In addition to taking photographs during the tour, Andrew Spicer (M UVI) has also made videos of various tour performances. To view them, please click on the links below:
Wednesday 3rd July, Huttau, Austria
We were to have started off the day with a boat cruise on the Wolfgangsee. But after a heavily delayed departure from Shrewsbury two days before, due to a major mechanical fault with our coach (not the best start), two days and a night of travelling and a late arrival at our hotel, we decided to postpone that trip till later in the week.
So instruments and performing clothes packed, we set of for St Gilgen for the Big Band, under its director Maria Eglinton, to play the first of three open-air gigs during the week. They gave an excellent lunch-time concert in the Bandstand at St Gilgen to an appreciative and cosmopolitan crowd, after which there was free time for lunch, and for some, a swim in the beautiful Wolfgang See, right by St Gilgen. This was slightly cut short by the biggest of cloud-bursts which filled the streets with water within minutes, necessitating a bedraggled dash for the coach after some wonderful Salopian dance moves in the pouring rain, which the bemused Burghers of St Gilgen will remember for a long time!
And so on to our first church concert at St Sebastian's Church in Hof bei Salzburg. Changed and dried, the performers made their way up to the west end organ gallery where the Chapel Choir and strings, with Alex Mason and myself variously conducting and playing organ continuo between them, provided the music for the evening mass in the church. The church resounded to Haydn's St Nicholas Mass, with forces and a performing location that Haydn himself would have been very familiar with. It was a glorious experience for all concerned. We then followed the Mass with a short concert down at the East end of this attractive Baroque church, with the strings in fine form, and Tom Sykes giving a wonderful performance with the strings of Gabriel's Oboe from the film score for the Mission by Enrico Morricone. The choir gave Austria some Hubert Parry and much more, and the concert was very well-received.
Thursday 4th July
Salzburg and Mozart are one. Salzburg and great musical traditions are also one, so performing there is a real privilege and pleasure for any musician. We set off for our day of performing in this magical, musical shrine, passing by castles, mountains and in fine weather.
We arrived at the magnificent surroundings of Salzburg Cathedral for our lunchtime choral and orchestral concert, but still not quite sure exactly how long we could play for! The itinerary said one thing, but the musical director from the cathedral we met said another, and his version was considerably shorter! In the end we performed a 40-minute recital to hundreds of captive tourists under the magnificent dome, which helps give the cathedral its wonderful musical bloom and deserved reputation as a great ecclesiastical and musical space.
The Choir sounded on top form, with repertoire from Rachmaninoff's Vespers, the Haydn Mass with orchestra once again, and Tallis, all enthusiastically received and beautifully introduced by Richard Hudson in perfect German! The strings again acquitted themselves beautifully, and so, after the concert, it was visits to Mozart's birthplace, lunch in roof top restaurants, strolls through the narrow passages around the centre, and thence to the Mirabel Gardens for an afternoon Big Band Concert.
This, although sited merely between a gap in the trees to one side of the gardens, sounded and was a magnificent performance, with the Band on top form after their various successes in competition during the last year. They had a large and appreciative audience, and it was a great end to a great day, which finished back at our hotel, where after another fine dinner, some of our musicians struck up a jam session with another visiting musical group from the UK who had arrived to also stay in the Hotel Hutter.
Friday 5th July
No concert for the Big Band for once, and no concert at all for anyone till the evening, meant that we had the day free for sight-seeing. We had arranged to visit the infamous Eagle's Nest in the beautiful area of Berchtesgarden, about an hour from the hotel. This was the mountain-top retreat given to Hitler for his 50th Birthday in 1938 by his adoring acolytes, completed and built by thousands of workers in an unbelievably short space of time as they blasted tunnels, dug roads and built sizeable structures at the top of the mountain for Hitler, Eva Braun and guests.
After a precipitous bus journey, during which we gave great thought to the hopefully excellent conditions of the vehicle's brakes, we should have seen the finest views in all of that part of the Germany/Austria hinterland. However the clouds knew the English were coming, and so were on hand, swirling around the Eagle’s Nest at the top of the mountain, and giving us only the greyest, mistiest views of each other and little else. Nevertheless, this was a visit redolent with comparatively recent history, and one which made a deep impression on many of us visiting for the first time.
After time for lunch in the lovely town of Berchtesgaden, we returned to our hotel for dinner, and thence on to Bischofshofen for a concert in the Pfarrkirche, a wonderfully perpendicular-style church with stunning acoustics and another fine classical Austrian baroque-style organ to play.
This was purely a concert, and although the audience was on the smallish side the concert was superb, with some wonderful solo Bach played on the cello by Awen Blandford, the Saxophone Quartet in glorious form, Richard Hudson’s Brass Quartet, and some wonderful singing from the Choir and playing from our instrumentalists. The parishioners then entertained us to sausages and liquid refreshment in the nearby church hall, a splendid building, and we made our way, full of the experience of playing in a truly memorable venue, back to our hotel.
Saturday 6th July
This, the last full day of our tour was in many ways the most spectacular and full of the unexpected, from the trick fountains at the Helbrunn Palace, to our performance in the evening at St Martin’s Church, Thalgau, where we played to our second biggest audience of the tour in a packed church.
But first we had a wonderful tour of the Helbrunn Palace Gardens, including the Bishop of Salzburg's watery guest seats at an outdoor stone table, summer houses from the Sound of Music, followed by a wonderful lunchtime concert given by the Big Band in the Musikpavillion in Strobl. We then took a boat cruise along the Wolfgang See, postponed from our first day, with swimming again in the lake at St Gilgen before departing for our final concert in Thalgau.
Arriving at the church in Thalgau, we found ourselves with precious little time to prepare for the evening mass and concert, and also having to perform from the upper of two west end galleries in the church, again with our forces split either side of another impressive Baroque organ, hopefully this time without a cipher!
Again we were part of the evening mass at the church, including a very long sermon! Haydn was sung again, and much more from the upper gallery in a wonderful acoustic, before us all dashing down to give a concert to the congregation after the concert, which culminated in a standing ovation, and a fitting end to the musical performances on tour. We then had a splendid meal in a local restaurant, before heading back for our last night in the hotel.
Sunday 7th July
Rooms were cleared first thing, and then we had several hours before departure in which to enjoy some really fine weather before our long coach journey back to Shrewsbury. Having enjoyed a fine midday barbeque, we loaded the coach and set off early afternoon for home, passing for the last time the hill top castles of Austria, the wonderful Tyrolean scenery and so on to the long haul through Germany towards the channel port of Calais and our ferry. Our spirits were lifted on the journey by reports and eventual news of Andy Murray’s historic Wimbledon victory, and eventually we arrived safely back at the school.
It has to be said that this was one of the best of recent school music tours. The party of boys, girls and staff that went, all played their various parts so well, and everyone on the tour had the interests of others at heart. Consequently it was a happy and hugely successful venture. The standards of performance, as one would expect from the School, were high, but also always fresh and entertaining. The staff who went, JFM, Alex Mason, Dympna Nightingale, David Joyce, Richard Hudson, Maria Eglinton, Donny MacKenzie and Philippa Moore, were hugely supportive and unstinting in their energy and bonhomie.
We now very much look forward to our next venture, be it in Europe or hopefully to the Far East in 2014.