We arrived in London after a long flight, during which we already
managed to lose Jamie (the perils of travelling with a Newfie
drummer...!), who had left his seat to visit with folks at the back of the
plane early in the flight and somehow did not reappear until well after
we had landed! Then we were transported from Gatwick to Central
London by Tetris-Man, a miraculous cabbie who somehow fitted all of
us plus all of our gear into his 8-passenger van. We were buried
under our suitcases and instruments, but still managed to arrive intact
and unharmed, and with a newly refined appreciation for personal space.

We used the rest of the day to walk off the stasis from the flight, and adjust to the time zone. However, we didn't have much time to adjust, since the following two nights we were booked for our first
performances of the tour, at the storied PizzaExpress in Soho.PizzaExpress is a very successful pizza chain, in which music has always played an important role. Founder Peter Boizot was a jazz lover and constantly sought ways to include music in his restaurants, at PizzaExpress branches starting in the late 1960s and at his other ventures, Pizza on the Park and Kettner's, starting in the 1970s. A selective list of artists who have performed at PizzaExpress over the years includes Gregory Porter, Benny Carter, Amy Winehouse, Brad Mehldau, Bill Wyman, Jamie Cullum, Rick Wakeman, Milt Hinton, Van Morrison, Barry Harris, Cybill Shepherd, Melody Gardot, Steve Ross, Art Farmer, Diana Krall, Larry Carlton, Buddy Tate, George Shearing, Benny Waters, Charlie Watts, GoGo Penguin, and many more. It was a great honour to be invited to play two nights at the flagship location, in the footsteps of so many great artists. Plus, the pizza was pretty fabulous!!

At each performance we were delighted to see fans from home as well as friends and family from the UK amongst the audience!! We also met several patrons who were drawn to the concert by the presence of strings, and who were more than a little astonished that our day jobs are in symphonic music! Also present was an American actor who was in London providing the voiceovers for Goodbye Christopher Robin!

We made the most of our short time in London, playing the club at night and seeing the sights during the day, incorporating into our schedule John’s requisite encounter-with-foreign- police-officers (this time for suspiciously loitering in front of Buckingham Palace...), as well as a necessary pilgrimage to Abbey Road, where we were surprised by the number of bands, couples, individuals and groups of every description who had the same idea. Luckily, we were in the U.K., where people understand the concept of queuing, and pedestrian crosswalks are attended to by extremely tolerant drivers, and after a couple of failed attempts which sent us to the back of the queue, we got our shot!

After our final performance, we received two invitations: one to come back to play at the club again, and a second, more immediate invitation to join in an after hours staff party! Having experienced a nasty surprise the evening before, when we learned that on weeknights Soho bars shut down at 11 pm and shoo everybody into the streets with the remainder of their drinks preserved in red plastic cups, we accepted happily and killed the time until our 3:00 am lobby- call dancing off our residual jet lag.

Next stop: Budapest!! 

(by Ronda Metszies)