Wednesday, September 15, 2010

at long last...

another update. I've been in Provo now for almost three weeks. I miss Cambridge, but am settling in. I've made it into Concert Choir again - we performed yesterday for the devotional and have a concert next week. Speaking of the devotional, it was given by Elder Hales. And that was following the regional conference this past Sunday with Elders Packer, Holland, and Snow with Sister Beck. And the CES fireside with Elder Scott. Such a great run of spiritual messages. Classes are hectic, but it will be a good semester of growth.

Side note: I finished The Picture of Dorian Gray yesterday. Very good book. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Last Night Abroad

I travel home in the morning. CRAZY, indeed! My travels will last for almost 24 hours straight! I'll leave King's College gates around 9 AM by taxi, take the train and the tube to the airport, and then catch a flight at 2:30. I travel to DC (via Dallas—gross that i have to fly over my house to get to my transfer!) where I arrive at 12:15 AM and then we'll drive home, probably arriving around 1:30 AM on Monday morning. Factoring in the time change (1:30AM Eastern is 6:30 AM London) makes it seem even longer...the joys of international travel!

This last week has gone well despite being very busy.

Monday and Tuesday were consumed by writing my last paper for Cambridge. I wrote my Spooks and Spies paper on the VENONA project. Quite an interesting topic—check it out! (On wikipedia, if you don't have very much time.)

Wednesday was filled with frantic completion of the paper and then switching over to exam study mode for Thursday's Spooks and Spies exam. I ended up answering questions on 21st-century US intelligence/terrorism and 1983's nuclear scare. The 1983 scare is very fascinating. (Go ahead and check out wikipedia's articles on Operation Ryan and Able Archer, but the best resource is "1983: The Brink of Apocalypse" on youtube. It is 1 hour, 15 minutes long, but well worth it!)

After the exam on Thursday, I relaxed, got my hair cut, and went to the final formal hall. The food was amazing, but it was sad to look around and realize that it was coming to a conclusion. That very night, people began heading to the airport.

Friday and Saturday have been spent throughout Cambridge. I've seen some fun things and relaxed. I love this place and am very sad to go. But I will be back. As long as I can last another two years...alright, I can survive just fine.

Not too many new pictures for this last week...sorry!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Less than One Week Left in the UK...Sad Day!

This past week has been fairly basic. Some great things happened, but just in the doing of my normal routine.

Monday-We had a general lecture on memory and the effects of modern technology (including social networking/facebook/etc) on memory. It raised some interesting ideas. I didn't agree with all the conclusions about facebook being the sole cause of memory loss (that I'm not even sure is happening). But some very healthy conversation happened.

Friday-I met with Dr. Ennis for the last time. We talked over the entire project (30 pages) and then talked about grad school details. I feel like I have more direction as I figure out applications over the next year and handle acceptance letters the year following. I also went with a few friends to a Spanish Renaissance concert in Cambridge. It was too long, but the music was fun.

Saturday-London day trip. We visited the Victoria and Albert Museum to see this interesting exhibit on small space construction. The neatest construction was a two-story wooden "tower" that was a spiral staircase with bookcases on all sides of it. Fun idea. We went to the Proms organ concert in the evening and then made our way (despite train cancellations and station jumping) home to Cambridge. Long day, but good day!

Sunday-Church. Last Sunday in Cambridge, at least for this summer. I taught in Priesthood, played the organ in Sacrament Meeting and sang as part of a special musical number. Tonight I am in charge of FHE. It should be fun.

In one week I will be in transit from the UK to the quickly time flies!

P.S. Enjoy the new pictures. I've done some pictures of life in and around Cambridge, with more to come.

Monday, August 9, 2010

2 weeks...

The weather here has actually been different over the last week. The summer had been very dry in the southwest of England, and the rain has increased drastically in the last little bit. On Saturday, we had a rainstorm that lasted for about an hour, I think. It was great fun to watch the rain as I sat in the library. And the lawns being green is a nice perk, as well.

This last week has gone well for me. Nothing too exciting, but productive. I finished a paper for Spooks and Spies and have done major editing on my final supervision paper, which is due this week. In Spooks and Spies, a lot of the week was focused on the Enigma codes of WWII. And then we went to Bletchley Park, 1 1/2-2 hours away from here by coach, where the WWII codebreakers were based and where they broke the Enigma codes. A fun trip. Probably the biggest excitement of the week was with church, yesterday. Elder Kenneth Johnson of the Seventy was visiting our ward, because his son is the bishop. He sat in on my Sunday School lesson! And then he came to King's College to give a fireside for us BYU students and the single adults in the area. I learned and was reminded about a lot of things.

This next week is looking to be lots of work, but it should be enjoyable, at least! I'm also planning on going to London on Saturday for some exploring and probably two Prom concerts at Royal Albert Hall. I'm pretty excited about that!

So sad...I'm not ready to leave Cambridge, or England for that matter. I'll make the most of the next two weeks and then spend lots of time dreaming about coming back...

not too many, but a few new pictures...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is it really the start of week 6?

So, this past week went well. New class, new adventures. I'm back into the mindset of coming here for all 4 years of post-BYU study now, but there are two more years before any of that would be starting. Only time will tell.

Spooks and Spies is great! This week we got from the beginnings (1909) until the interwar years (about 1938?). The US didn't have a peacetime espionage/counterespionage/spy anything until after WWII! They dismantled all military stuff post-WWI. The Brits reduced stuff, but didn't disappear it...Interesting to think how different things could be if such things had happened differently. I saw the movie Thirteen Days this last week, about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Most interesting...

This week's BYU movie party was a modern Sherlock Holmes that BBC has produced. It is in 3 episodes and one was released a week ago, one yesterday, and one in a week. The first one was great! The plot was a little thin, but the acting and mannerisms, the things one would most fear in a modernization of Sherlock Holmes, were spot on! I'm excited to meet up this week for round 2!

This last Saturday's London trip included a tour of the Houses of Parliament, Stomp!, and Henry VIII. Parliament-great! Stomp!-quite fun! Henry VIII-nice to see it in the Globe, tired feet (next time buy a real seat), and not in my top 5 Shakespeare plays. But it must've been hard to write a play about the current monarch's immediate family...

Not too many new pictures, just a few from the Houses of Parliament.

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Week of Adventures

All is well here. This past week has had some adventures. These include:

-seeing Love's Labor's Lost. very well done and very witty play. have you ever seen it? you would like it. "ahh, now we are even." "yes, we are four..."
-taking my final for Gothic architecture. an hour straight of writing. my hand muscles were unhappy. however, i think i did quite well.
-taking the King's College Chapel roof tour. way cool to see the other side of the vaulting and then to go out on the real roof!
-watching Stranger Than Fiction. lots of people in the group hadn't seen it. i still don't know how that was possible...but it made for a most enjoyable evening! everyone does such a good job in that film
-going to London for the day. saw Wicked again. went to the Tower again. wandered Westminster. ate at my favorite Indian place in London. was the general tour guide.
-church. sang in a special musical number and got asked to teach gospel doctrine (my favorite Sunday calling) and got hinted at another special musical number. we shall see.

This week I start a new class: Spooks and Spies. It is on the 20th century espionage of the US and UK. I'm pretty excited. Also, I got a little behind on my supervision this last week, so I have much to do today and in the next few days!

As far as further schooling goes, I think I've decided to come to Cambridge for my MPhil and then go back to the States to get my PhD. I hope that will happen at Harvard, but only time will tell. The unfortunate thing is that I now must take the GRE...and here I thought I was done with standardized testing. Oh well!

Be sure to check out the new pictures!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

AMAZING commercial

Well worth your time. Enjoy! And if you don't understand the humor, youtube the Old Spice commercials.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cambridge...the first 2 weeks

Suffice it to say, life is great in Cambridge! I arrived two weeks ago and things have gone forward at breakneck pace! Classes here are good, but very different from the US. Lots of lectures and small group seminars (involving field studies and document studies). My gothic architecture class is AMAZING! Look at the pictures to see some of the buildings we've investigated. My supervision is going well. Martin (Dr. Ennis) has a wealth of knowledge about all sorts of things and is a grammarian extraordinaire! I have lots and lots of work to do, but it is fun to have some direction and a clear goal. And the more work and analysis I do of my notes, the more I realize that the doctoral dissertation that was recently done on this subject was VERY poorly done. Blatant errors all over the transcriptions!

The interesting bits of the last two weeks:
-formal hall. a little long and loud, but a good experience with a multiple-course meal. however, having floating candles above the tables would've made the experience more like hogwarts... but at least we got to walk on the grass at king's!
-a trip to Scotland over the first weekend. long drive up and back, with visits to richmond castle and fountains abbey on the drives. while in edinburgh, we traveled to the trossachs for a great hike! and I also bought...a KILT! fun apparel for fun times, especially for the scottish dancing and hiking arthur's seat.
-visiting ely cathedral as part of architecture. the crossing tower and the northwest tower both have fallen in the history of the building...crazy.
-going to the duxford air show today. amazing airplanes and flying. so much fun!

I'm really loving just about everything. The buildings, the atmosphere, the library (24-hour access is incredible!), the king's cows across the river. so good. The only real annoyance: tourists! Somehow we will manage...

Well, it is late. And I can't think of too many more details at this point. Shoot me an e-mail if you have any specific questions or suggestions for my next post.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Week (almost) in Oxford...

This week was not incredibly eventful...but nothing is exciting after spending an unforgettable night at Stonehenge!

So, the basics about this week:
-practiced almost every day at Wadham College. nice organ. heavy touch. I need to get back on my piano technique!
-spent most of my time every day in the Bodleian Library special collections. no windows. lots of research. lots of digital photographs and notes.
-lots of World Cup watching...too bad the US just lost.

Today I met up with Ruth and had a nice chat as we wandered through Oxford. It was fun getting a tour by a "local." Afterwards, I met up with Sarah, a girl that is also headed to Cambridge tomorrow. Had fun getting to know another PKP-er.

Well, tomorrow I head to Cambridge. I can't wait!

p.s. no pictures this week, at least of sites. the only pictures were of my manuscripts...sorry! I'm sure there will be plenty starting tomorrow!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice!

So, since the last post, lots of adventures!

Sunday was fun! I got to go up in the organ loft during Evensong at Westminster Abbey. I talked with Jamie, the Assistant Organist that recently graduated from Cambridge, and the other organists at the Abbey. I learned a lot and had a good time. One of the fun parts was seeing the scrambling for the Psalm of the day; the music was nowhere in the loft, so Jamie ran to another building to get a copy. Of course, this was during the service...but then again, no one could see because of the choir screen. Another fun bit was hearing the duet organ recital in the evening. The finale was "The Stars and Stripes Forever!" It was really funny hearing that piece played in the heart of England, right in the center of government!

The evening, however, was when life really picked up! I met up with Heather and Emilie at the Waterloo station and we grabbed the train for Salisbury. There were A LOT of people getting on the train, and more got on with each successive stop. Between all the clues, we figured that most of the people on the train were headed to Stonehenge for the Solstice. We were right. When we got to Salisbury, we took the bus out to the site. There were tons of people there, and more kept arriving as the night wore on. We saw an interesting sculpture made of metal that appeared to represent a man praying, towards the stones. Then we got talked to by two men (named Jonathan and Jonathan) that were at the event to talk about Christianity with people searching for answers. There were lots of people there who need such help, but many were in...less than good states at the time. We saw lots of people drinking and smoking and cheering and having a good time. We saw some druids, and people having a good time dressed as druids. We made it to the central area of Stonehenge once in the night and decided that was enough for then, we had touched the stones. We settled in, talked, and people watched for a long portion of the night.
About 3 AM, the sun's first light was beginning to appear. We got up and grabbed some hot chocolate. We then found the charcoal heaters that were set up and warmed for a bit. As the light was getting stronger, we wandered over to get a spot on the ridge behind the stones. Everyone was waiting, waiting, waiting. We had a woman behind us that had a microphone and a small speaker that was presenting herself as the Stonehenge Center Stage, or somethingorother. She kept having people come up and announce things and got people playing music to step up to the mike. Such comedy! She also kept discussing the history of the summer solstice festival...according to her account, there is a colorful past! It didn't help that there were lots of clouds just on the horizon. However, the sun peeked out from the clouds just after sunrise and there was a loud cheer (after the many false alarms people gave). I got some good pictures (check them out!), despite not being in the perfectly aligned place. We were close...
Afterwards, we wandered into the circle, as people dispersed. Our tickets were off-peak, so we couldn't catch the train until 9:45, anyway. We got some better pictures and were able to see the middle. Of course, we touched the stones again. And our friends that led the Center Stage now were in the middle, discussing anti-government things. How fun!
We made our way back up the hillside to the bus and made it into town. I slipped off to a few seconds of sleep on the bus, but not much. We sat around the train station, with a growing crowd of people in similar situation to ourselves, waiting for 9:30 when we could even enter the station with our tickets. By the time we made it in, there were TONS of people waiting for the train. We got packed in (people standing in all the aisles and in the areas by the doors) and still not everyone made it on. Then we began the ride into London. I was standing, so much for my dreams of a nap! The most interesting part was watching people try to get on at each station we passed through. Obviously, hardly anyone was getting off, and you could see that every space on the train was filled with a body...but they still tried to get on. It was a tight squeeze, at times. Even better was the people who tried to move down the aisles to see if there was room in the next car... Some people!
Once we made it to London, Emilie and Heather ran off to get things done before their flights home tomorrow. I came home and got some things done (including, of course, a shower) before taking a nap! It felt great to get about 6 hours of sleep after not sleeping for 27 hours. I'm sure I could've kept going, but I would've been miserable and not enjoyed anything at all. Since then, I've been getting stuff completed...I leave in the morning for Oxford!

Other News:
-my supervision seems to be worked out for Cambridge
-I have an organ to practice in Oxford
-my honors thesis was (finally) approved
-world cup...

I'll try to post the pictures tonight. If the internet here is too slow or refuses to do so, I'll be sure to do it tomorrow at the Oxford library. Their internet will be able to handle it, I'm sure.

Friday, June 18, 2010


This week I have spent lots of time at the museums, specifically the National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, and Transport Museum. The National Portrait Gallery was the best of the three. By walking through (over the afternoons of three days), I saw the history of England play out while the development of Western art was displayed. The National Gallery was fun, as they had lots of Rubens and Turner. It was amazing to see the paintings on the walls that have been in my art history textbooks. As far as the Transport Museum, it was fun to see the history of the tube system, but I really wanted to see a scale model of the tube doesn't exist yet.

In other news:
*Lots of World Cup!
*I practiced at the Hyde Park chapel today, will again tomorrow and on Monday.
*I'm headed to Westminster Abbey on Sunday to sit in the organ loft during Evensong and will join the choristers afterwards for food. The organist was recently a student at Cambridge, so good things will happen with that, hopefully.
*Stonehenge and the Summer Solstice happens on Monday morning. I will be there.
*Still no recently updated photos online.

...more to come as more happens!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Home, again!

The last full day of the study abroad program was busy, but fun. Jake and I went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. We didn't stay for all of the pageantry, but heard lots of fun band music and enjoyed the official event. Then we went to Harrod's so Jake could see it.
Next we went over to St. Paul's Cathedral. The tour was INCREDIBLE! Hearing about the history of the cathedral increased my knowledge of the history of London. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable. After the tour, we took the hike to the top of the was a lot of steps, but well worth it. At the first gallery, the whispering gallery, I enjoyed the view. However, the best part was experimenting with the whispering qualities of the gallery. Jake and I sat on opposite sides of the dome and spoke at normal levels and had a conversation; despite all the people walking around and talking, we heard each other quite clearly. Afterward, we headed up to the next level (outside), where we got some shots of the city. Then we made the final climb. We got to look through the oculus of the dome down at the floor — long way! Then onto the top outdoor gallery with high winds and great views! The stairs down were a little steep, but truly, the adventure was great!
For our last stop, we traveled across the Millennium Bridge and ducked into the Tate Modern. I was not impressed with much of the work. I think I will have to go see the Tate Britain and the National Gallery to be happy. However, the idea of housing a museum in an old power plant was fun.
Then we dashed home to change and run to the evening's concert. We heard the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. They played the Brahm's Violin Concerto and Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. I enjoyed the concert, but the best parts were the encore by the soloist (when he played part of Bach's Violin Partita No. 3) and the final bits of the Berlioz. The orchestra was good, but not as engaging as I would've liked.
The rest of the night was spent packing and getting ready for the next round of summer adventures.
Steve and I woke up bright and early to catch the bus, to the tube, to the train, to the airport. On the way, we had to deliver our bags to the left luggage desk at the train station. Luckily we made our flight in plenty of time. On the way, however, we had to check our carry-on weight...let's just say that our pockets got very full and I wore a book to drop both bags below the 10 kg weight limit. We explored the National Museum (unimpressive) once we got to Dublin and ate at a Korean BBQ for dinner since it was the only thing open when we woke up from our naps!
For Saturday, we took a tour of the Guinness factory. It is probably the most impressive museum that I've seen since being in Europe, and perhaps ever. They have done an incredible job of flow and presenting the right amount of information alongside items and images. I didn't partake of the samples, but partook of the view at the Gravity Bar at the top; the highest viewpoint in Dublin. The rest of the day was spent exploring the various churches of Dublin and the Book of Kells at Trinity College. We watched the game...I was mad that England didn't win. I know, I know, I'm from the US and need to support them. I do, but I support England more since I'm living here for the summer and want to cheer them on in this football-crazed country for as long as possible!
On Sunday, we traveled by train from coast to coast. We traveled to Galway and had a peaceful day visiting their cathedral, seeing the seashore, and walking the streets of the city. If I had to move to Ireland, I think I would live there. I liked the feel much more than I did in Dublin. The only downside is the strong wind off the ocean. All of the trees grow at an angle due to the constant wind. As far as the scenery...I've decided that Ireland is no greener than the East Coast...I'm sure a few people think me blasphemous for saying that! It is true, though. Replace the sheep with cows and I would've been in Virginia.
Yesterday, we wandered the streets of Dublin, focusing on reaching the edge of town by the docks. We saw the bridges of Dublin and I loved them. The flight back was fine, and they didn't even weigh our bags. Once back in London, we picked up our bags and made our way to my new place in Southwark. I like where I am living for the week. It is really new and well done. Once I was settled, I went into town to say hello and goodbye to Jake and Phil ahead of their departure for the US today. All three of us, after being gone for the weekend (they were in Paris) , commented on how good it was to be "home" again. It really does feel that way. Ireland was nice, but London and England is now home. It is going to be hard to go home at the end of the summer. Thank goodness that I have over two more months!

As far as pictures go...there will be more up sometime during this next week. Patience!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Well, I'll address the topic of the blog first. Tonight we saw the English National Ballet perform Swan Lake. It was a fantastic production, and it was more exciting knowing that it was opening night. They produced it in-the-round at Royal Albert Hall. At one point there were 60 ballerinas dancing on stage! I think I might like ballet better than opera...

Anywho, the other joy of today was figuring out most of my travel plans for the next little break. I am going to Dublin for the weekend, and then I will stay in London for a week. I'll take a one day trip out to Stonehenge to be there for the summer solstice festivities — fun times! Then I am headed out to Oxford for about a week to do research. Then, on to Cambridge for the beginning of classes! Hard to believe that we are winding down the official London trip...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cambridge, round 2

Today we returned to Cambridge. The only disappointing bit was how rushed it all was. But we were rushing to great things, that is for sure. We started with a visit with John Rutter. He was a lot funnier than I imagined him to be. We got a group photo, so when it comes to us via e-mail, I'll try to add it to the picture file. Then we went to the rehearsal and evensong performance for King's College Choir. It was amazing! And even more amazing to realize that I will be there as a student in less than three weeks!!! Afterward, we dashed over and attended evensong at St. John's College. All in all, a fulfilling day. I only took a few pictures, but they've been added.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Another Weekly Accounting

Monday, May 31

For the afternoon, Emily, Phil, Matt, and I went to “the pancake house” for a wonderful lunch and then wandered through Harrod’s and the surrounding stores. They are VERY expensive! I’m not going to return to the USA with an authentic Burberry scarf...but I did get 6 Prestat (Harrod’s) chocolates. They are the chocolate makers for the queen. And these were just as expensive as the Fortnum & Mason chocolates, but I think these were actually larger…

The evening was a trip to the Tesco Express down by Gloucester Road (to avoid the anti-Israeli protest happening on High Street near “Embassy Row.” Luckily the area wasn’t turned into a war zone by the protesters!

Tuesday, June 1

LONG. Very Long. Paul Spicer’s morning sessions were interactive and kept my attention, but the afternoon ones were 100% scripted. I’m sure if he had given the exact same words on the fly, it would have kept my attention. The attitude he had since he was reading created an aura of boredom. If the afternoon sessions had involved some interactions with “the audience,” then we as students would’ve paid better attention.

As a side note, lunch was at a little French patisserie down the street from our flats. As we walked to and from, the weather was typical English: light rain. I loved it and was glad to experience my vision of England in person.

After our sessions with Paul Spicer concluded, Jake, Emily, and I headed out to see Robin Hood. It was a great film! The adventure was getting there. We took the tube and walked to where we were supposed to be, according to the internet map provided by the cinema. There was no cinema in sight, and it should’ve been visible since there were 14 screens at the cinema. We walked through some sketchy parts of town that I won’t see again, I’m sure of it. Eventually we made it to the Westfield’s mall where the cinema was located. Of course, it was really close to where we started, just in a slightly different direction.

Of course, we also had difficulties getting our tickets out of the machine, so we waited in a line for a bit. By that point, it was after 8, and the movie started at 7:45. But when we walked in, there were still 15 minutes of previews and commercials going. I’m glad that we didn’t have to sit through all of those previews, but I was antsy the whole time waiting in a line. The movie, as I said, was incredibly done. Creating the back story for Robin Hood and ending where most films start was a brilliant move.

Wednesday, June 2

I got the opportunity to practice the organ for two hours. I got through quite a lot of repertoire, which was good. I feel real hope for my recital in the fall. It has been wonderful getting practice in while I’ve been in London. I was afraid that things would fall apart before I got to Cambridge, which would’ve been devastating, at least mentally.

The opera itself was an experience. The seats we were in were most uncomfortable because there was no leg room. But the building was incredibly opulent. During the second act, there was some excitement in our area of the theatre. A woman got sick and, of course, a whole lot of commotion commenced: people standing up and moving around. Things turned out in the end, but the dramatic music played by the orchestra really fit the moment well!

Two things were disappointing in the opera, on a very generic level. The third act scenery was weird. It had a futuristic, artsy feel that stood in opposition to the traditional settings of the previous acts. Also, the death of Tosca was anti-dramatic. For an “opera diva” to just fall off the balcony instead of deliberately leaping was disappointing.

Thursday, June 3

I enjoyed the tour of Canterbury Cathedral, but found it interesting that our guide was not a member of the Anglican, or even Catholic, faith. I loved being in the cathedral and seeing the living story of the Anglican faith. Following Becket’s pathway of assassination was exciting, as well. I would love to see this site during the heyday of the pilgrimages to Canterbury; I’ll be sure to do so in the next life.

After the guided tour, we headed over to the St. Augustine Abbey site a block away. It is a very old site. I couldn’t believe the date that we were seeing on grave markers. Sister Hall commented that it was probably the oldest site we’ve been to on our trip, and I think she is right. That means it is the oldest site I’ve been to before.

Then we ran to catch our punt tour. There were 12 of us in the boat. We had a most enjoyable ride; I would love to own a punt and nap on a lazy river, or read a pleasant book on it. The tour guide gave us a great history of the area around Canterbury and told us the stories of the four other Archbishops of Canterbury that were killed. Their deaths were most interesting; for example, one was killed by his drunken captors as they threw beef bones at him.

We had enough time after the boat tour to stop in at Marks & Spencer to grab dinner food. As we walked toward the food hall, we saw the England football display (since M&S is the official clothier of the national team). A few of us bought jackets and Phil got a tie. The tie was really nice, so I might have to get one.

Friday, June 4

Brother Wimmer gave an excellent presentation on the World Wars and the history surrounding them from a British perspective. I have always loved 20th century history, and the British viewpoint was enlightening. I gained a whole new perspective and appreciation for the strength of the British people and their armed forces. It was hard, though, to think that a whole village’s male population could be wiped out in one action.

The War Museum was fascinating. I hope to go back before my time in England is done, we saw so little of it in the few hours we were there. I didn’t even get through all of the WWII exhibit, yet alone the post-WWII and Holocaust exhibits. I still haven’t gone to the Holocaust Museum in DC, so I want to go here where it is a free museum. Seeing a war museum from the viewpoint of the British also taught me a lot and helped me understand things that had been glossed over in previous studies of the world wars.

After our time at the museum, Phil, Jake, and I dragged Oliver, Emily, and Steve to the Savoy theatre to help us in entering the ticket lottery for Legally Blonde. We got there a few minutes before the actual drawing, entered our names, and waited. A few minutes after the hour, someone came out and told us that everyone who had entered the drawing was a winner for the night. Oh well for Emily, Steve, and Oliver...I’m glad they came, though; it was fun to visit with them and would’ve been useful if an actual drawing had taken place. It was nice getting seats for the stalls at £25 apiece.

The show was funny. An interesting side note is the theatre: instead of being built up, the stall seat holders walked further and further underground to get to their seats. Part of that has to do with the building being on a bit of a hill, but not entirely. Our seats were comfortable, but since we didn’t rush to the front of the queue when the tickets were given away, the balcony obstructed the top foot or two of the stage. No, we didn’t really miss anything, but it was distracting.

On our way home, we grabbed some Wafflemeister waffles for the tube ride home. They are so good. We joked about franchising in Provo. We think it would turn out; after all, there are lots of frozen yogurt stands in Provo, the waffle stand would be the new trend. We would take over the J Dawgs stand… The likelihood of this taking place: slim to none; the fun in dreaming and discussing: great! I’m sad that in a week we will be split up.

Saturday, June 5

Did I wake up on time? No. Did we leave on time? Not exactly. But we did go to Portobello Road once Jake, Phil, and I were awake. We decided to take the bus all the way there since it was so close and was such a good day. While we waited at the bus stop, Miriam walked up and we traveled there with her. We wandered down Portobello Road and this time we made it to the end, which actually isn’t much further than we had gone the last time we ventured there. We each got a pastry at a little stand, and they were huge! I looked at some prints for quite a while and almost bought one or two, but I decided to wait on purchasing any.

When we got back to the flat, we decided that some food and a short rest would be good before traveling to St. Paul’s. And Phil had decided not to go, so it was up to Jake and I to go. However, Jake’s nap started going long and then I decided to take a short nap. We both woke up to shouts of protestors going by on the street. At 4 PM. That ruled out our St. Paul’s trip! However, it meant we got to watch the thousands of protestors marching past our flat on their way to the Israeli embassy. Israel is not being wise with these aid ships. I’m not sure of all their options, of course, but the way they are acting and portraying their actions is not winning them any friends in the international arena. I’ll admit, watching all the protestors en masse, it was the first time that I’ve been nervous and a little scared since being in London; there weren’t very many police officers in sight, and they didn’t have guns, anyway. I wish the officers here carried guns.

Phil, Jake, and I then journeyed to dinner at the Trafalgar. It was gloriously delicious, but our sadness came with dessert. The rush made it so they couldn’t bring us the fabulous brownie that we wanted to try. Oh well, this means I’ll have to return sometime soon. We made it to the concert of The Creation barely on time.

After the concert, Steve, Emily, Jake, Phil, and I went to the Sloane Square My Old Dutch restaurant. I had another pear pancake. So good!

Sunday, June 7

When the time came for our Windsor trip, the coach was practically empty. It turned out that there was a whole host of people a hundred yards away, just visiting. It was good that everyone came, but I was rather excited for a quiet bus ride to catch up on my sleep. However, my sleep didn’t really happen because we had the BEST coach driver in the world. As we drove through London, he acted as a tour guide. I really enjoyed it, particularly since we hadn’t driven through that specific part of town before. I wish he had been our driver through all of our time in London. I found out after we arrived in Windsor that Nathan had been requesting this particular driver the entire time we’ve been here and this was the first time we could get him. Nathan had gotten several bits of advice to do so. I’m so glad that he did.

After we got to Windsor, Jake, Phil, and I tagged up with Nathan and Sister Hall to go through the castle and estate. Alan and his wife were with us for a bit, and then went on their own way. The estate was incredible and the interior was breathtaking! There were so many paintings inside! I loved seeing the originals that I’ve grown up seeing in all my history books. And the decor was phenomenally well-kept, after all the years of use.

Something I was unaware of before today, there was a fire that destroyed much of the structure in 1992. Hardly any of the artifacts were destroyed, but much of the building itself suffered. The reworking looked just like other parts of the house. I’m greatly impressed with the level of craftsmanship they were able to afford. And apparently the final product came out under budget.

After the time spent traipsing across the grounds and through the house, we waited for entrance for evensong. The interior of the chapel was gorgeous, and I was sitting in on of the Knights of the Garters’ seats. I didn’t recognize the name, but it was cool to think of all the people that have sat there: heads of state from around the world, various politicians of England (folks like Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill), and many great men from across the countryside.


So, today was good. We enjoyed our session with the only LDS professional singer in England today. Then we worked on plans for the time after London. Things aren't all finalized, but closer. The best part of today was seeing Wicked tonight! Yes, this was the second time in my time here, but it was so worth it. We walked up to the theatre with less than 30 minutes before the show and bought our tickets at 7:10. And, most surprising of all, the show got a standing ovation by the audience. I'm pretty sure that is the first I've seen since we've been in London.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Well, time is short. It is late. I'll compose the actual story for the past week tomorrow, but the pictures have been added. Enjoy now, or wait until tomorrow when the text is available.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's been awhile...

Well, I've been slacking in the blog department recently. Have no fear, the rest will be a short summary for each day of the past week. I'll also be adding photos to the slideshow, so take a look.


Today we adventured to a neighborhood a little ways away. It seemed very unassuming, but houses the BBC recording studios. We had a good time listening to the BBC Singers rehearse again and then ate a wonderful (and inexpensive) lunch in the canteen. Afterwards, Josh, Jake, Phil, and I launched into our own adventure for the afternoon.

We first explored Fortnum and Mason’s. The 5-star grocery/department store just off Piccadilly Circus. So many good things. I bought a slice of cheesecake and three chocolates. The chocolates each cost £1, but they were worth it. I am just going to make sure that I don’t return and spend more money! (As a side note, the normal-sized-box of Lucky Charms costs £8!) I do think everyone should at least take a walk through the store to see all the amazing things and the staff dressed in coat and tails.

After our first exploration, we ventured over to the banking district to visit the Bank of England. They have a museum that is decent. The most enjoyable parts of the museum were the gold bar that you get to hold and the discussions of the modern currency. The gold bar weighs over 25 pounds and is worth just more than £327,000!


Today I woke up, still feeling a sore throat. However, I wasn’t going to let that cancel my part in the Canterbury adventure. I took some meds and felt quite well as we ran to catch the bus. The adventure of the morning was getting Jake to the bus. It turns out that due to the Queen’s opening of Parliament, a lot of streets were closed, including the place we were to meet the bus on the banks of the Thames. So we all met up outside the tube station and walked across the Westminster Bridge to an area behind Marriott. Jake wasn’t with us because he woke up later than he should’ve. We were in text contact with him while he was in the tube and we were crossing the bridge. He was stuck in the tube, not moving. We were able to redirect his path to hopefully meet up with us before the bus left. We started to think there was hope as the bus driver was opening the engine compartment to look at something. Jake called and we told him to run across the bridge to us. He made it! In time for us to call the trip off.

So, the bus was overheating, thus the looking “under the hood.” The driver said it would work out, but Dr. Staheli and Sister Hall decided they didn’t want to get stranded on the side of the freeway somewhere. The decision was made to go on the London Eye and see WarHorse in the evening. We wandered over to the Eye and ate lunch before catching our “flight.”

The flight was incredible. It was tons of fun and the view was great. Most of our pod was BYU people. We took many photos of each other and the various sights of London. It helped to get my own view and understanding of the geography from above.

When we finished our flight, we found out that there weren’t enough tickets for everyone to go to WarHorse, so they were turning us loose for the day. The decision was made that Steve, Emily, Jake, Phil, Nathan, Sister Hall, Oliver (Sister Hall’s son), and I would head to the Tower for the afternoon.

The Tower was incredible! The tour was a little lackluster, due to our Beefeater, but the experience was good. Hearing the historical stories again, this time where the events actually happened was memorable. After taking afternoon tea at the little cafe, we went to see the crown jewels. They were very impressive. Interestingly, a few things from the collection were missing with labels stating: In Use. That was a neat idea; the queen was officially opening Parliament and needed her state crown, the sword of state, and two maces for the event. The idea of a living museum was fun; both the fact that pieces are still used and the fact that pieces get created and made from time to time.

After we finished at the Tower, Jake, Phil, and I went to get our tickets for Mamma Mia! The show was so much fun! Especially after the seriousness of Les Mis, the laughter was most welcome. The costumes were fun and the sets were well-crafted. The stone patio flooring that became a disco floor was fun, as was the wooden walkway that could morph in various ways into a raised dock. The idea of having a sing-along at the end for encores is really innovative and fun, especially with everyone standing and dancing along.


Today was a bit hazy...I’ve been in recovery mode for most of the day. I woke up unsure if I wanted to do anything, but decided that I needed to be in our last day of class before the break. I was happy that my throat was mostly feeling better and the illness had moved on to the exhausted, achy phase. I was able to get ready just in time for class.

Class was hard to stay awake and aware through, but I managed somehow. That being said, I loved getting home and crawling into bed. I slept for a few hours until it was time to get ready for the concert. Once again, it was hard to get going, but I really wanted to hear the concert. Phil, Josh, and I made it to the concert just as it was about to start. The concert was great, but being sick made it hard for me to concentrate.


Today was decent, but not amazing. Most of the morning was lazy. We decided to go to the Indian place that Robert had recommended for dinner. It was incredible! The flavors were great and the cost was comparable to the prices we would find in Provo.

Watching The Lion King was a phenomenal experience! The opening scene was worth every penny I paid! (And the fact that our tickets were only £21 was a nice touch, too!) Seeing the animals and sets made the day worth living. Really, I would be content to sit down and watch the opening scene about five times in a row and go home. It is that good. I also liked the costumes were just right: not too crazy, but very innovative. I’m not surprised that it won all the Tony awards it did. That being said, I’m not surprised it didn’t win the Tony awards centering on music and acting, that isn’t the show’s goal.


The temple trip took all of the day, but was completely worth it. We left pretty much on time and caught our train at Victoria station with a bit of time to spare. It took us a minute or two to figure out how to reclaim the tickets we had purchased online, but things ran smoothly.

As we walked in, we grabbed our clothes from the rental desk. This turned into a humorous moment. I was the last to pay. Emily and Jake had used £10 notes to pay for their rental clothing. I only had £20 notes, so that was what I used. The woman apologized and said she would have to pay me in change. I was unsure of what that meant, but soon found out. I got a £5 note and the other £10+ came in the form of coinage!

What made this even funnier was the gelato experience last night. Jake paid for his with 3 £1 coins. I paid using a £5 note after him. Instead of giving me 2 £1 coins for change, the girl counted out a handful of coins to give me my change. The moral of the story: don’t follow Jake when paying for something with cash!

Anyway, the temple was fun. I’ve not been a patron for so long, it was good to be on the receiving end of the experience.

Walking out of the session into the celestial room was amazing! The room is very regal in its design, as it should be in England. After all, when I think of royalty, I think of England. The ceiling was a glorious blue sky with clouds throughout. The chairs were gold and there were huge mirrors. It was a great place.

After we finished in the temple, we walked around the grounds for a bit. They are gorgeous. I wish I could see the grounds as they were before the temple had been built; apparently the site was a prize-winning garden. We noticed that the stream, though, had backed itself up on the grate. It became the quest to clean it out and help the stagnant water disappear. Admittedly, Emilie and I just watched while Josh and Jake made it their quest.

The cab driver took us to the wrong station. We ended up hopping on the train anyway. Luckily, the conductor of the train was really friendly and let us ride the train; part of that had to do with the fact that we could’ve bought our tickets for half-price if we had purchased them as a block of four pass. Well, I was nice of him, because we weren’t in the mood to deal with problems.


Today was lots of fun! Phil and I adventured on Portobello Road. We walked down the road for quite a while. There were tons of things to see. It would be fun to be a collector and search the stalls for specific items. We wandered past lots of good foods, also. Eventually we found the bag stall that I had been told about. I found a bag that I purchased for £10. I’m happy to have my bag — my pockets are free of junk! The whole time we were walking, it was misting on and off. Well, shortly after getting the bag and doing more exploring, the rain began. We found our way to another tube stop and hopped on.

Our next stop was the TKTS booth in Leicester Square. We picked up tickets for Chicago. They were the most expensive tickets I’ve gotten so far, at £35, but I can’t really complain. They were for the sixth row and normally go for close to £60. After that we dashed over to Piccadilly Circus to stop in at Lilywhite’s. We picked up England polos for £5! I will probably go back and get an official soccer jacket in a few days. We were just running short on time.

We had to make it over to Westminster Abbey in time for the rehearsal. We made it just as the group was heading to enter the Abbey. Phil and I were pretty lucky. I enjoyed the rehearsal and evensong, especially since the hymns centered on the monarchy, with God Save the Queen and I Vow to Thee My Country. The best part, however, was when the Assistant Organist, James McVinnie, invited the organists in our group to see the organ before the service began. It is a marvelous instrument. Even better, though, was the invite he gave after evensong to come back whenever and to e-mail them so I could sit up in the loft and see the organ in action. I can’t wait to take advantage of that!

After we finished at the Abbey, Phil and I headed off for Covent Garden to get a bite to eat before the show. We had great salads at a little cafe and then went into the show. I enjoyed the show. The dancing and singing were likely the best we've seen since getting here.

Not too much happened today. Life is good.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

new music

Friday was exciting and good, but not as I entirely expected it would be. The early morning did not equal fun. The group departing for a day off in Brighton, we had almost two days free, made every noise possible as they departed. We heard discussions of The Fantastic Mr. Fox and why people weren’t ready to depart in very loud tones, all before 7 AM.

The actual morning brought joy as I (with Emilie Gardner and Heather Faerber) met Ceri Benson (now in England on her world tour) and her sisters, Aubrey and Rachel, to have breakfast. We met up at the base of the Albert Memorial and then wandered towards the South Kensington tube stop to find a place to eat. I had a Belgian waffle with fruit on top that was really good; there was a sweet, grainy flavor about it that I’ve not had before. It was fun to see Ceri in London and to talk with Aubrey about school opportunities in the UK.

Afterwards, I headed home to regroup with Jake. We left for the Victoria and Albert Museum. The discoveries were good, but nothing earth-shattering. When it was about time, I headed back to the Hyde Park Chapel (it is right next door) to practice on the organ. But when I got there, it looked suspiciously like a wedding in the works. So, I found Sister Field and learned that was the case. I got rescheduled for Saturday. I can do that, but it wasn’t my plan; oh well.

I returned to the museum and eventually met back with Jake. He told me there was an incredible room that I had to see. We headed there on our way out. Boy, was he right; I walked into a room that had both Davids, Moses, two Captives, and Trajan’s Column! AMAZING! During the 19th century, the museum sent out crews and worked with foreign governments to obtain various casts of famous statues. These allowed artists to study from all the masters, while staying in London. It was an incredible sight. Another important and interesting bit of knowledge: since the casts were made, some of the original works have been destroyed, so the only copy is in the V&A.

Jake and I headed over to the West End for dinner and a show when we tired of walking around. We had fish and chips at a fun little cafe; nothing incredible, but a decent price and taste. I’d go back. We got to the box office, only to find out that we couldn’t get student concessions on the 8:30 PM performance. Obviously, by that time, we were too late to try for any other shows (most start at 7:30 PM). We wandered through a few movie theatres, thinking a movie might be a good alternative. We were mistaken. Well, perhaps not, but the prices chased us away. I do not feel that movies are worth £14. (And that is just in standard seats. Yes, there are different grades of movie theatre seats here.) After looking around Leicester Square, the decision was made to go home. Funny to be home before 9 PM on a Friday night, yes. But it was nice to be at home when it was quiet.

Yesterday morning I took my time. Nothing was scheduled until my organ practice, so I relaxed. It felt amazing to be almost free of a schedule. When I got to the church, I got the key and practiced for just over an hour. My hands were stiff, but it was very good to practice. I remembered the Brahms really well, so I’m guessing that my “tried and true” pieces will come back quickly. The Mendelssohn 4th movement was more of a challenge, since I’ve not finished learning, let alone polishing, it. In other words, it will likely be a struggle to finish learning it and the last bit of the Bach 3rd movement. It will all work out, though, it always does when I am willing to work hard.

Afterwards, Jake and I headed to the British Library. Everyone else discovered new plans, so we were the only ones. The exhibits were nice, but small. It felt good to have seen most everything the place had to offer in about 2 hours. Seeing the Magna Charta, Beatles manuscripts, Beethoven’s tuning fork, and Handel’s Messiah manuscript within the same room was incredible. We saw lots of people working on homework there, so we imagined that lots of London university students use the extensive national library to do big research projects. Not a bad idea.

We then dashed over to the British Museum for a bit before dinner. On the way we passed through King’s Cross Station and saw Platform 9 ¾. Touristy, yes, but essential. We mainly saw the Egyptian rooms once we got to the Museum. Of course, that meant we saw the Rosetta stone. It angered me to see everyone and their brother touching the artifacts, however. Apparently “No Touching” means something different here… Anyway, the worst part was getting kicked out of the rooms within 30 minutes of being there. Granted, we were still a few minutes late to dinner with Phil, but the map gave us museum hours that didn’t include which rooms close early. We found out the hard way that the Egyptian rooms are among them! I don’t know why they bother to stay open later if you can’t see any of the ancient civilization rooms. (And who knows how many others they close early…) Well, I’ll go back, that’s for sure. “Always leave them wanting more.”

We did get over to Sloane Square a bit late, but Phil was just arriving himself, due to all the weekend Tube delays. Dinner at the Trafalgar was wonderful, as usual. We then caught the bus back to Cadogen Hall for the evening’s concert. I don’t know where to begin with that concert of the Ealing Choral Society. The way they talked about themselves in the program, you would think they were the rising stars in community choral music. Far from the truth.

Their program was too much for them. They were singing difficult literature, very muddily. When the conductor tried to change tempi, the choir refused to move. That was likely due to all eyes being glued to scores. While that is not necessarily the key indicator of too difficult of a program, the fact that intonation was all over the place certainly indicates this.

Another difficulty arose from the number of singers. There were less 1st and 2nd tenors than 2nd altos. The tenors knew this, at least subconsciously, and sang with (too much) gusto; so much pushed sound. Also a major factor, vocalist age; a lot of the choir was old and had difficulty singing with the agility necessary to sing the pieces we heard.

As a funny side not from the concert, Jake pointed out a man seated below that looked like he wasn’t wearing any pants. It turns out that he was wearing shorts, but they were pretty short...

Today was wonderful in many ways. We heard some great music and saw amazing sights. I made it to the family ward meetings at 9 AM. The difficulty was the temperature in the chapel; they don’t believe in air conditioning here. Oh, the room was warm and I can’t imagine how warm it was by the afternoon meetings!

After sacrament meeting, I dashed by the flat and on to the tube to get to the St. Paul’s Cathedral service. I thought it was at 11 AM, and was unhappy that so much of the tube was shut down, making me late. It turns out that the service started at 11:30, so I made it with a few minutes to spare and found a seat up front next to other BYU folks that made it earlier. The room was incredible, and the way the sun shone through the windows was impressive. However, the music composed for the service was not good. It was a premiere of a new mass by a current British composer. I remember the discussion we had in Organ Pedagogy this past semester about what makes music “good.” We were very careful to not be narrow-minded and to set up general principles. One of those principles that I feel is 100% necessary is: does the piece fulfill its purpose? The mass did not fulfill its purpose. This mass was commissioned to be sung in a service, not a concert hall. Therefore, the audience will be standing for much of the singing due to Anglican service tradition. This means that a movement should not last forever, otherwise the audience is only thinking about how tired their feet are.

It didn’t help that the music sounded strange. That was not (specifically) a principle we discussed this past semester. (Though the good melody rule we established was probably broken…) However, I went into the service aware that it was a modern music premiere. With that knowledge and my “music world” background, I still felt confused and awkward. How did the audience member feel that walked in off of the street to experience a service at the cathedral as part of their touristy London experience? I’ll answer that for you. They thought it was rubbish.

I won’t go so far as to call it rubbish. There were forms and patterns. However, I do stand by my original stance that it was not good music. At least I got to participate in a service there.

After that, I headed home and enjoyed lunch and a nap. After the nap, I did some journaling until it was time to go to the 6:30 evensong service at St. Bartholomew-the-Great. The building was very old and they used incense for the service. It had a much older feel than any other services we’ve attended. At times, some of the men sang with a swallowed sound, but the choir sounded whole and unified. I loved their sound. It would be fun to go back sometime.

Emily and I rode back to the flats after the service ended and grabbed a bite to eat on the way. She took me to her favorite pancake place here — wow. WOW! I’ve never really had savoury pancakes, but I can’t wait to go back. A pancake with ham, bacon, peppers, mushrooms...delicious! And the dessert pancake with pears and cinnamon was divine. I’ve never seen such things in the US, but we should figure it out.

It looks like a few of us will be taking a temple trip this Friday. I hope it is able to go through. I really need to go, I miss it so much. There is no denying that returning to work at the temple in the fall will be a blessing. But in the meantime, a visit to the temple here when I can will have to suffice. All in all, life is good. Life is great.

Friday, May 21, 2010

my next home!

Yesterday was wonderful. In fact, very exciting! We took a trip out to Cambridge. But the getting there took a while. Someone had the bright idea of driving the coach through the heart of London at 10 AM. I’m still not sure why we didn’t head towards the outskirts of the city and then move towards Cambridge. At least we got to see the construction site for the 2012 Olympics. But I still can’t help but think how I could’ve gotten across town on the tube in half the time…

Anyway, I was able to sleep once the coach got rolling, which made the time pass quickly. When I woke up, we were in beautiful countryside. When we stopped, we were not in downtown Cambridge, but outside a cemetery. We were given 30 minutes to wander the American cemetery from WWII in Cambridge. Both the actual graves and memorials for those killed in the Atlantic, Battle of Britain, and North Africa are memorialized here. It was a very sacred place. I knew that there were memorial grounds on the Continent, but I was unaware of this one and the one south of London from WWI. (be sure to check out the new photos!)

I was sad to leave, but the drive into Cambridge was magical. To see the colleges from the Backs was a good first impression. Phil, Jake, and I grabbed a bite at a delightful place across from King’s and then explored the heart of town on foot. There were lots of interesting things, though the sight of a Disney Store was a little disappointing. The general consensus is that Cambridge is better than Oxford; we’ll see if I still feel that way after spending two months there. Hopefully I will.

After exploring for a bit, we wandered into the University Press Store. There were two books that I really wanted, but didn’t buy. But I’m fairly confident I’ll buy them when I go back to Cambridge. Especially since the store is right across from King’s. We also headed to a wonderful ice cream shop and enjoyed some very creamy ice cream.

After the fun day of exploring, we wandered over to Trinity College for the rehearsal and evensong. When we walked into the quadrangle, I jumped for joy; the sight was heavenly and it made me so happy to think that I would be in a similar place for so long. The most surprising thing about the chapel was the warm temperatures we found inside! Between that warmth and the generally warm (even hot?) day, I didn’t have much need for the jacket I hauled along. But such is life!

We attended both the rehearsal and performance of evensong at Trinity College, Cambridge. Overall, a wonderful experience. Their sound is much closer to the sound we are familiar with at BYU than anything else we have heard. It had a very similar feel to a BYU Singer’s rehearsal. Their sound was very free and full, but with only 30 singers. It was great to hear such a good balance along with female sopranos and altos.

The director was the same director from the Holst Singers. He is either very stand-offish or uncomfortable talking to strangers and groups. He didn’t acknowledge our presence at all, which made for an uncomfortable dynamic. I am much more appreciative of the time our directors at BYU take to acknowledge visitors at rehearsals; many barriers, mostly psychological, are overcome as a member of a choir when the simple identity of the previously “random” person is obtained.

I was also impressed with the amount of music the choir was covering in the term. It was not easy music and they were carrying stacks of it. The “bulletin’s” list of pieces in addition to standard service music was mind-boggling. Perhaps I’ll try to sing in their choir’s for hoping. From what Dr. Staheli and Sister Hall said, Trinity College Choir is the best mixed choir in Cambridge. It is a shame that they get upstaged by King’s Boys Choir. Though, I am excited to hear the boys choir in a few weeks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

don't forget to look at the pictures...

Yesterday was very busy, but productive. I tried to catch Peter Horton at the RCM library in the morning, but he wasn’t in yet. It felt so wonderful to be inside a school of music again. There were sounds of practice rooms and lessons floating through the halls and even into the library. It was disappointing to not catch Peter, but it was good to figure out where the library was and how accessible it was.

Steve, Emily, and I made our way to the BBC Singers rehearsal, but only left ourselves exactly enough time. When the bus came late, and the tube was running slow, we got there late. Luckily we had been told to arrive 15 minutes early and we didn’t get admitted until after we had showed up anyway. On the way we saw a van almost get run over by a bus. The driver of the van was not the wisest, instead of backing out of traffic, he tried to blindly pull into it — the terror!

The rehearsal was the best rehearsal we’ve attended since being here. I would like to sing with the BBC Singers, more than the other groups we’ve been involved with since arriving here. They are directed by Bob Chilcott. I was very impressed with their sound, but I think a lot of that came from the balance that was built into the choir. They had 24 singers with six voices on each voice part. They also used women for altos. This creates a sound much more in line with the traditional American choral sound.

They were incredibly adept at sight-reading music well. They did a great job of reading dynamics alongside text and pitches during a first read-through. The energy they sang with was also most impressive. They wanted to sing and as an “audience” member, I could feel that.

From what we have seen in many English choirs, this choir is very different and I like it. I’ve already said that I liked even voice parts and female altos, but the strong rehearsal ethic and striving towards perfection instead of just getting by are the most endearing characteristics of this choir. I wish we could hear one of their concerts while we are here. It isn’t on our schedule, but I’ll see what I can do during the Proms.

After the morning rehearsal, Jake, Phil, and I took off for Westminster Abbey to take the tour. That was likely the best £12 I’ve spent since I’ve been here. The Lady Chapel built by Henry VII was the most gorgeous room I’ve seen since I’ve been in London. The heraldic emblems and the most intricate ceiling were spellbinding. It was also interesting to learn some details about England’s history. The fact that Mary is buried under her sister Elizabeth in an Anglican chapel is an interesting twist of fate, and then having Mary Queen of Scots buried in similar splendor across the way is also interesting. English history is full of wonderful twists of fate. I LOVED standing in Poet’s Corner. To see either the graves or memorials to Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Keats, Handel, Tennyson, and Shakespeare, to name a few, filled my heart with such joy. It was also great to see the memorials to members of the armed forces and Muzio Clementi’s tombstone in the cloisters. Of course, the tomb of the unknown soldier was a thought-provoking sight, surrounded by poppies.

After we finished the tour (it took us over an hour and a half), I took the tube back to the RCM while Phil and Jake wandered around Westminster. I was able to catch Peter Horton and he showed me into the library proper. He gave me free access to the catalogue of manuscripts; interestingly, a lot of it is still accessed through card catalogue! They are slowly transferring over to computer...oh, musicians and traditions!

I met back up with Phil and Jake on the Westminster Abbey lawn for us to run to grab a bite to eat and head into the concert. We got to pick our seats in the quire, so we sat on the back row with the shields of the Commonwealth behind us. I was sitting in New Zealand. It was disappointing to not see the choir, but it was still a good experience.

Today I woke up at 7. I decided that I didn’t want to be awake, so I fell back to sleep for a bit, but it does seem that my body is getting on an appropriate schedule finally. And Josh talked of going running in the mornings, so that would certainly help some more. We’ll see how committed he is in the next few days.

We had class today that went fairly well, and turned out to be fairly interesting since we were talking about Bach and his genius for most of the time. Bach is so incredible; I love finding more evidences of this, and the motets are further evidence in my mind.

After organizing things, Jake, Josh, and I headed to the Science Museum. We spent almost all of our time in the exhibit on the Muslim scientific influence through the ages. There were some incredible inventions and discoveries that I’d never known about or thought about. The elephant clock and all of the medical knowledge and innovations truly impressed me. I also would love to see a full-size replica of the ancient Chinese (Muslim) boat that they had a small-scale model of. Apparently it was five times larger than the ships in Europe at a similar time.

We met up at the flat and ate a quick dinner. Then we dashed to the rehearsal for the evening. It was neat hearing the rehearsal in one of the churches featured in the Da Vinci Code. Tonight we attended the rehearsal of the Holst Singers, under the direction of Stephen Layton. Dr Staheli and Sister Hall were a little unsure of information about the choir, but I understand that they are an amateur choir that is auditioned. They have female sopranos and altos and are somewhat balanced in numbers between voice parts; it appeared that they had the fairly typical problem of more women than men, but it had been kept in check before getting too out of hand.

I really appreciated how Stephen Layton handled the choir; they were rehearsed, not just pushed through a run-through. He frequently stopped and would ask for differences in sound, pronunciation, and balance. He also used rehearsal techniques like having some sections hum their parts while others sang, singing quietly to check parts, and frequently used a cappella section run-throughs to emphasize correctness. To give an idea of how detail-oriented he was, it took over 45 minutes to run Motet VI, which is only about 170 measures long. I LOVED it! The only thing that would’ve made it better would’ve been to be in a seat where I could’ve heard his voice better or to have been singing in the group.

As far as the group goes, I was impressed. We had been prepared for mediocrity, but they had a very engaging sound. I enjoyed listening to them and am excited that we will hear the final product in concert next week. I liked their attention to detail; the conductor’s directions were not wasted. They sang “strong-weak”s and had diction that lined up decently. I also enjoyed their dynamics. The agility was quite good considering their level of training and rehearsal schedule.

A quick note on Stephen Layton’s conducting: irregular. He gave a beat, but it wasn’t always steady, even though they sang fairly steadily. I’m guessing his irregular time works because he has conducted these singers for so long and they are used to it. That being said, I want to know where he was trained and where he has worked since receiving that training; I’m curious if he is innovative or just from a different school than everyone else we’ve seen. I’m guessing that next week’s programme notes will elucidate the answers to a few of these questions.

Tomorrow we are heading to Cambridge. Who knows the adventures that await?!