Day 12: Rochester‚ Canada‚ Rochester

The Techtonics love Mondays.

Nothing could make us happier than a bright early start every Monday morning during term time, starting each academic week with our famous 7:00am vocal ‘bum bum’ warmups at the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park opposite the world renowned Royal Albert Hall, a mere stone’s throw away from our university. We normally undertake at least an hour of these vocal exercises each Monday amidst the leafy surroundings of Kensington Gardens before dining on three raw eggs per person and then starting our 9am class lectures.**

This particular Monday, deprived of our normal London habitat, we sought to carry out our usual Monday ‘bum bum’ exercises at a small local water feature somewhere between America and Canada. We kicked off the day at 6:15, bleary eyed and waiting for the stragglers to get out of bed (James and David V claimed they were too stupid to work a phone alarm… Ed: I think you‚Äôll find we admitted no such thing, and in fact managed to blame someone else for something that was clearly our fault). Two of the group chose to explore their bedsheets more carefully, so the remaining ten of us, accompanied by our wonderful host Juli, set off on the 90 minute journey for the aforementioned water feature in Niagara.

It was ten minutes in to our car journey that the discussion first turned to passports. It gradually dawned on me, driving Hank to the border, that I’d left my passport safely tucked in to my suitcase back at Juli’s house. I informed Juli and she was a little concerned although she mentioned that as an American she’d managed to navigate the USA-Canada border in the past without that vital document. The last few days of touring had made me rather foolhardy and I proudly proclaimed that the immigration officers at the border would fall under the spell of my UK driving licence and my charming public school British accent, like the many Americans I’d met over the last few days.

Wrong.

Trouble loomed as we crossed the no-mans land bridge around 8:15. A mere shrubbery away from a bona fide Canadian road, we entered Canadian immigration. The immigration officer was pleasant enough at first but asked the entire car-load including all passport-bearers to return to USA, and that all the passport bearers would have to cross the border again on foot. Happy to comply, we were waiting a few group members who’d just popped to the Canadian border rest-rooms to ‘drop the kids at the pool’. This was not a great idea as the officer became quickly convinced we were up to no good… it turns out that taking a number two at immigration when your co-passengers are illegally in Canadian territory is not a great idea and leads to threatening action at border control.

Nonetheless, most of the group managed to spend a beautiful hour on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, whilst myself, David V and Ayman (who similarly left passports at home) walked around the American side of the Falls, crossing to Goat Island and enjoying the equally wonderful view of the Horseshoe Falls (yes I really wasn’t jealous).

Then came a visit to the wonderful School of the Arts, Rochester, a local performing arts public school blessed with wonderful drama and arts facilities, devoted teachers and plenty of talented kids. We did a rapid soundcheck in one of their THREE performance spaces, courtesy of Techtonics sound man Max, before performing a 30 minute set to a discerning audience of mostly voice majors. They were fantastic to perform to, and we were asked to perform Gotye’s ‘Somebody that I Used to Know’ as an encore. We jammed this song, thankful of our one prior rehearsal in Leman Manhattan last week and this brought the house down. I found myself autographing bits of trigonometry homework after the concert (good practice for if I become a school maths teacher!), and it was wonderful to chat with some of the students after the concert and hear their feedback! After that we were given a quick tour of the school by Assistant Principal Alan Tirre, who shared the wonderful ethos of the school with us, and opened our eyes to some of the amazing artistic talent on the rise from Rochester!

Back in Juli’s house and some final preparations were in place for the final official concert of the tour – a community open air concert in Juli’s back garden for all those living in the neighbourhood. We were given a real treat in American hospitality, as each neighbour brought a scrumptious dessert to share! Sagging under the weight of all the goodies, the garden table was a sight to behold; all that awaited now was the appearance of 12 silhouettes lit by Juli’s kitchen lights for the final 40 minutes of song of our wonderful USA tour.

The concert was a beautiful, relaxed affair that was the perfect way to round-off our tour. It had a special meaning to several of us (Zain, Ayman, David V and myself) as it was our final concert with the Techtonics. It has been a roller coaster adventure with the group these last 4 years, and I had to hold back the tears somewhat as I sang the last notes to the final song, and endured a few minutes of James bidding us an emotional farewell. We presented all our lovely hosts with wine and our CDs, and we promptly lit some Chinese lanterns in the back yard to mark the conclusion of our amazing USA tour. The evening finished with music and laughter aplenty in the household: Juli and Andy set up a Skype call with their daughter Corinne and we performed ‘I’m a Believer’ to her over live video chat, which was the first ever Techtonics on-air video conference performance (and hopefully won’t be the last)!

Eugene

** there may be some fiction involved here…

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