March 7, 2024     David Solar

Prelude 2024 Recap


Amidst the crisp chill of winter, London welcomed the tenth iteration of Encore’s Prelude event—an exclusive, complimentary weekend devoted to the advancement of music directors. Packed with unparalleled professional and artistic development, networking avenues, and privileged access to cultural and musical delights, this January’s gathering saw nearly 50 music directors and their companions converge for an extraordinary experience.

Prelude stands out as an exceptional event, consistently earning an ‘excellent’ rating from all of its 300-plus attendees over its ten-year history. This year’s feedback echoed the enduring excellence, captured eloquently by a choral director who said, “If I could select more than excellent, I would. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will forever treasure.”

For this year’s event, attendees stayed at the Royal Garden Hotel, a luxurious, 5-Star hotel located in the bustling neighborhood of Kensington and on the doorstep of Hyde Park. “BEAUTIFUL Hotel in a great location!” exclaimed one group leader. “We really enjoyed seeing the park from our room, as well as strolling through the park several times,” added another.

Under the guidance of Tour Manager Paul Daley, the weekend unfolded with an array of meticulously planned events, starting with a cordial reception that established a foundation for budding connections. As the evening progressed, attendees were treated to the Moulin Rouge at the Piccadilly Theatre, complemented by a VIP experience featuring a pre-show commentary from the esteemed theatre critic, Matt Wolf.

“Paul was knowledgeable, concise, informative and kept everyone on schedule…the best part!”

“I LOVED the production!” exclaimed one of our orchestra directors. “We had amazing seats with the performers right there in the pre-show. The theatre is gorgeous, [and] the reception room was great.” One of our choral directors concurred, stating “LOVED IT! Very fun show to experience on the first night! Way to “let your hair down” and have a good time!

The following morning commenced with a journey to Chelsea to explore the Holy Trinity Church, one of our preferred choral spaces. Here, a delightful private performance was given by Robert Murray, a distinguished tenor renowned for his leading roles with institutions such as the Royal Opera House and Hamburg State Opera, among others. An attendee enthused, “Beautiful venue and stellar concert!” while another commented, “It’s always a treat to hear beautiful music in the venues we explore.”

As the day progressed, our journey took us to Covent Garden for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the Royal Opera House. An orchestra director was captivated, exclaiming, “An absolute DREAM!” They elaborated, “Having studied ballet and costume design, witnessing both in action was enchanting. I cherished every moment, especially the sneak peek at the rehearsals.” Echoing the sentiment, a veteran group leader simply said, “Lifetime memories. What a treat.”

That evening, numerous directors chose to experience Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral, where seats were reserved ahead of time. The decision was met with appreciation, as one attendee marveled, “Sitting in the Quire seats and experiencing the service in such a magnificent cathedral was incredible. Wow – it took my breath away!” Another director reflected, “It was a weekend highlight for me! I often revisit my program from the Evensong, replaying the service in my thoughts.”

The following morning began bright and early with an exclusive tour of Kensington Palace, scheduled before the doors opened to the public. The tour was universally acclaimed, with special commendations for the tour guide, Rose. “Our guide ROSE was incredible! Her depth of knowledge and engaging storytelling fully immersed us in each moment,” a Prelude participant enthusiastically shared. “I gained so much from this experience and thoroughly enjoyed it.” They added a note of regret: “Had I known the tour would be brief, I might have explored it earlier in the week, though this wouldn’t matter to everyone.” Another attendee appreciated the exclusivity, noting, “It was wonderful to explore the palace without the usual crowds.”

Leaving Kensington Palace behind, our next destination was the Royal College of Music and the Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall, where we were treated to a venue showcase and an exclusive performance. An enthusiastic group leader commented, “Beautiful! Such an incredible space for both instrumentalists and vocalists!”

However, the true highlight of the day awaited us later that afternoon with an exclusive session at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. The group had the unique opportunity to delve into Beatles lore, interact with the studio’s sound engineers, and even record our rendition of the Beatles classic, “With a Little Help from My Friends.” One veteran traveler reflected on the experience as one that created “lifetime memories,” while many other directors hailed it as the “highlight of the trip.”

More Reviews of our Abbey Road Experience:

  • “If I could select more than excellent, I would. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I will forever treasure.”
  • “That was one of the most unique and memorable Prelude experiences…Thank you for all of the Prelude experiences, and especially this!”
  • “FAVORITE thing. Getting to participate in this activity and be guided to created a recording that is a clear and clean. It is a treasure to have. I love the length of time that we had in this space. We were able to relax and feel a part of this experience. So so special!”
  • “Way beyond excellent!!! Lifelong memorable!!!”
  • “The absolute best!!! WOW!!!”
  • “THE BEST!!!!!!!!!!! I loved the experience from beginning to end. I have zero musical experience and loved the vocal coach. He was fun and interesting and shared a lot of tips that I knew nothing about. He made me feel comfortable singing and not self conscious. It was a great experience to really experience what recording artists do!”
  • “A highlight of the trip! So unique.”
  • “This was the most outstanding experience I’ve ever had on a Prelude Trip!”

After a weekend brimming with unforgettable musical and cultural moments, we all convened for our farewell gala dinner. This meal served as a fitting adieu to a weekend replete with shared meals and meaningful exchanges. “Way beyond any expectations I may have had!!!” remarked one of our attendees. “[I’m] very grateful to share time and break bread and enjoy a meal before we all departed our separate ways.”

The overwhelming positive feedback makes it evident that Prelude 2024 made a lasting impression, especially on group leaders experiencing Prelude for the first time. One such director was awestruck, saying, “Incredible! I cherished every moment. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Such experiences would have been impossible on my own. Being pampered in this manner and witnessing the professionalism and luxury that Encore embodies was an absolute delight.”

Another newcomer reflected, “The weekend was fantastic, striking the perfect balance between leisure time and organized activities. I appreciated that our group undertook experiences we might not have sought out individually. It was wonderful to meet other musicians and educators from across the nation, sharing insights about their programs and future tours. Having this as my initial Prelude and introduction to Encore was heartening, given the universal praise for Encore and its team. This positive experience has me eagerly anticipating our tour in June.”

Two of our most loyal travelers encapsulated the spirit of the weekend, declaring their time in London as “wonderful, with excellent people, places, and program content.”

As we bid farewell to our time in London, we turn our sights toward a new year brimming with remarkable journeys, music, and camaraderie. With the close of Prelude 2024, we eagerly anticipate what’s next and invite you to stay connected for updates on Prelude 2025!

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