January 19, Sunday: Free day and Pizza Express

By Chelsea Dubczak, junior soprano
Major: Vocal Performance

Chamber Choir had another delightful wake-up call by fire alarm, only this time it was real.  Our entire hotel evacuated around 8AM for a fire somewhere in the building.  (Details remain unknown.) Thankfully, nobody was injured, and no belongings were compromised.  We just got a good chuckle out of the fact that we have encountered so many fire safety procedures throughout the trip.  We haven’t had so many fire drills since grade school!

This city has so much to offer, and I am positive that, collectively, Chamber Choir discovered it all.  The group I spent the day with began our adventure with a visit to the British Museum.  Although several days are needed to completely make it through the Museum, we managed to see the highlights in about 90 minutes.  Our favorite exhibit was definitely the Rosetta Stone.  However, we saw some other pretty old things that were also great.  For instance, the mummies and preserved bodies were an interesting mixture of fascinating and unsettling.  If anything, we learned about what our bodies might look like 1200 years beyond our death.

We then made our way to Oxford Street for some fabulous London shopping!  Oxford Street has some of the best shops in the city, and we made sure to explore its potential.  Unfortunately, the advertised “20% off student discounts” only apply to students who study in the UK…

The shopping is intense here, so we took a break for some lunch at a small sandwich-cafĂ©, which was delicious as usual.  I find it so fun to try new things that I would never eat in the US, but I typically am quite happy with the cuisine on this side of the world.  Who knew that egg, spinach, mustard, banana, and bacon would work so well together in a sandwich?!

The Tube (the city’s subway) is another aspect of London that takes some getting used to, but is incredibly efficient.  It is the fastest way to travel, and can transport a person from one end of the city to the other in a matter of minutes!  I am also proud to say that I have now walked up the 179 steps from the Tube to ground level twice now, instead of taking the lift (elevator).  I can tell you that it is an excellent leg workout!  We took the Tube to the British Library, which holds actual manuscripts of Beethoven and Mozart.  As extremely knowledgeable musicians, who were taught by one of the most intelligent musicologists of our time (you’re welcome, Dr. Saylor), we were practically dancing to see these important documents of music history.

We used the Tube again to go to the Westminster area of London, where some of us rode the London Eye, while the rest of us strolled the boardwalk and across the bridge to Parliament and the tower of Big Ben. Both presented phenomenal photo opportunities of the city just as the sun was setting.  It was a gorgeous night, with perfect weather--no rain or clouds, cool air that stood still, and the buzz of the city constantly swirling around us.  I am so glad we made it to that end of London to watch the perfect sunset while seeing some of the quintessentially ‘London’ sights.

Another ride on the Tube brought us back to the hotel just in time to leave for our group dinner.  The entire choir had the opportunity to experience Pizza Express, and let me tell you, it was an experience.  We all learned to stretch and toss the dough, spread sauce, and top the pizza to perfection, followed by the eating of our own pizza creations.  Not to mention, we had a competition to see who could make the better calzone: Soprano/Alto or Tenor/Bass.  I am proud to say that the women made an extraordinary calzone, thus beating the men.  It was the perfect way to conclude our adventuresome day. We even serenaded the wait staff with a couple of verses of “Nelly Bly.”  I have to say, we are far better at singing than tossing pizza dough.

While walking to Pizza Express, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the people who were not in my little Sunday group about what they did on their day off. As I stated before, Chamber Choir collectively did just about everything there is for tourists.  Some people went to the National Gallery, seeing paintings by Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, and Michelangelo, among several others.  Many people went to see the Prime Meridian by taking a boat ride to Greenwich.  Another group visited the famous 221B Baker Street, which is familiar to Sherlock Holmes fans.  It was a gorgeous day for everything we did.  We have been fortunate with the weather during the entire tour, but it has been especially nice on our free days in London.

Now we all are resting up to prepare for our three-hour rehearsal at Saint Paul’s Cathedral for evensong tomorrow.  What a way to get back into our singing mode!

The following images were taken by Tom Florian on Sunday, a free day for the choir.
Nice work Tom!

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