Mid 2016 I was contacted by The Senior Theatres Programmer at The Lowry Theatre in Manchester, Matthew Eames to ask if I was available for an event in Edinburgh on Sept 22nd2018. All of my work is booked well in advance but two and a half years is quite unusual. It turned out the client was Trevor Jones from Manchester and he was planning a surprise birthday party for his wife Beryl’s 70thBirthday celebrations. Come Sept 22nd2018 Trevor had the surprise in planning for over five years! I was delighted to accept the booking and looked forward to hearing more about what was planned.
In April 2018 Trevor came down from Manchester to see me in London to chat about repertoire and the finer details of his closely guarded plans, that were top secret from all of the over seventy guests including his two sons who were completely in the dark. The plans were amazing and as he shared his vision of how he wanted the weekend to turn out I became very excited myself. The plan was to take Beryl and all the guests from Manchester to Edinburgh by first class train travel to a fully prepared and waiting Royal Yacht Britannia berthed in the port of Leith in Edinburgh.
The evening consisted of a drinks reception, followed by a first class dinner at which I would be performing a set of 45 minutes interspersed with the piping in and addressing of The Haggis, this was followed by everyone being asked to go out on the main deck where Her Majesty would stand fulfilling her royal duties, to watch the most incredible display by the pipes and drums of Black Watch on the dock side. The evening was finished off by a performance of the top selling touring theatre show Beyond The Barricade.
After initially thinking of flying to Edinburgh from Gatwick for the event I decided to take the train as the hotel Trevor had us all booked into was right outside Edinburgh Waverley train station, the five star Balmoral Hotel. On the journey on the way up I was beginning to doubt my judgement when the train I took on the morning of Sept 22ndfrom Kings Cross announced that because of storm damage the train was going no further than Newcastle, thinking quickly I decided on a taxi to Newcastle airport and a hire car to complete my journey to Edinburgh. Trevor and the rest of the party were in a similar situation on the west coast line and ended up getting coaches to the hotel, although everyone was delayed the event went ahead on time and on schedule, testament to an excellent travel agent and organiser of the whole event Richard Hunstone from Travel Talk ll.
I was able to get to the Royal Yacht about an hour before the guests to have a sound check and get settled before my special performance for Beryl and Trevor with all of there favourite repertoire with such diverse tunes as Che Gelida Manina from La Boheme to Amarillo and American Trilogy by Tony Christie and Elvis respectively, a very special moment was a request by Trevor for me to sing Love Changes Everything to Tony Ball a top after dinner speaker and the father of none other than Michael Ball who had made the song a huge hit in 1989. Tony was delighted and it was lovely to chat to him about singing and his boy.
After a late return to the hotel bar and a quick drink with a few guests it was time for bed after my 5am alarm call that morning. The hotel breakfast was stunning and I went for the full Scottish, which included the obligatory Haggis, my return train was at 10.30am and thankfully ran smoothly and on time with no repeat of the outward leg of the journey. I was home in Bromley by 5pm and welcomed by little Jack who was very happy with his cuddly Loch Ness Monster as was my wife Beata with the Scottish shortbread.
I look forward to the next one Trevor!!