Tour Diary: Swing Into Christmas 2022
Throughout November and December 2022 we performed our Swing Into Christmas show in 15 different cities, spanning as far south as Southampton and as far north as Edinburgh. We had the pleasure of performing to a total audience of over 6000 people - including a sold-out finale at London’s Cadogan Hall.
The tour started with two rehearsal days at The Chickenshed Theatre in Cockfosters, London - an opportunity to try out the new musical arrangements written for the tour by our conductor Mike Paul-Smith and assistant conductor Simon Joyner. It was also a great opportunity for some of the new members joining the Orchestra for the first time to meet everyone - and for us all to get used to playing together in our Orchestra line-up after a few months off.
The first Swing Into Christmas show was in Eastbourne at the Royal Hippodrome Theatre on 20th November - an early Christmas present for us all! This was then followed by another ‘standalone’ show in Canterbury at Colyer-Fergusson Hall in late November - from the moment we first performed our show in Eastbourne, the joy we felt definitely set a precedent for the rest of the tour.
After the two stand-alone shows the first full leg of the Christmas tour started out in Bath at The Forum in early December. It was a sheer privilege to perform in such a large space, and we truly felt welcomed by both the venue staff and the audience members for our first trip to Bath. The next day saw a long drive across the country to Norwich - where we performed at The Halls, and even got to give our saxophonist Jamie a birthday serenade on stage. The next few days included shows in Cambridge and Southampton - the latter of which was a double-header at Turner Sims Concert Hall performed to two incredibly supportive crowds (even despite one of the shows clashing with England playing France in the World Cup quarter finals!). The first leg was closed by a show in Birmingham at Bradshaw Hall, and was followed by a couple of days of well-earned rest.
After a couple of snowy days off, we skipped across to the Cotswolds to perform at the stunning Town Hall in Cheltenham - where we were even able to welcome some dancers to join us. Despite the snow and ice, the room was still warm with festive joy; we are so grateful to everyone who ventured out that night to come and see us, braving the icy Cotswolds roads. The next day saw a short hop over to Oxford, where we performed at the Olivier Hall at St. Edward’s School - a new venue for us, and one that we cannot wait to head back to.
After our show in Oxford, we had a slightly longer break before starting our final leg of the tour, which would take us right up to Christmas. Our first night was in Liverpool, where we performed a sold-out show at St. George’s Hall. The crowd at Liverpool certainly set the standard, as the hall was filled with merry outbursts of song and dance throughout the entire night. The next night was yet another sold-out show, this time in Huddersfield at the Lawrence Batley Theatre. When we arrived at the venue it was a fantastic surprise to see one of our singers on a banner outside the theatre!
Next up was another first for us - a visit to the Lake District, where we swung into Christmas at The Coro in Ulverston. It was great to meet a new group of audience members, and we are looking forward to heading back to The Coro in the spring.
After Ulverston, the tour was heading for a close, with only two dates left. We headed north of the border to perform at The Queen’s Hall to an immensely supportive crowd in Edinburgh - which made us even more excited for our Scotland tour in January and February, when we are not only returning to Edinburgh, but also performing in Dundee, Dumfries and Aberdeen.
After one night in Scotland, we traveled back down south again to perform a sold-out show at The Stoller Hall in Manchester. We sold so many tickets that the venue even opened the choir gallery to the audience, meaning that people were watching us from four sides of the stage - definitely a new experience for us!
Before leaving Scotland however we had a little difficulty with our van. With a broken tail lift cropping up right after our Edinburgh show, we had to make a quick dash for a replacement before heading down to Manchester. This included a very rapid unloading and reloading of all our equipment early in the morning in Edinburgh, before a sprint down to Manchester for the show. It wouldn’t have been possible with the stirling efforts of some of our crew who are actually our musicians. We don’t yet have the luxury of having a separate crew so many of our musicians take up the additional duty of driving the tour vans and setting up and packing away at each show - they are long days and we’re incredibly grateful to our crew for all their tireless work.
We all went our separate ways for Christmas to spend time with our families and loved ones - however there was still one final show on the horizon. On 28th December we performed our 2022 Swing Into Christmas show for the final time, this time at Cadogan Hall in London. We were thrilled to have sold out this iconic venue, and were overwhelmed with the amount of support we received from the audience who came out to see us. Our show at Cadogan Hall featured an extra-large orchestra - the largest Down for the Count ensemble ever to perform in public - and a surprise performance of Our Love Is Here to Stay, dedicated to two of our orchestra members Hannah Castleman and Alex Western-King who are getting married in the new year.
We had so much fun on this tour - it was by far the most ambitious tour schedule we’ve ever attempted, and the standing ovations and amazing audience feedback kept us going night after night. After the curtain came down on the finale and we headed to the after-party, many of us were hit with a sense of sadness that it was over - however, there is not long to wait until we perform together again.
We hit the road again with our All-Stars for A Century of Swing in January, February and March, and then with our 30-piece Orchestra in the spring for Voices of Swing. We had an incredible time spreading festive joy and music to everyone who came out to see us this Christmas period, and we are so very grateful for all of your continued support.
See you all very soon!