Jaco Brand, Head of Boarding at St Paul’s Cathedral School, offers his mid-flight reflections on looking after 21 Choristers on tour.
“Who is in charge of these boys?” This is the question I dread most. Bravely, I reply, “That will be me” and then comes the relief, “They are absolutely charming!” Well, I know that, of course! It’s just that boys will be boys and you never know who stood on whose toe and whose inquisitive nature has made them wander into the restricted access zone.
It is my pleasure to travel as a chaperone with the boys of St Paul’s Cathedral Choir, London, on their 2015 tour of the USA. We know each other well back at the ranch: me as their Housemaster and maths teacher and them as very busy choristers, constantly juggling school work, cathedral commitments, sport and music practice. However, here in the USA we can forget about all the other daily pressures and focus on singing 8 concerts in 7 States. This is a task they are performing without stepping on any toes – they are simply brilliant at it – and my respect and admiration for these boys increase daily. The only suffering I have to endure something equivalent to what must be “Proud Dad Syndrome” – not something to complain about!
We are traveling with 21 boys between the ages of 10-13 years old. It is wonderful to see them grow into seasoned travellers, coping expertly with being away from home and their known routines, making most of the experience, absorbing new cultures and habits, whilst sharing their spirited personalities and talents with all the wonderful new friends we are making. Amongst these are the incredible host families who accommodate the boys and spoil them rotten. People willing to open their hearts and homes, do laundry, provide packed lunches, entertain, ferry to and from rehearsals and attend the concert – briefly becoming proud surrogate mums and dads. Truly generosity without end: we are in debt and very grateful for their care, hospitality and kindness.
With the cabin being prepared for landing, I should get back to my charges: “Right, make sure you have everything, put that back in your hand luggage, sit down, seat belts on, whose hat is this?” “Tidy up around you, yes, thank you, I have heard your joke before.” “No, I will hear your new joke when we are in the terminal building.” “Now there’s a surprise – do up your shoe laces, will you!”