VIEWS: 11 PAGES: 10 POSTED ON: 3/30/2011
PALM DESERT, CALIFORNIA – McCALLUM THEATRE 1 MAR 10 In May 1973, a group of Coachella Valley business, education and cultural leaders committed themselves to the creation of a state-of-the-art performing arts centre. Their vision was to enhance and enrich the lives of desert residents by making the performing arts available to as many people as possible. Bob Hope was quoted as saying that the purpose of the McCallum Theatre was to “entertain, to educate, and to enrich.” The band arrived at this beautiful concert hall, and was instantly met by the hospitality staff. This gave the media team time to have a good look around, and it didn‟t take long for the serene mountains and climate to supply the „feel good‟ factor. Eighty percent of Palm Desert‟s residents are retired, and the place certainly has an air of sophistication and relaxation about it. World class golf courses, exclusive country clubs, and an area to park one‟s golf buggy at tonight‟s venue if you so wish. The McCallum Theatre has played host to many big names including; Shirley Bassey, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra. Signatures littered the corridor walls; we even found a signed wall of the last visit of the pipes and drums in 1986. Avenues Q, (the touring musical from New York) were the next show to appear after us on the calendar. An opulent lobby or „front of house‟ assisted many members of the band in greeting our audience as they arrived. The theatre‟s stunning benefactor‟s wall (with each name etched in single glass panels) lined the way to corridors full of celebrity caricatures. The second half closed with a “dazzling” performance from the Band, Pipes and Drums. Only this time, a guest appearance from Marshall German, one of the leading under- eighteen pipe champions of the US, made for a flawless rendition of „Amazing Grace‟. PALM DESERT, CALIFORNIA – DAY OFF 2 MAR 10 A wonderful tropical climate greeted the band this morning for another well earned day off. Palm trees lined the avenues, and lush, well tended landscapes lay at the foot of some truly breathtaking mountains. The band, as is now the norm, had thoroughly researched the area and its attractions. Just some of the activities undertaken were as follows; Cars hired to drive back to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon (including a trip to Hoover Dam), Los Angeles and Hollywood, and even Harley Davidson Bikes hired to cruise the long desert roads. Some of the band opted for the much more arduous and exigent task of simply sitting by the pool and intermittently jumping in. Interestingly, the Bandmaster narrowly escaped an uncertain future whilst out running. Upon exercising near the picturesque mountains, he discovered that he was lost, and on the wrong side of an electric fence. It was later disclosed to him by a ranger that he was in fact running inside a wildlife area that contained pumas, cougars, and some other, rather sweet animals! DAVIS, CALIFORNIA – MONDARVI CENTER FOR PERFORMING ARTS 3 MAR 10 Today‟s flight took the band through the most relaxed and subdued airports that anyone had ever visited. After checking in and going through expected security procedures we were shocked to witness the outdoor departure lounge – palm trees and a beautiful 25 degrees heat awaited us. As it transpired, the brother of Joni Mitchell was there and spoke of how they used to come to Palm Desert for parties at Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin‟s houses. He also spoke of how Sinatra‟s pool was designed so that no matter where the sun shone, the shadows were always in the form of piano keys on the pool. Sinatra‟s mother was also killed in a plane crash shortly after taking off from the airport. This led to Sinatra buying half of the airport, and he created such a fuss about aeroplane safety, that the government decided that internal flight procedure should be as safe as the international flights. The venue itself was yet another great concert hall. Seating 3200 people and on over three tiered floor, this venue was a pleasure to play in. We seem to be following the same groups around the country, renowned violinist Joshua Bell was performing, and has done at our last five venues. A member of the stage crew remarked that the band was a „pleasure to work for‟. After the show the band, pipes and drums were invited to the Scottish Meat Pie Factory. Located in the middle of a field, and next to a London Route master double-decker bus, the barn had been converted into a Scotsman‟s idea of paradise. Boasting all types of Scottish beverage from whiskey to Iron Brew, alongside pies and sausage rolls made on the premises. An original sheep‟s gut haggis was ceremonially led into the feast. Naturally, it was a good night, and there was much piping, drumming, and dancing. MODESTO, CALIFORNIA – GALLO CENTRE FOR THE ARTS 4 MAR 10 A departure time of 12:45 this morning gave the band time to compare prices in the local supermarket. The remainder perused the breakfast menu at Denny‟s restaurant. The journey to Modesto was a breeze at just 1 hour 30 minutes and the Double Tree hotel was most comfortable. Boarding the bus for a journey of three minutes around the block was a little surprising. We arrived at yet another polished concert hall that would rival any in London. It seems that the arts in America are appreciated and well funded, as Modesto has its own full time professional symphony orchestra. Regularly in demand, they sell out halls with performances from ballet to Mahler. The honour guard tonight were made up from two Army Reserves and a naval reserve seaman. SAN RAFAEL, CALIFORNIA – MARIN CENTRE FOR CIVIC ARTS 05 MAR 10 A two hour bus journey took the band though the famous steep streets of San Francisco. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge presented an opportunity for a band photograph against the impressive skyline. The hotel was based around a labyrinth of pools housing over friendly koi carp. Its seven floor atrium even included a waterfall. Following a short walk to the venue, its profile became apparent from the outset. The designer Frank Lloyd Wright apparently took inspiration from the intimacy of a Greek amphitheatre. The acoustic setting allowed the non-amplified spoken word to be clearly heard in the back row. There was no balcony either, as he believed that it would simply „get in the way‟. One of eight concert halls designed by him around the world, it was completely circular. The honour guard were made up of the local college Army Cadet Force. A short lesson from Drum Major Stephen Staite provided the rhythmical aptitude they required. The interval seemed to go quickly, aided by a gentleman who bizarrely insisted on calling Musician Julia Oxley, Davina. Many positive compliments from the audience after the show were greatly appreciated. COSTA MESA, CALIFORNIA – SEGERSTROM CONCERT HALL 6 MAR 10 This concert hall greatly impressed the band and was a pleasure to play in. Built a mere three years ago it is aesthetically beautiful. At a capacity of 1704, its high quality interior is reminiscent of Birmingham Symphony Hall and the Sydney Opera House. The only problem at the venue being that the designer did not plan for the height of a six foot tall bass drummer in bearskin cap! Home to the Pacific Symphony Orchestra it was good to see that each person has his or her locker backstage, with a separate locker for sundries. The shelves in the wings were lined with such a luxurious shag pile carpet to protect their instruments, that it made the lobby of the Grosvenor Hotel in London look like the entrance to IKEA. The frontage was made up of more than an acre of glass. It holds a multi-tiered lobby with beige Spanish granite and carpeting, silver leaf ceiling featuring lighting design titled Constellation by Francesca Bettridge. This included Swarovski crystal LED lighting and 300 individually suspended pendants of polished stainless steel, tipped with facetted Baccarat crystal globes. The concert hall itself could accommodate any acoustic challenge with minor adjustments available such as changing the panelling of the 128 doors to lowering various lengths of fabric banners in the four reverberation chambers to absorb sound as needed. The audience seemed very generous with the Battalion donations, as we almost ran out of wrist bands. Sgt Paul Hooper and LCpl Gavin Mann bumped into two well known composers within the Salvation Army and brass band world. Naturally they had been former musicians in the Irish Guards band, Ivor Bosanko and former principle cornet of this band, and the International Staff band of The Salvation Army, Terry Camsey. SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - THE BALBOA THEATRE 7 MAR 10 Today we had two shows at the theatre and after a short drive from Costa Mesa we arrived at the Balboa theatre. Originally built in 1924, with a cost of $800,000 the theatre was named after the first Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the first European claiming to have discovered the Pacific Ocean 1513. The theatre was the first to show all Spanish language films and appearances from Mexican celebrities. During WWII it was used as single occupancy housing for the US Navy. In 2002 it became property of the city council and was retained as a public asset. In 2002, $26,500 dollars was spent to restore the failing theatre. Our afternoon performance filled all 1,534 seats and went without a hitch. However, it was quite a squeeze on stage. The band and pipes only just missed each other as they entered the wings. The evening performance was not completely sold out but still had a warm and responsive audience. Following the show, LSgt Steve Clarke met a gentleman who had been a Master Sergeant in the Marines. A veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, he told Steve that it was the first time he had shed a tear since the conflicts. Ever the joker, LSgt Clarke remarked that he “didn‟t think we had played the Marines Hymn that badly”!
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