This is the continuing saga of the Sonos Handbell Ensemble on their east coast tour. Click here to read days 1-3
Sonos posing in front of a banner advertising our concert in Westport, CONNECTICUT.
Day 4 – Butternut Squash Lasagna: The day started with four members of the group waking up early to play at the church services at Christ and Holy Trinity Church in Westport, Connecticut. Because we had set up the night before, the rest of us got a morning to sleep in and recover from jet lag. The morning was certainly a much needed break.
The concert that afternoon was held in a gathering space near the church, since 30+ feet of tables wouldn’t fit in the sanctuary. While the morning group ate lunch, the rest of us set for the concert. Acoustics in the gathering space were great for bells, and the audience got to sit up close to the tables. Since it was an intimate space, the concert was much more relaxed than our first show and because of that we played much better. The audience of around 70 all came up afterwards to try out the bells. That church has a 5 octave set of White Chapel bells, and they were all shocked by how well we could play the bass bells, until they realized how light Schulmerich bass bells were in comparison.
At the show we were joined by two singers from the church’s choir. Having guest artists on the show you haven’t met before can be risky, but these two were true professionals. Matthew and Emily showed up prepared and sounded incredible. I seriously wanted to take them with us on the rest of the trip.
Gretchen, Sandy, Marquise, and Derek, the Jingle Bells quartet, setting up to rehearse.
That night the church hosted a dinner for us. They had this butternut squash lasagna that was to die for. We didn’t get the name of the restaurant the lasagna came from, but everyone in Westport should go find it.
Day 5 – Oh Christmas Tree: After a quick breakfast at the hotel restaurant we were on our way south again. Today’s destination: Homdel, New Jersey.
Guess who the handbell choir is?!
Touring like this is obviously expensive. Between the rental cars, airfare, food, and musician’s pay a trip like this can add up fast. To do a tour, Sonos first books paying gigs through our agent. Once they put together enough paying gigs to cover the expenses of the tour, then we look for other gigs to fill the holes in our schedule. These usually end up being free gigs at churches who give us dinner and housing in return for a concert.
Saint Benedict Roman Catholic Church in Homdel was one of these free concerts. We were scheduled to play right after the church’s Christmas tree lighting, which meant the audience was mostly families with their children. The audience was very receptive, but you could see the little ones get tired and leave part way through the concert. Many had not experienced handbells before and those who made it to the end enthusiastically gave us a standing ovation
Our host for our stay in Homdel was Sonosian Gretchen’s brother-in-law (Sonosian, noun, a person who performs with Sonos Handbell Ensemble). His family fed us a hearty Italian meal before the concert and a fabulous dessert afterwards. A few of us hung around with them much later into the night than we should have, but the drinks and conversation helped ease tensions that can grow the longer you tour together as a group. They were also nice enough to put us up in their own house for the night. Handbell families are the best.
Driving over a bridge somewhere on the east coast
Day 6 – As the bell tolls: Since we had two days to get to Harrisonburg, Virginia, we had a couple days to be tourists. The group decided to spend the time in Washington DC, which is only a couple hours south of Homdel (I love how all the east coast cities are so close together). What we forgot take into account were the ridiculous number of toll booths along the way. I was driving that day, and I felt like every few minutes I was shouting back to the rest of the passengers to scrounge up another $4 for some random toll. These are problems we luckily don’t have on the west coast.
We arrived in Alexandria, Virginia in the early afternoon to check into our hotel. Immediately the group split up. Some members decided to spend the afternoon resting and working. Some went and explored the National Cathedral. Some ditch everyone to visit friends. I hopped on a train to Charlottesville, Virginia to visit some friends from college. By the end of night 6 we were scattered around Virginia, enjoying our time on the east coast in our own ways.