Sadie, Simon, Danica, Barry and I are spending the first couple of nights at the Avon Old Farms Hotel overlooking Talcott Mountain woods in the historic Farmington

Valley. It's a classic Connecticut hotel set in beautifully manicured grounds.

After breakfast Simon and I decide to head out for a walk. It's not the first time we've done this - stepped out for a stroll in a small American town where nobody walks anywhere. Sidewalks fade into oblivion, walk signs flash just long enough for you to get halfway across the six lane and drivers look at you like you're from another planet.

We make it down Route 44 into Old Avon Village but it's Sunday and all the shops are closed. It's icy cold too and there's plenty of evidence of recent snowfall but the fresh air is wonderful and helps to blow away the jet lag. 

Back at the hotel we brunch at 11, rehearse for a couple of hours in Sadie's suite, chill out for an hour, shower and spruce up for this evening's party .... 

Tonight's 'Celebrity' party at the magnificent home of our wonderful hosts Arnold and Sandra Chase was one of the most incredible nights of our lives.

This evening's celebrity guest was, of course, Sadie/Elizabeth/Lady Cora.

We tumbled out of our limo into the frosty Connecticut air and marvelled at the magnificent house and grounds that stand high on Avon Mountain overlooking Hartford. 

Arnold's father is a Holocaust survivor. He left Europe with five dollars in his pocket and arrived in America with just a quarter. He built an empire in communication which Arnold has expanded. Their story is remarkable.

Everything about this evening was remarkable too. Along with the many high-powered and influential guests from the worlds of music, PBS TV and radio, we were treated lavishly and warmly by our lovely hosts.

We drank champagne and mingled, we ate canapés, we chatted and laughed and drank some more. We wandered around the splendid house and gathered in the theatre where Arnold told everyone of his love for the band and our music. On a large high def screen he showed the video for 'Everybody's Got A Song' and told us how his experience in radio and TV had taught him to recognise a hit song and that, in his opinion, this was a hit waiting to happen. 

Elizabeth was introduced, made a lovely 'speech' about her childhood memories of PBS (who will be filming our show in Hartford next week and broadcasting it across the USA next year) and answered questions about the band, Downton, and her life in England. 

We were then ushered in to the dining room where a fabulous buffet was served up to one and all. More eating, drinking, chatting and laughter. Stories told, experiences shared.

All of this was extraordinary .... but the best was yet to come.

Arnold has a basement room the size of a football pitch which contains his vast collection of Orchestrions. He has another full of antique pinball machines, but it was the 'Music Machine Room' which blew us all away.

An Orchestrion is a machine that plays music and is designed to sound like an orchestra or band. Familiar to all as the sound of fairground carousels, they are operated by means of a large pinned cylinder or music roll, the sound being produced by pipes and percussion instruments. Some also contain a piano.

Arnold has been a collector for many years. We marvel at the magnificent machines, some small, some large, the centrepiece standing about twenty feet high. 

It is in front of this stunning work of art that Arnold delivers his pièce de resistance.

He has had a composer from Brussels arrange and programme in versions of 'Everybody's Got A Song' and 'Look Now' from 'Still Waiting'. It is truly mind blowing. We are completely spellbound as the sound of our music comes tumbling out of this vast machine. Carnival time in Connecticut.....

And after it was over we scrambled back into the limo, looked at each other and asked if it had all been a dream. The buzz we got from this will stay with us forever. Words don't do it justice. I tried but you really had to be there. Look out for the video!

Thank you Arnold, Sandra and PBS for a truly memorable evening.



Pin It