All Aboard Queen Victoria- BLOG #3
Ahoy! I’m writing this currently aboard Queen Victoria, my home for the next six months! It’s been an awesome and exhausting couple of days, but so far, I’ve found to be very happy with my decision to start a contract. In my first two days alone, I’ve backed a guest entertainer in the theater and played with a full big band in the ballroom. Things have been insanely hectic during the process, but at the same time it also feels great to be busy again.
Sorry for the small delay everyone, free Wi-Fi has become quite a luxury in the past week!
Arrival on the boat was a pretty straight forward process, everyone in the hotel took a bus ride provided by the company to Southampton, the homeport where we embark onto the ship. After dropping off our instruments and luggage, we were given our IDs and went inside to arrange rooming assignments- kind of similar to the passengers! As expected the rooms are smaller for the crew because of the limited space available on the boat, but I was happy to find plenty of room for all my stuff as well as find the bathroom (particularly the shower) larger than expected. Also, my luck from the travel day continued, where I found out my assigned roommate, a bass player from Chicago, is dating someone in a different room and that he’d stay with her most of the time once she’s on! Talk about getting spoiled on my first contract!
Here’s a quick view of my cabin I’ll be staying in, I plan to do a separate blog about living conditions in which I’ll go in to things with more detail.
Already I kind of feel like an outsider just from the two days, not in a bad way, just that I’ve only met two or three other Americans so far, the rest of the staff seem to be from England, Canada or Australia also, but mainly England based on accents. Everyone I’ve talked to has seemed friendly and welcoming, we’re all on the same boat now after all! They segregate rooms based on rank, putting all the musicians in one area. I’m still thrown off about the driving (different side of the road, some of the passengers walk on the left side of the hallway too), the accent change (thankful that the main language is English though), and the towels for some reason (they’re huge!) Also a good tip for a new guy is be sure to check when you can buy cosmetics and toiletries, I had plenty of time at the hotel to go out and buy shampoo and stuff but didn’t, I ended up having to borrow what I needed from my roommate for the time being.
Right after I got my room (I had not unpacked) I was immediately sent to learn about fire safety and emergency procedures. Even though I am a musician on board the ship, I’m legally required to aid in emergency situations and evacuations as a part of the crew if it should happen, which in turn, is loads of safety drills, lessons and demonstrations. This includes showing the passengers where to go in emergencies and how to put on their life jackets (as seen above).
From what I heard, the first two weeks would be like this before things would mellow out, learning about everything from health, safety and security of the ship and my responsibility to it. Also, every crew member is required to participate in these safety drills and lessons, even if they are returning. It’s quite a workload when you consider we must rehearse and perform two shows a night on top of it!
At that point I would’ve loved nothing more than to nap (with all the travelling, time changes, etc.) but the show band was scheduled to perform that night already, which meant rehearsal and running through that night’s show tunes. Instrumentation for the show band (also known as the Royal Court Theatre Orchestra) includes: two saxes (with doubles), trombone, trumpet, guitar, piano, bass and drums. The first night’s guest entertainer was a local talent who plays clarinet, with music mainly consisting of Benny Goodman or Dixie swing. I had the fortune of playing swing clarinet all summer at Lagoon Theme Park, so I’m glad I could come out and hit the ground running with the reading and solos. After only a 45-min rehearsal we were given a couple hours break to eat and get changed and then it was show time! The returning guys have all played this exact show before, which made it incredibly easy to perform with them (all live, there was no track/click).
After the show I headed back to the room and went to sleep, unknowing I’d make a big new guy mistake the next day... So a funny thing happens when you sail from England to Belgium overnight, the time changes! The cabin is pretty much pitch black, which makes it easy to sleep, meaning after sleeping over 10 (yes 10!) hours, I woke up at 10:30am only to find out over a phone call from my MD, or musical director, that it was actually 11:30am (which was the starting time of the big band rehearsal!). I hustled over to the ballroom quickly, but thankfully they were behind on the set up, pushing back the start of our rehearsal. Rest easy, mother, I was off the leash for this mistake and I still have the job 😉
The company flew out three big band musicians from England, including bari saxophonist Jay Craig of the Buddy Rich band and Tony Fisher, who played lead trumpet with Frank Sinatra. Man, this was an awesome big band, everyone is very talented! There is another band aboard with the same instrumentation as the show band, and for big band night everyone comes together to play dance sets. We played mainly Glen Miller and Duke Ellington dance numbers, which thankfully I have also played a lot of back in high school, some of the charts were even the same. The rehearsal was a beefy one, three hours of running tunes for a three-set performance later that evening. I was grateful to hear most of the guys were saying this never happens, and that it’s usually a 45min rehearsal and then show time. It was a lot of playing! I was impressed that the brass could perform so consistently all day/night, especially that trumpet player playing lead! With all the guests dancing and smiling, it was a fun night. Seems like the main customer base for the boat are retired elders older than 65, and they all appreciated the music we played very much.
That’ll be all for this blog, it was a busy couple of days and you can probably guess I have quite a lot on my plate at the moment! I’ll be talking about some of the new guy woes I had over the following couple of days on the next. Thanks to you who are reading! Please give it a thumbs up, or share with anyone you’d think would find it interesting! If you’d like to ask me anything feel free to do so in the “Contact Me” box that should be in the bottom right of the screen.