At a very early 05:00 on the 3rd July, 23 students and 5 members of staff conglomerated at the bottom of the school drive. A buzz of excitement and anticipation built amongst all about to embark on the tour. With the exception of one forgotten cello which was quickly rectified all were present and so we set off. Our excellent drivers, Dale and Andy, had made great time, getting us to our ferry and through border control a whole 40 minutes ahead of schedule.
Once on the ferry, all of us headed our separate ways, some in search of a large breakfast, some in search of chocolate (me included) and some to the deck of the ferry to take in the fresh sea air. Once on board time flew by and before you knew it the coast-line of Calais appeared through the window. A swift walk to the bus and we were good to go as the drivers took us through France in just 45 minutes! A quick stop in Belgium for refreshment and we were off again, heading in great time towards our destination and home for the next 3 days.
By early evening we had finished the long journey to the Rhineland and after room allocation had been delivered by the esteemed Sue Evans, all students settled down for an early night!
An early morning again followed as all were up by 7:00, showered and ready for breakfast 45 minutes later. And what a breakfast it was! All kinds of cereals, meats, fruit, yoghurt and bread (served Buffet style) really gave the entire group sufficient energy for the long day ahead. On the first sightseeing day the bus headed for a local castle, the Rheinfels Castle at St Goar. Our tour guide, who spoke excellent English, met us at the entrance, welcomed us and led us through Dungeons, battlements, tunnels, “foxholes”, a slaughterhouse and the largest unsupported dome roof in Europe. Our Head of Music, Julian Whittaker, thought the acoustics were excellent for the chamber choir and so we lined in formation and gave the tourists two pieces from our repertoire-Locus Iste by Bruckner and Almighty and Everlasting God by Gibbons. These went down a treat and sounded simply divine in the large expanse of space that was in that room. Our tour guide finished the tour at the museum which included a model of the castle as it would have been in the 18th Century (before it was blown-up after a French invasion of the Rhineland).
After walking for two hours what we all were desperate for was more walking! And so we headed down the hill from the castle into the town of St Goar. Here we all purchased arguably the best Ice-creams on the continent and then were led by our tour leader Kat to the boat. Once on board we enjoyed the beautiful scenery that encases the Rhine and travelled down past our Hostel to the town of Kaub. Waiting for us at Kaub were our wonderful bus driving companions. We all got on the bus and headed off for the town of Koblenz.
After arriving the group walked around the harbour to the cable car station. The Cable car itself took us up the hill and allowed us to see where the Rhine and Moselle join, creating an eerie figure in the water as the muddy Rhine mixes with the clear waters of the Moselle. Once at the top we were all given about an hour to enjoy the fort and the looking tower situated at the top of the hill. My group were forced to endure my tour of the fort which, even I admit, may have not been entirely accurate to say the least! A quick cable car journey back down the Hill and a very long walk took us to our first venue!
The Weindorf at Koblenz was absolutely stunning and it was a real privilege to perform there to the local people as they ate. The chamber choir sang songs including For the Beauty of the Earth (Rutter), Chattanooga Choo Choo and Every time I feel the Spirit (Simmons). The brass group played Penny Lane, Viva la Vida, The Simpsons Theme and Blue Moon, all going down very well. The string ensemble (led by Year 10 student Eden Saunders) played Hunting the Hare which was a great choice in this venue and was played excellently. Two soloists, both string players, wowed all with their performances. Eden Saunders mastered the Israeli concerto Hora-Hatikvah (Perlman) and Marcus Kong (year 9) brought many to tears with his realisation of You Raise Me Up (Graham). The real highlight for me personally of this concert though was the Jazz band (directed by David Snow) who excelled in making all of us, and the audience clap along, with C Jam Blues (Ellington) and the St Louis Blues (Handy).
After another early night and early start we hurried onto the bus with the knowledge that we in the choir would soon be performing in the most awe-inspiring venue, Cologne Cathedral. Here we were to perform in the service, singing three acapella pieces, Locus Iste (Bruckner), Almighty and Everlasting God (Gibbons) and my personal favourite, Tallis’ If Ye Love Me. At the end of the service they thanked the choir for our performance and we all filled out feeling elated after having sang in that awesome building. A well-deserved amount of free time was then given as we all headed off in groups to get lunch and then met back at the coach at 14:30. A long drive to Koblenz then ensued and we got to our final concert venue at the Florinskirche. After absorbing as much of the beauty of Koblenz as possible we headed to the church for our rehearsal.
At 18:00 the concert started and we opened with a duet from Rowan Clayton (Year 7) and Daniel Crowe (Year 8) who performed (alongside the rest of the choir) Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art. This was excellent and set a high bar for the rest of us. Soloists Liam Fleet, Aidan Hall and Daniel Crowe all played their respective pieces with great virtuosity and style. The String ensemble surprised many with their excellent performance of Haydn’s Theme from the Surprise Symphony and the Brass group showed real class with their realisation of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. Mr Christopher Boodle played his own composition “Joie de Vivre” and the concert finished with The Lord Bless you and Keep you (Rutter).
After the journey back to the Hostel (at Oberwesel) we all met in the games room. Here we all thanked Kat, the drivers, Sue Evans, David Snow, Sarah Crowe (who assisted in running the Brass group) and Julian Whittaker, for making the tour possible. After which we all had an hour to relax and I was severely thrashed at table tennis by the infamous Marcus Kong.
A less early start the next morning and after breakfast, room tidying and instrument collection we headed to the bus for the final journey of the tour. After 8 hours of continental driving we arrived at the ferry and headed on board for dinner. A short crossing and 4 hours driving back, we arrived at the school at 23:00, and we all headed home to recover from the exciting but tiring tour we shall all remember for its excellent performances and friendships created while abroad.
By David Crowe, Year 12