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David C Dawson's blog

Day 1 – First Impressions of New York

Chorus tour of the US Posted on Wed, May 17, 2017 19:24:36

Day 1 – First Impressions of New York

I’ve arrived! Together with around fifty members of the
London Gay Men’s Chorus, including musical director Simon and pianist Lana, onboard
a British Airways jumbo jet.

“Let’s do the show here!” Once the drinks trolley did a few
rounds, the singing began…

Strangely enough, with fifty gay men onboard, they ran out
of gin.

Hats off to our chairman John for organising this group
flight. Marshalling fifty gay men to America and back has to be like herding
cats.

The New York Gay Men’s Chorus were there to welcome us in
the Arrivals hall, complete with rainbow flags and lots of hugs.

My amazing host David was one of the welcoming committee at
JFK airport from the New York Gay Men’s Chorus. With his years of local
knowledge, I finally know the easy way to get into Manhattan.

We took the AirTrain from the terminal to Jamaica Station,
where we got the E Line through to Chelsea, and 23rd Street.

And first impressions?

It’s hot. 30 degrees (that’s over eighty Fahrenheit for
American readers). And humid. Everyone’s
in their singlets and shorts.

Chelsea is an amazing neighbourhood, straight out of the
movies. Great places to eat all the way up 23rd Street. Beautiful
buildings.

And it’s busy. So busy.

The lobby of David’s apartment building is simply perfectly styled in Art Deco.
Straight out of Poirot. There’s even a garden with the apartment block, a rarity in New York. The elevator is elegantly lined with dark
wood and is to die for.

And the Art Deco apartment …

I am still in heaven.



One day to go – An Art Deco Love Affair

Chorus tour of the US Posted on Tue, May 16, 2017 14:16:28

One day to go – An Art Deco Love Affair
Tomorrow, I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago.

One of my passions is Art Deco. It’s a period of design which I fell in love with many years ago. I have a good sized collection of glassware, several cocktail shakers, and a few years ago I discovered a bespoke rug maker near Whitney in Oxfordshire. He made me two gorgeous Art Deco rugs for the living room and hallway.

So you can imagine my excitement at the prospect of spending twelve days in New York and Chicago. Two cities rich in Art Deco heritage.

I’m already booked onto an architectural river tour in Chicago, followed by a walking tour. Of course I’ll be visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s House.

I’ve been to New York many times, so I’ve already been to the Empire State, the Chrysler Building, and the gorgeous Number 1 Wall Street. This time, if there’s time, I want to try to get over to the Bronx to see some of the amazing examples of Art Deco that are lovingly maintained there.

I was talking about this with my host in New York just last night. David lives a couple of blocks away from Greenwich Village, within walking distance of great bars, the Stonewall Memorial and our rehearsal space. I am so lucky to be hosted by him and his charming husband Ammar.

I mentioned my love for Art Deco.

“Oh really?” he said. “This apartment building is Art Deco. The stairwell is spectacular. I always walk down, so I can enjoy it.”

I’m going to be living in an Art Deco apartment on Manhattan for one week!

I am in heaven.



Two days to go – Why protest songs?

Chorus tour of the US Posted on Mon, May 15, 2017 14:01:00

Two days to go – Why protest songs?

In two days I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago.

Our show in New York is called I See Fire. When we bring the show to the Cadogan Hall in London in June, we’ll be singing many of the same songs. The London concert is called AgitPop. The Cadogan Hall describes it as “the music of liberation and protest”.

Why protest?

After all, there’s much to celebrate. It’s fifty years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 partially decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales. It’s nearly four years since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act received royal assent in the United Kingdom.

So, why protest?

In the words of one of the songs we’ll sing: “The buggers are legal now, what more are they after?”

According to Galop’s Hate Crime Report of 2016:

More than seven thousand hate crimes against LGBT people were recorded by UK police in one year

In that period, over a thousand prosecutions were made for homophobic acts in England and Wales

Over a thousand charges for LGBT hate crimes were made in Scotland and Wales.

So the law isn’t quite enough.

Personally, I know of several people who have experienced either verbal or actual, physical abuse as a result of homophobic attacks in the last eight months.

A friend of mine in the Chorus was subjected to sustained, verbal abuse as he walked down the street in central London, simply because he was holding hands with his partner.

The boyfriend of a friend of mine was badly beaten up in Sheffield, because “he looked too gay.”

It’s not good enough if gay and lesbian couples can legally get married and have children, but can’t walk safely hand in hand down the road.

That’s why Pride marches are still so important. That’s why we in the London Gay Men’s Chorus sing protest songs at our concerts.

But don’t worry, we’ll be singing lots of songs of celebration too!



Three Days to Go – The Ess-a-Bagel Deli

Chorus tour of the US Posted on Sun, May 14, 2017 16:09:12

Three Days to Go – The Ess-a-Bagel Deli

In three days I’m flying to America with the London Gay
Men’s Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago.

As always happens in America, I’m spoilt for choice.

During a brief lull in our hectic tour, we’re going to be
eating at the legendary Ess-a-Bagel Deli on 3rd Avenue, New York. Apparently,
it’s been around for over thirty-five years, which they say is 150 years in New
York restaurant years.

Because there are around a hundred of us on the tour, all
pitching up at this deli one lunchtime, we’ve got to order in advance.

So we’ve been sent the menu. Which is like a small book.

Apart from the bagel (standard bagel? mini-bagel or sliced
bagel?) should I go for the matzo ball soup, or just a salad?

Or what about a salad sandwich? That’s a new one on me.

Or maybe a conventional spread sandwich? If so, do I want
peanut butter or jelly? Or maybe apple cinnamon cream cheese, banana nut cream cheese,
berry berry cream cheese, chocolate chip cream cheese, lox cream cheese, oreo,
pumpkin, scallion, strawberry, sun-dried tomato, vegetable, or just plain cream
cheese?

And if I want a cheese sandwich instead, do I want American, Swiss,
Gouda, Jarlsberg, Pepper Jack, Fontina, Havarti, or just plain cheddar?

And should I order the potato knish to go with?

I haven’t even started on the choices for dessert…

According to this article I’m reading on the internet, the Ess-a-Bagel Deli also known as His Hole-y-ness the Doughy Lama. Oh yeah..

Next: Why protest songs?



Four Days to Go – So Good They Named it Twice

Chorus tour of the US Posted on Sat, May 13, 2017 16:15:15

Four Days to Go – So Good They Named it Twice

In four days I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s
Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in Chicago and New York.

New York.

I’m flicking through internet pages, deciding what to do during the few days rest we’ll have in New York.

I’m like a kid in a sweet shop.

There’s so much to see. So much to do. I don’t want to make
a wrong choice.

I’ve been to New York many times in my life. I was first
there in 1975 on a school trip. That’s when I first fell in love with this
loud, brash, grimy, beautiful city.

I returned years later on my honeymoon. My wife and I saw the show 42nd
Street on 42nd Street. At the end of the show, we ran to
the Port Authority building to catch the last train out to New Jersey, where we were staying.

When I was with the BBC, I filmed there many times. It’s
really easy to film in New York. Far easier than London. Everyone in New York
likes a film crew. Everyone wants to be on camera.

The last time I was there was in 1997 with my wife and four year old son. The twin towers were
still standing then, and we stayed at the magnificently retro Mayflower Hotel on Central Park.

A lot’s changed.

I’ll be staying with my host, also called David, from the New York Gay Men’s
Chorus. He lives in Chelsea, just a few blocks from Greenwich Village. He’s lending me a Citibike
pass so I can ride around Manhatten on a bicycle.

That will be interesting. I’d better go and check out my insurance.

Next: The Ess-a-Bagel Deli



Five Days to Go – Choreography Panic

Chorus tour of the US Posted on Fri, May 12, 2017 17:50:43

Five Days to Go – Choreography Panic

In five days I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s
Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago. And
dancing.

That last word terrifies me. I am the definition of dad
dancing.

And yet.

Five years ago I joined a gay men’s chorus (“Europe’s
largest boy band”) that not only sings – but dances.

Choral-ography they call it. Two hundred gay men in perfect
synchronisation.

Well, one hundred and ninety-nine – plus me. Usually a beat
behind everyone else. The Corporal Jones of the London Gay Men’s Chorus.

In the show we’re taking on tour we’re going to be dancing
to…

…but I can’t tell you. It’s got to be a surprise.

So I’ll tell you about just over two years ago. On the stage
of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank.

We were performing a very action packed version of Jai-Ho –
the fabulous song performed at the end of Danny Boyle’s seminal film Slumdog
Millionaire.

Week after week in rehearsals I failed miserably to get the
movements in the right sequence.

The rest of the chorus would be raising their arms to the
left.

I raised right.

Then one day, I got it. I was in perfect synchronisation
with everyone else.

I was ecstatic. But there was one problem.

We were performing the song jointly with our visitors. The
New York Gay Men’s Chorus. Fabulous, friendly, fit, masters of the dance.

And there were a lot of them. Our chorus was nearly one
hundred and seventy. There seemed to be hundreds of the hunky New York guys.

And we were all squeezed onto the modest stage of the Queen
Elizabeth Hall.

So when it came to the combined choral-ography, all my
confident, expressive, expansive, and above all, accurate dance moves were
totally invisible.

I’m relying on that happening this time too…

Next: So Good They Named it Twice



Six days to go – My Kind of Town

Chorus tour of the US Posted on Thu, May 11, 2017 16:17:17

Six days to go – My Kind of Town

In six days I’m flying to America with the London Gay Men’s
Chorus for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago.

I’ve spoken to four people from Chicago in the last few
days. Now I can’t wait to get there. They all seem so – friendly.

There’s my work colleague Jim, who lives in San Francisco
but is from Chicago. As soon as he found out I was going to his hometown, he
sent me a list of recommended restaurants and details about the best art deco
sights to see in the city.

Then there’s the lovely Scott. He sings Tenor in the Chicago
Gay Men’s Chorus. He took time to write a detailed email about how to apply for
a Ventra card. It’s like London’s Oyster card, but works on the Chicago Transit
system.

Scott not only emailed all the details, but also arranged
with the New York Gay Men’s Chorus for us to be able to have the cards sent to
their offices. Then we could pick them up when we arrive next week.

Simple. Except…

The Ventra website is very fussy about addresses. It didn’t
like my very British postcode, which it needed to confirm my credit card
details. It demanded a zip code.

In the end I typed in the zip code for the New York Chorus
and hoped for the best.

First I got an email saying all was well. Two days later, I
got an email from someone called Toye in the Ventra Customer Contact Center. I
had to ring them. I could see the money I was planning to save with the card being
eaten up by my transatlantic phone bill.

But it was worth a try…

It was an automated phone system. “Listen to the following
menu. Press one for…” You know the sort of thing.

Twice it sent me round in a full circle. On the third
attempt, I got through to a really helpful man called Dustin. I thought there
was only ever one man called Dustin in the world…

He fixed it for me. And wished me a great stay in Chicago. I
emailed Toye to say it was all fixed, and to thank her/his colleague for being
so helpful. S/he emailed back to wish me a great stay in Chicago.

So thank you Jim and Scott and Toye and Dustin, for being from
Chicago and being so friendly. It definitely sounds like my kind of town.

Next: Choreography panic



7 days to go: What to Pack?

Chorus tour of the US Posted on Wed, May 10, 2017 16:41:54

Seven Days to Go – What to Pack?
In seven days I’m flying to New York with the London Gay Men’s
Chorus
for a twelve-day tour. We’ll be singing in New York and Chicago. The
highlight for me will be singing in Central Park, early on Sunday morning. OK.
The “early on Sunday morning” bit doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm. Perhaps we
simply won’t go to bed the night before…

This is the earliest I’ve ever started planning for an
overseas trip. I’m usually very last minute. But with one hundred gay men as my
travel companions, I’m getting plenty of advice. They’ve all got opinions.
Strong opinions.

For some of my fellow travellers, it seems the generous
luggage allowance of forty-six kilos plus multiple cabin bags is not enough.

I’ve only got one suitcase and a rucksack. I’m feeling
inadequate.

We’ve been given two special t-shirts for the tour, plus we’ll
wear our Silver Jubilee t-shirts from last year. I don’t need much more do I? A
pair of trousers, a pair of trainers, a couple of changes of socks and
underwear. That’s enough isn’t it?

I’ve just received an email from a member of the New York
Gay Men’s Chorus. They’ll be hosting us. “Social evening at the Eagle NYC on
Thursday night. The theme is sports gear. Bring a wrestling singlet, or a pair
of speedos!”

I’m beginning to feel my small wardrobe is very inadequate.

Next: My Kind of Town?



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