A note from the Editor: Apologies for the tardiness of these blogs. Consecutive show days combined with time in NYC and a flight back to the UK left no time for blog writing! I hope you enjoy the last (quite long) instalment. H x
We left the old mining town of Scranton to head to our final state of our 2018 US Tour, New York. Famed for its endless energy it could not be more of a change from the small town of Scranton, PA, and we were all so excited for this final stop. But before we were able to experience the magic of New York City, we had two shows to do. The first of these being Valhalla and our performance at Westchester Community College, a venue which the older four in the group had visited in STUSA16. After three weeks of touring already, our sound check was short and sweet and we had lots of time to relax before our penultimate show. Despite being smaller in number than previous venues, the audience at Valhalla were no less enthusiastic and if not louder! After a smooth-running show we headed back to our hotel, ready for our Rockville Centre show and then on to New York City the next day.
The Day began bright and early, since we needed to travel to Rockville Center and set up in time for the earlier show – our first matinee, and the last performance of the tour for us. After an uneventful bus journey, we arrived at Molloy College and loaded into the Madison Theatre – a beautiful and modern venue with an exceptional lighting set up, which made Lewis very happy indeed.
In our break for lunch, we took the opportunity to explore the College some more, and the music and performing arts building where we were performing had many treats in store. The sounds of instrumental practice emanating from the various rehearsal rooms, our dinner awaiting in one room, and in one classroom the best discovery of all: a large number of wheeled chairs. In true Semi-Toned style, we could not resist utilising these to the best of our ability, and so began ‘chair choreography’, in which we performed The Chain and Careless Whisper whilst remaining entirely seated. The videos were quite a work of art, we think.
The performance was one of our best yet, having had three weeks to refine our show and continue to improve after each location. As is customary during the final show, we decided to let our hair down a bit (literally, in Greg’s case) to celebrate the end of tour. During the interval, after a very professional first half, Lewis and Will descended like gods from their holy tech desks to visit it us in the dressing room. They gave each of us words that we had to fit into the show, either in song or in speeches. Challenges included: hummus, bumblebee, noodles, metronome and more. Cue a well-polished but very amusing second half of the show in which people tried to shoehorn strange things into peculiar places, such as Jacob Storey telling the audience that the previous song was in fact not ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Sam singing ‘We Built This City’ instead of ‘Bump and Grind’ whilst serenading the beautiful Donna who had so unwittingly volunteered to be involved in the song.
After the show, we made our way quickly to the hotel to put away our bags, before heading into NYC in the bus, which we only recently discovered is apparently called ‘Angelica’. When we arrived in the city, the time came to say farewell to our driver, Antonio. Driving nearly the length of the east coast of the USA is no mean feat in itself, let alone when you have to do it with 14 guys who are probably really annoying, sing way too much, and talk about all sorts of questionable things during the drives. So despite us assuming that Antonio must have hated every minute of our company, he still claimed it was the “best trip of his life”, and even shed a few tears during our parting words. It is safe to say that we are SO grateful to Antonio for his company, good humour, and trailer-reversing skills. Antonio – you will be missed!
Wiping the tears from Jacob Westbrook’s eyes, we then went for dinner at the famous Patsy’s Pizza. It was delicious. I shan’t say any more because the readership claims they’ve had enough of us talking about things we ate. We then made our way through the bustling streets of Manhattan to the Rockefeller Center, which we ascended to view the stunning skyline of NYC at night, just as we did at the end of STUSA16. The photo opportunity was made the most out of by all, especially as the Empire State, One World Trade Center and other buildings were lit up in green to celebrate Earth Day. The Top of the Rock had two notable events that evening. The first was a romantic proposal of a couple in the corner, to which the lady said yes and we all applauded. The second was an a cappella rendition of ‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie. Just like when we sang ‘Samson’ there in STUSA16, the whole of the viewing platform stopped to listen to us sing and celebrate the culmination of our tour. They probably also heard me mess up bar 16, which is something of an Achille’s Heel for me, so sorry about that one.
The group then split up into subsections: some made their way back to the hotel via train, whilst others stayed out in Times Square to meet up with All Night Yahtzee (yeah – remember them from Week 1?! Feels like a long time ago, right?). It was lovely to see all of our friends again and chat to them about their experiences in the ICCA Finals on Broadway. After hanging out for a few hours, the remainder of us caught the 1.42am train back to Rockville Center and made our weary ways to bed.
But no lie ins for us! Gathering at 8.45am in the hotel lobby, we lugged our suitcases back onto the train and arrived (for the second time) in Manhattan. Tommy’s uncle, Neil, had very kindly allowed us to store luggage in his flat, and after depositing our items we all headed our separate ways to explore.
Some went to Central Park, whilst some headed to 5th Ave to do some shopping and heckle at a certain tall golden building that had lots of security outside it. After a morning exploring either the outside treasures of Central Park or the inside treasures of Uniqlo, we reconvened to check into our Airbnb in Midtown East. Unpacked and settled in, we then went to meet up with some of The Rolling Tones (in Central Park… again). We sat in the sun on some grass and ate some delicious New York cheesecake, and it was lovely to see them and chat about their experience in the ICCA Finals on Broadway. It was a fun meeting of two UK a cappella groups, and an unexpected relief to hear some British accents again!
Ryan, Charlie, Chad and Ludo went to watch Avenue Q in the evening, whilst the remainder of us went for dinner with Tommy’s uncle and his family, and ate more food that I will endeavour not to describe in depth. After a delicious dinner of burgers, nachos, wings, cocktails, sodas, fries, brownies and sundaes, topped off with some slow service, we reconvened at the Airbnb with the theatre gang to celebrate the end of tour more privately, with a few drinks and some light-hearted conversation about our favourite and least favourite moments of the trip, reminiscing about events that felt so far in the past. Conversation continued late into the night.
Our final day in NYC was certainly made the most out of. Many of the first and second years, who had yet to explore the city to its fullest, ventured downtown to the Staten Island Ferry, Brooklyn Bridge and Ground Zero, where there are reports that ‘Alfie may or may not have shed a tear’, whilst conversely Ryan was inevitably excited about the conspiracy theorists.
Others in the group – namely, the majority of boys who are in relationships (and Ludo) – made their merry way to Victoria’s Secret in order to peruse the gifts for their sweethearts back at home. Some of the boys seemed very at home here, whereas others appeared to be a little socially awkward, but I am reassured that fun was had by all. After this, some of the more sophisticated in the group ventured to art galleries. Henry, Tommy, Charlie, Jacob and Chad explored The Frick Collection, an astonishing collection of art in a mansion on 5th Avenue, which contained famous works of Hans Holbein the Younger and JMW Turner. Some others visited the Museum of Modern Art, which contained art which was very different but no less appreciated.
After ticking off the variety of sights left to see in New York, we eventually reconvened to collect our luggage and say goodbye to Tommy, who was staying an extra day with his uncle (which was secretly a good thing, because we really couldn’t put up with another long haul flight of questionable jokes). After saying our second farewell of the tour, we journeyed to JFK and went through all the usual airport processes to prepare for our plane back. Highlights of our time at the airport included Ryan getting irrationally angry at overweight luggage prices, Westy telling a TSA officer to be less rude (and consequently being searched as a result), and me losing my wallet and then getting hailed on the airport-wide tannoy to identify myself at gate 6 and be reunited with my worldly possessions of 6 dollars, a provisional driving license, and my Exeter student ID card.
The plane journey went without a hitch, and upon landing in Gatwick we soon had to say our farewells yet again as people peeled off one by one. Now we are all back at our various homes safe and sound, and feeling incredibly anxious about all the university work we haven’t done, we’re all very tired, but it’s safe to say we have certainly had the best three weeks with some of our best friends in some amazing places. If you want to find out more about our antics on tour, our first tour vlog is out now on YouTube, and there will be more footage coming soon – so head over and give it a watch! We are so grateful to Joy & Eric Amada and everyone at Arts Management Associates for providing us with our third tour of the USA, and we should also give a huge shout out to Alfie Davies for being our tour manager for this year; together they have worked tirelessly to drag 14 guys around the States and we couldn’t be more thankful. It is such a privilege to tour the USA each spring, so the biggest thanks should go to all of our venues and their cities for having us and for being such wonderful audiences.
And so concludes STUSA18 East Coast Tour! Thank you to our readers (basically just mums, dads, grandparents and the Amadas) for putting up with our blogs: we hope you have enjoyed them. For the last time, we’re signing off:
Henry, the blog team, and all of Semi-Toned 2017/18.