The following blog was written by Eric Bartlett, who is in his third year as an Ensemble Singer.
With the sunlit spires of Oxford in our rearview mirror, the Ensemble Singers trundled off to Birmingham today. At first, that thought horrified me. We were leaving the land of Tolkien and Lewis, a global center of culture, history, and the cognitive elite. We were leaving a town whose university claims a history of almost 900 years, and is the only place in England that refers to the Thames River as “The Isis.” (They do so to remind the world that the Thames’ original name was “Thamisis” in Latin. Nerd Alert!) From there, we were heading to (what I thought) was the English version of Detroit. I had always assumed that Birmingham, like Detroit, was essentially a post-war Rust Belt city; a place with large sections of urban blight, its glory days behind it. I was wrong. The Germans heavily bombed Birmingham during World War II, and the city was rebuilt in the late 40s and early 50s. Birmingham today is a beautiful and modern city with a downtown area along its canal that makes one think more of Vancouver or Seattle than of a city in The Midlands. We sang in the Birmingham Town Hall, an acoustically bright and forgiving space that has premiered many famous works in its 175 year history. (View photos of the Birmingham Town Hall and our other adventures in today's photo journal.) Chief among them is probably Mendelssohn’s Elijah—Mendelssohn was once the Town Hall organist! It was a great honor to perform there, and we are looking forward to continuing on with this wonderful tour.