all we had. As has been the case for the entire tour, it was thrilling to sing the Brahms and Bruckner with this ensemble – I think we’ve managed to capture the clean lines of counterpoint, crafted in the manner of the greats of the Renaissance, as well as its surging, yearning passions. This is what Tenebrae is all about, and the generous response from a packed audience reminded us why we do it. Afterwards we bathed our tired voices (as I write this, I’ve lost mine altogether) in a little more beer than was strictly necessary. A good tour should always end that way.
As you’ve read elsewhere on this blog, a tour of the USA is made complicated by the huge distances one must travel, and the need to coordinate arrangements properly is made greater by the fact that mistakes can have dire consequences. From my ringside seat I’ve been able to watch my wife (Tenebrae’s US agent, Christie Starrett) put the dates for this tour together, and then the dozens of hours of preparatory work that have gone on behind the scenes between Christie and Henry Southern – Tenebrae’s tireless general manager. Henry’s the youngest person on this trip, but he’s a remarkable character – in total control, unflappable, never without a smile. He is responsible for our happiness and comfort – no small burden – and should take enormous credit for the successes – and there have been a great many – that we’ve had.
In a bored moment on one of our mammoth bus journeys this week, I penned a little ditty in his honor:
With virtue, the envy of men,
And service beyond mortal ken,
What joy to be cared for again
By Tenebrae’s own mother Hen.
Long live this wonderful choir.
-Gabriel Crouch (bass)