Back to where it all began

In 2007, as a member of the New Zealand Youth Choir, I toured to St John’s Newfoundland to participate in an international biennial choral festival called Festival 500. For those of you who don’t know much about the place, Newfoundland is the easternmost island of Canada, known to locals as The Rock. Its capital is St John’s. St John’s has George Street. George Street is blessed to have the most bars per metre in the world. I experienced George St with many other Newfies (locals, not to be confused with the dog breed) on Canada Day and, I must admit, the ones I met did enjoy a pint…or ten! A popular custom is being ‘screeched in’. Screech is rum. Not any kind of rum. The dregs of a barrel (though at least it comes in bottle form these days). Add into the mix a recently-deceased cod which has to be kissed (obviously). Then find some unsuspecting tourists who are told they’ll become ‘Honorary Newfies’ if they partake in this ritual and, finally, said gullible tourists have to repeat some rather unintelligible words spoken at them in a mix of Irish and angry Canadian (the bartender was very friendly mind). And there you have it: a beginner’s guide to Newfoundland. Oh, and I met my wife there.

Liz and I were attending Festival 500 (changed guise since 2014) with our respective choirs and we hung out a little bit but nothing happened and even though we exchanged email addresses I wasn’t sure I’d ever see her again. I was fairly smitten and did say to my mate Forbesy that if I was to marry someone it’d be someone like Liz. (People who tend to vomit slightly in their mouth with soppy stories should probably stop reading at this point.) She had the most beautiful blue eyes and I remember her watching our performance and we locked eyes and just smiled at each other. (Sorry if you missed the memo about needing a paper bag. I tried to warn you.) I guess, looking back, that was the moment I knew.

Fast-forward ten years and Liz still has beautiful blue eyes and I can confirm that I have married someone very much in her likeness! So, thank you Festival 500 for providing the location to the best story of my life so far. Can’t wait to tell the grandkids!

Tonight’s concert, therefore, has a really special element to it for me by being back where it all began. We’re sharing the stage with the Atlantic Boychoir and they’ve been working very hard to prepare for it. I hear we have a sold-out basilica so that adds a hugely exciting aspect to the occasion. I popped out briefly before the show to take a quick picture of the stage all lit up. Can’t wait!


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