THE FINAL DAY

As the sun rose over Boston, the final day of our East Coast tour began. The weary men packed up their cases before sampling the delights of Boston’s public transport network once again, (3 separate journeys to be precise all paid for off ONE travelcard – Cameron is currently being treated for repetitive strain injury but is doing well). Our final stop of the trip was to the British School of Boston where we sang to a huge audience whose ages ranged from 4 to middle age.

Then it was time for the tour awards. After being presented with a thank you gift on behalf of the group for his organisation of the tour, Cameron awarded each member of the group an award to recognise their contribution to tour life, rounding off what has been a fantastic trip.

On behalf of All the King’s Men, I’d like to thank everyone who has followed this blog, supported the Facebook and Twitter updates of our tour, our US hosts, and the AtKM management team for their unrelenting hard work throughout the tour.
See you all at the Southbank Centre on Friday for our FREE gig!

SL

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Day 12 – Tufts – our final concert

Waking up in Harvard after a relaxing cookies and Coke (of the legal kind) party was always going to be one of the hardest things the Men have had to do all tour. Rehearsal began at 11:01 with three of guys and by 11:25 we had the full contingent with shutters and windows flung open for optimum rehearsing conditions. JStew led a cracking rehearsal, reworking one of our numbers…watch this space.

The Men then took off around Cambridge with most ending up with a coffee in hand doing last minute readings for our arrival in London on Wednesday or sorting out our Facebook page for YOU, our devoted supporters.
A rendezvous at a metro station later in the afternoon was unusual in that instead of taking the public transport we walked three stops over some of the fiercest contour lines in Boston while hauling our luggage to Tufts.

After a short snowball fight which concluded as Gus against the world and showed the great arm strength of MS and CC we followed Michael of sQ to the a cappella flat above Boloco Burritos. We were all exhausted but managed to get out of the door after a five minute sit down and a cup of…oh wait, the yanks threw it all away.

The gig at Tufts was wonderful, what a great way to end the tour. Every member of the group soloed which displayed the genuine talent AtKM has and this has made the tour such a huge success. One online follower travelled ten hours to see us perform and was not disappointed!

After the usual stickering of the audience and selling of CDs we tossed our shirts in our bags for the final time…until Friday (check out www.all-the-kings-men.com/gigs for more information) and headed. Returning back to Boloco most of the exhausted Men had work to do. The final night of partying saw SL fend off a harem of singers all wanting advice on their love lives and practising their Downtown Abbey accents. The most fun we had in the ‘work’ room was helping with a nutrition assignment for one of the Americans with our GCSE biology getting the answers bang on.

After some dictatorial demands this avid a cappella singer had freed enough space to lie across a leather couch and coupled with some Korean ear plugs dozed into some great sleep mid party! On waking up in the morning a congratulatory fist pump was in order for GN who was just off to bed having finished his essay at 7:30am for a 12pm deadline…perfect timing.

JD

DAY 11 – HARVARD

From roughly five different sleeping locations, All the King’s Men fought through driving sleet and freezing snow and, by gritty determination alone, each man descended upon the pre-agreed point of rendezvous. After a wild night at Brown, we made for Providence station and boarded the train for Boston.

One of the challenges of the tour has been to cope with our luggage. At times this has been both stressful and, because of this, utterly hilarious; getting 12 men in red ski jackets, each dragging a full-size suitcase through a city is no small task! Taxi cabs, mad dashes, suitcase battles, banter, and the incessant grinding of suitcase wheels on Tarmac (a truly awful sound, that you only realise how loud it is when it stops), have characterised our journeys. We sure have been places! This has been a “tour” in every sense of the word.

It is a privilege to be spending the night under the roof of Harvard University, not least after having enjoyed an extremely convivial reception, held in our honour, with The Harvard Callbacks and The Harvard Low Keys. These two a cappella groups hosted a great concert for us, in which we completed a full 30 minute set.

After a vocally demanding 10 days, we have had to dig deep for stamina today, and it is a great strength of the group that we can do this. The Men have been on really good form, laughing off our tiredness, re-energizing and re-discovering that we just really love to sing together! We received the subsequent compliments of the audience with delight. They especially complimented our high energy levels on stage and the excitement of our arrangements. This was corroborated by a full standing ovation. It was really pleasing to have physical proof that our hard work has been paying off, and we were humbled to receive such an enthusiastic response from two a Cappella groups who are themselves so exhilarating to watch. “You guys don’t just sing, you actually entertain!”

PM

DAY 10 – TURN THAT BROWN UPSIDE DOWN

After a memorable night at Yale on Friday, the group continued its tour of the who’s who of the East Coast colleges by heading up to Providence, RI and Brown University. Founded in 1764, Brown boasts a breathtaking campus, an eclectic student body and an outstanding academic reputation. Tonight we were hosted by my own a cappella group, the Brown Derbies, who recently won their round of the ICCA quarterfinals. Our joint concert also featured the Ursa Minors of Brown and the Smiffenpoofs of Smith College.

Besides their voices, the Derbies are known for, to put it delicately, having a good time and last night was no exception. The Derbies hosted an afterparty for all the groups at the aptly named Derbyhaus and all of the staples of an American college party were in abundant supply. The groups began to intermingle and it was with a distinct sense of satisfaction that I watched the coming together of two superb a cappella groups that have both meant so much to me. As one of the Derbies jokingly put it, we should establish an exchange programme between the two groups both to strengthen our ties and to learn from each other. If that were to happen, I would be proud to have been the first official member of All the Brown King’s Derby Men.

Today, the Men head off to Harvard to continue our tour by singing with the Callbacks. Despite a few close calls, the Men haven’t actually missed a train yet and, for what it’s worth, my money’s on today. But after last night, we can forgive ourselves for being slightly disorganised.

MS

DAY 9 – YALE OUT OF THE BLUE

Corralling All the King’s Men from Cornell to Yale was uncannily reminiscent of herding unruly quadrupeds. I’ve never directly experienced the latter, but it seems likely that it would be equally as tedious, not to mention similarly malodorous. The drive itself was wonderful, and gave us stunning vistas of the American Northeast; we saw plenty of rolling, snow-dusted hills, enough so that I am comfortable never seeing a snow-dusted hill ever again.

Luckily, we had plenty of residual excitement from the night before – enough to get us through almost an hour of our road trip before the inevitable desultory chorus of boredom overwhelmed conversation. Some of the members were spared from the barrage of complaints by sleeping off their night out – our second experience with Cornell Hangovers (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Yale itself is a joy – one thing that bears mentioning is the simple grandeur of the campuses we’ve visited: NYU, Cornell, Princeton are especially beautiful. Yale is no exception, and it was refreshing to see an “imitation Cambridge” – as one of our members put it – so comfortably ensconced in Connecticut. There was, however, something incongruous about hearing Skyfall chimed on the bells of Harkness Tower.

After a quick rehearsal in a classroom that looked older than the country, we were ready for our show with Yale’s Out Of The Blue, who are affiliated with our good friends at Oxford. We performed in a common room at one of Yale’s residences, bedecked in subtle elegance befitting the future leaders of America. Out Of The Blue put on a phenomenal show, and surprised us by performing an energetic arrangement of one of our own tunes, Steve Winwood’s Higher Love – think about it.

Today we are off to Brown to sing with the Derbies, the home group of our esteemed American, Matt. We’re very excited for the concert, and in true AtKM style, we are meeting at 13:00 to catch our 11:30 train.

JG

DAY 8 – THE HANGOVERS…

Navigational skills were once again put to the test on day 8 of the AtKM USA tour, and by the close of play some members were left questioning if Cameron Carr’s only driving qualification was the name he shared with our chosen mode of transportation for the day. Whilst the 4 hour drive to Ithaca provided some members with some much-needed rest and relaxation, team Jeff Gary powered on. ‘We’re All the King’s Men’ not ‘All the King’s Sissy Girls’ he cried before denying anybody the promise of a toilet stop. On we drove…

With bladders (and tempers) at breaking point we arrived at Cornell, dropped off our cases at our hosts’ house and headed straight to the university to sound check the evening’s gig. Held in Cornell’s magnificent Sage chapel, the concert itself was a joint event between the Men and Cornell’s all-male a Capella group ‘the Hangovers’ (a concept with which several of the Men are familiar this morning)…

A packed audience enjoyed a great set from both groups which included two very different, but equally well-received versions of ‘Call Me Maybe’. The musical performances were interspersed with some comedy sketches written by the Hangovers that were masterfully delivered by some of the Men. They explored such polemic issues as whether the Crown Jewels and olympic medals are the Queen’s horcruxes (hence why she reached her diamond jubilee), whether all schools in Britain are like Hogwarts and of course the obligatory tomayto/tomato debate and the interminable ‘there’s no ”u” in ”colour” ‘ argument which was quickly ignored as we invented the language.

After the joint encore of ‘I Need You’ we headed back to our accommodation for a quiet early night. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything…

SL

DAY 7 – FREEZING WITH THE NYU VOCAHOLICS

Taking into account that this was the first time the Men would all be spending the night in one room, sleeping was a rather diplomatically arranged affair – ‘diplomatically’ being that floor space was on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and anyone who lost out would be taking up accommodation outside! Thankfully, we managed to assemble ourselves in a manner that allowed us to all fit in. Upon waking to a variety of phone alarms being set off in quick succession, we began gradually dissembling the misshapen grid of luggage, sofas and sleeping bags to begin the day. After a quick rehearsal and sharing our emotional farewells with mascot Baxter the resident Tigerlily tiger (soft toy), we dragged ourselves to the station for the train journey back to New York.

Of all the cities we’ve visited so far, in terms of sheer variety there has been nothing quite like New York. From the breathtaking views of the skyline from Brooklyn Bridge to the explosive vibrancy of Times Square, it is near impossible to find nothing to do – as if we didn’t have enough to do already with our unforgiving schedule! Our arrival however, began on a sombre note as we joined our Welsh baritone Steffan Rizzi in expressing his grief for his beloved and loyal suitcase, which had been on its last legs by the time we left Princeton and simply could not pull through in face of the strenuous journey through the New York metro.

After mourning Steffan’s loss, we had a chance to further explore downtown Manhattan, with some of the group taking the opportunity to relax before the gig in the evening at a coffee shop, while others opted to visit new sights such as the Ground Zero 9/11 memorial, and those more in touch with their feminine side caught up on a spot of last-minute shopping. Our avid photographer Gus Nicholson in particular emerged sporting a pair of star-spangled sunglasses of questionable fashionability. Another quick trip through the metro brought us to our next engagement with the Vocaholics from New York University at an outdoor gig at Washington Square. Singing under the impressive arch with the beautiful New York skyline lit up in the background, the Vocaholics treated the crowd to some highly entertaining numbers, of which a personal highlight for me was their hilarious rendition of ‘Pool Party’ by the Aquabats. In face of the bitter wind that relentlessly drove temperatures ever lower, the Men held their own with professionalism and charm, and we retired to bed looking forward to the long drive to Ithaca to perform with the Cornell Hangovers tomorrow.

EL

DAY 6 – THE PRINCETON TIGERLILIES

Day 6 began at a slow pace… At midday, we slowly assembled outside Columbia University in Manhattan. Despite our strict instructions to arrive on time, the late night concert and the long party that followed had taken their toll. Consequently, it was no surprise that we weren’t ready to leave until 12.30pm! Many of those who arrived early seized the opportunity to indulge in a breakfast of questionable nutritional value from local street vendors, before we set off to the Metro – next stop, Princeton.

AtKM are becoming renowned for inconveniencing the locals on the metro with our large and bulky suitcases, and our reputation was further tarnished as SR spilled his ketchup-ridden french fries on a hapless (and previously spotless) commuter. Hopefully, the theme won’t continue…

Despite our slow start, we arrived at Penn Station in downtown NYC with plenty of time to spare. The group quickly split (to locate yet more food!) before meeting again for a 3pm train journey to Princeton. Fortunately, this journey was far less eventful than our previous metro journey, and we arrived safely – to a very grey and wet Princeton. We then made the short walk from the station, to meet up with Alex, our charming (British!) contact from the Princeton Tigerlilies, who introduced us to their basement rehearsal room – a warm and dry retreat.

After a short tour of the town, dinner (in which some of the largest pizzas known to man were consumed), and a speedy rehearsal, we left the comfort of the inside for our outdoor performance in an archway within the college. The cold weather was quickly countered by the rich, warm harmonies of the Tigerlillies, with some of our members enjoying a little participation in one of their more seductive numbers. This set the stage for an intimate AtKM performance and it seemed fun was had by all before we returned to the warmth of the basement rehearsal room for more socialising and an early night.

TH

DAY 5 – THE BIG APPLE AND COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Despite the howling wind adding to the all-too-efficient ventilation system, the Men slept surprisingly well. After the relative heat of Washington, D.C., the bracing cold we faced on our arrival in NYC was met with some discontent, with a range of cold-weather gear on show. Commendations must go to Cameron Carr’s suitably Siberian fur hat, and Eunseog ‘OneSong’ Lee’s Peruvian-style effort, but the pick of the bunch was without a doubt Josh Darley’s balaclava, dubbed the ‘sports niqab’ by Sam Lyons.

The first item on the agenda was meeting for coffee with Paul Phoenix, tenor of the King’s Singers and our highly supportive patron, which presented a familiar challenge for All the King’s Men in navigating a foreign city. Cameron’s sense of direction has often been criticised, with madcap dashes across California freeways in order to catch a bus and an apparent inability to read a map all featuring heavily on previous tours. Being forgiving souls, we were all prepared to give him a chance. Nevertheless, Cam’s sense of direction, or lack thereof, once again came to the fore, taking us on a circuitous and seemingly never-ending walk. Having delayed breaking our fast, owing to the hostel’s kitchen being closed by the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the walk felt like an age. Eventually arriving at the café, we were able to take on some much-needed sustenance. Paul as ever was in great spirits. He has been invaluable in preparing us vocally for tours and competitions, as well as offering tour and performance advice and opinions on his beloved Manchester City.

We then headed to Times Square to take in the bright lights, singing an impromptu version of In the Jungle before embarking on an open-top bus tour of the city. Although it was bitterly cold on top of the bus, it was fantastic to see such colossal buildings up close and get a flavour for the city. We went our separate ways at lunchtime, with some electing to take in the view from Brooklyn Bridge whilst others preferred the warm sanctuary of a coffee shop. On returning to the bus, we went down the west bank of the Hudson, marvelling at the beautiful backdrop, with sunlight reflecting off the water and skyscrapers on the horizon.

After getting off once again at Times Square, we sheltered for a few more hours before heading to Columbia for our evening concert with the Uptown Vocals. We were joined back at the hostel by New Jersey boy and AtKM tenor Matt Slauson, who had gone home to see his family. Running late due to the slow Metro network, his sprint from 125th Street left him gasping for breath, before groaning as we walked back in the direction he had just run from. Not content with leading us a merry dance earlier, Cameron elected to take the ‘scenic route’ through a park. This was initially rather pleasant, until we were faced with carrying our heavy suitcases up the many steps at the other end. Cam later described this as ‘our new fitness regime’, and certainly seeing the flushed cheeks of certain members (I won’t name and shame) it could well be worth a try.

The concert itself was an intimate affair in a magnificent room in Columbia University. I should mention, after slating Cam’s sense of direction, that his powers of speed-ironing know no bounds, ironing all twelve of our shirts in roughly ten minutes! Both groups warmed up together before the show, which the Uptown Vocals began. A co-ed group, they had great energy in their sound and were extremely precise rhythmically. They performed a number of jazz standards as well as a scintillating mashup of “How Deep is Your Love” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, with all-male and all-female combos used in the set. Our own performance felt very comfortable and it’s clear that we are improving with every concert on tour. A lovely party hosted by Reuben of the Uptown Vocals rounded off the day.

Tomorrow we head to Princeton after a well-deserved lie-in. We’re very excited to perform our first outdoor gig of tour, under a traditional a cappella arch!

JS

DAY 4 – NEW YORK NEW YORK

Just as our body clocks were adjusting themselves the alarms went off at 5am and we left for the airport. Ensuring that he showered before he left, Eunseog questioned whether the New York hostel would have a bathroom, making him the first candidate eligible for the Sam Lyons common sense lessons.

Baltimore was great and we were excited to be flying to NYC! However, on boarding the plane we felt like we had gone down the rabbit hole. Worried that we might not get there in the hang-glider and that we may have to help power the plane we were in for a turbulent flight.

On arrival in NYC we all had some free time to look around the city. Not wanting to part each others’ company we all took an extensive tour of the airport terminals and the metro network further testing Cameron and Josh’s navigational skills. We met some characters on our travels: one man exclaimed to his wife: ‘Gus is an old girl!’. Transvestism seems to be a recurring tour theme. Not only this but we met four men and a double bass – ACapella Soul – who we showed our British brand of a cappella to. This was such a surreal experience as we stood on the platform and sang In the Jungle with some of the most soulful voices I have heard, behind which there was such soul and meaning.

After arriving at ‘Jazz on the Park’ we were assigned to our rooms and after freshening up we made a move out in to the freezing city. It was great to be back in the Big Apple and I know we will have the same successes here as last April when we competed in the ICCA finals.
Everything is going really well and on day four of the tour we have everything to look forward to in the following days.

JD