Follow us as we tour through Europe on the Glennie/Grammar Music Tour
Day 14 – Shopping, shopping and more shopping!
As it was our last chance to spend our millions of forints, many of the girls and parents hit the shops today to check out the bargains in the local boutiques. Although many were left wondering where and how they were going to fit their purchases in their luggage and still keep under the maximum weight, it did not deter the determined! Returning exhausted from a morning in the largest shopping centre in central Europe, our group had a few hours to pack their bags in preparation for our departure in the morning and grab a few hours of rest. Late afternoon the choir donned their performance uniform for their final performance in the beautiful St Michael’s church, just a short walk from the hotel. This performance went for an hour and again, the audience filled the church to capacity and were standing four-deep at the back. In the audience tonight was the Australian ambassador to Hungary. She heard that there were Aussies in town and came along to support her fellow country people. We also had a visit from our Head of School, Mrs Ashley-Cooper, who just happened to be in the same town as the tour group whilst on holidays.
After the concert, we boarded the bus to the river for our final farewell dinner and riverboat cruise. Once darkness fell, the Budapest skyline was transformed by the magnificent lighting on the buildings, bridges and other boats as we cruised down the Danube River, feasting on a buffet dinner. What a fabulous way to end the tour! Tomorrow the group splits into two for the final journey home.
This will be the final tour update – parents and friends will be able to now hear firsthand from the students when they arrive back on Friday morning. Thank you to everyone who made this tour possible – the parents, the students and the staff who have put in countless hours – Glennie staff - Mr Jason Wisley, Mr Harley Mead, Mrs Kathy O’Brien, Mrs Kaye Broadfoot and Mrs Sharon Gilbert and TGS staff – Mr Tim Eckert, Mr Greg Bland, Mr Gavin McKenzie, Mrs Fay Miller, Ms Joanne Turner and Mr Neil Roche-Kelly. Special mention also to Miss Joanna Schooling who assisted the group in her role as tourist!
Day 13 – Bratislava to Budapest
On the road again this morning heading for the Hungarian capital of Budapest. On first impressions, it is a stately city of about two million people, full of history with the old and the new parts clearly established. Much rebuilding has been done since the war, with the restoration of many of the old buildings dating back to the twelfth century. There are many new and modern buildings also appearing on the skyline. After a walk through the undercover markets and a chance to try out our new currency of the forint (we were all millionaires for a few days), we checked into a very nice hotel for a few hours of rest. Many students hit the pool for a cool down, before donning their performance outfits for Orchestra and Big Band performance in a local concert hall. The concert had been advertised very well by our tour company, so we had nearly a full house of locals, visitors and our supporters enjoying an hour long performance. Mr Wisley had a wonderful time working with the Hungarian interpreter announcing the pieces! This was the final performance from these two ensembles and it would have to be the best so far. After the concert, we enjoyed a group dinner at one of the oldest Hungarian restaurants. A traditional meal of goulash soup, warm bread with butter, chicken and potatoes and apple strudel, YUM! We are all looking forward to a sleep in tomorrow and some free time for some last minute souvenir shopping!
Day 12 – Bratislava Music Festival
A Choir performance was first on the list of things to do today with the adjudicated performance in the 18th century Primatial Palace in the morning. The excessive heat was again in attendance, with many of the students really starting to feel the effects as the temperature reached 38 degrees by 10:00am. After the performance it was back to the hotel for some rest and lunch. The afternoon’s Orchestra and Big Band performance were cancelled due to the heat. The stage that we were supposed to play on was 40 degrees at 4:00pm. This left the group a nice afternoon to catch up on some rest or take advantage of the free internet for some communication with family and friends. Wearing our tour polos in support, at 7:00pm it was time to walk to the square to hear the competition results announced. The only time that many did not take their umbrellas, it rained! The square was an open area, but the rain was welcome relief, cooling down the heat still rising from the cemented pathways and stone buildings.
The Big Band received a gold award, with a special mention to vocalists Taylah Morrison and Emma Kitchener who sang in the adjudicated performance .There were silver awards for the Choir and for the Orchestra. Both groups received very good marks and comments from the “jury”. Congratulations to all the students and their conductors; Mr Wisley, Mr Mead, Mr Roche-Kelly and Mr McKenzie on a wonderful result.
Time to pack our bags again to head off for Budapest for the last performances from each of our groups. It is hard to believe that tour is starting to come to and end!
Day 11 – Bratislava Festival – adjudicated performance by Orchestra and Big Band (Slovak Radio Headquarters), and choir performance (Zichy Palace)
Today is the day that everyone has been working really hard for – the adjudicated performances. This is the festival where we could be awarded a gold, silver, bronze or participant award. We were given time in the morning for a sound check before heading back to the hotel for a change to formal dress and some lunch. The venue for this performance was an inverted pyramid shaped building, with the cemented surrounds covered in graffiti. You walk into the foyer of a very old building which opens to a most beautiful concert hall. The afternoon’s performances were very successful and the results will be announced tomorrow night.
After the performances we had an opportunity to relax or take a walking tour of the city tour. Then back to the hotel for choir members to change for their performance tonight at the Zichy Palace. This performance was for choirs only due to the small audience space, but it was a wonderful opportunity for the students to meet the other choirs from Hungary and Slovenia who are in the same festival category as our choir. This performance was a good opportunity to air the repertoire for tomorrow’s adjudicated choir performance in an informal setting.
Day 10 – Salzburg to Bratislava via Vienna
Another travel day today – we left Salzburg early to head to Vienna, the capital of Austria, with a population 1.7 million people. There we found some lovely cafés for lunch, a change of buses and drivers and then a 1.5 hour tour of the city with guides. We saw the “Blue Danube” for the first time and the Austrian Parliament House was a sight to behold. A highlight of our city tour was the stunning St Stephen’s Cathedral whose spire is as tall as the great pyramid. This gothic church, built in the twelfth century, was where Mozart was married and where his two children were baptised. Mozart spent ten years in Vienna, so there are many statues and buildings are named in his honour.
After we boarded the buses again in 38 degree heat, we were off to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, for our three day festival. We arrived at our very nice hotel (air conditioning YAY!) to get ready for the opening concert where the choir was performing. A short walk to the 17th century Jesuit Church, with our sacred repertoire ready, the choir charmed the audience and other festival members with their strong sound and clear enjoyment of the music. Then it was back outside for a quick photo session against some beautiful fountains and very old buildings before heading back to the hotel for some dinner and an early night.
Day 9 – The Hills are Alive and Mirabell Gardens
The morning dawned sunny and bright with the rain having cleared overnight. The forecast for today was for 31 degrees! We all boarded the bus after breakfast for a Sound of Music tour. We saw most of the venues used in scenes from the movie. We learnt that some of the scenes were taken in America as well as a number of locations in Salzburg. We saw the river where Julie Andrews fell out of the boat with the children, the gazebo where Leizel and Rolfe danced, and the front of the house where a few scenes were shot. This three hour tour covered many provinces (suburbs) of Salzburg including the spectacular lake district and the city.
After lunch and a change into formal dress, we all headed off to the famous and very beautiful Mirabell Gardens for this afternoon’s outdoor orchestra performance. With the heat of the day stirring up the rain clouds, we were all a little nervous about whether we would get to play. Even the piece Into the Storm which the members of Orchestra were a little tentative to play didn’t bring on the rain and we made it through a 40 minute performance unscathed. The instrument cases were all left open in case we needed a quick getaway, but thankfully it wasn’t needed.
At the performance we met people from many countries, including New Zealand, Japan, Korea and America. We even found a Toowoomba Grammar School staff member and an Old Boy in the audience. The students played beautifully to a very large audience, in a magnificent corner of the Music Capital of Europe.
Tomorrow we leave for Salzburg via Vienna for Bratislava for the start of the festival. We’ve a long day ahead tomorrow!
Day 8 – Mozart and Music in the Dom
Our day started with a walking tour of Salzburg where we learnt about the history of the city and how Salzburg came to have the magnificent buildings and strong cultural heritage that is clearly evident today. A short walk from the hotel brought us to one of the five town squares where we visited the house where Mozart lived for most of his life. Our guide told us that if we employed a copyist to hand write all the music that Mozart wrote in his 35 years, working 40 hours a week, with four weeks holiday a year, it would take 99 years. It was incredible to see some of the treasures in the house including Mozart’s quarter-size violin, pieces of his hair, buttons from his jacket etc.
After our tour, we headed back to the hotel for a quick change for the choir members and a walk to the Dom Cathedral (built in 1628) for their afternoon performance. During World War II, a bomb was dropped through the main dome destroying nearly everything inside. It took 14 years to rebuild. The cathedral was opened again in 1959, with nearly everything exactly the same thanks to some colour photos were taken by a tourist. These were some of the first colour photos ever taken.
The opening piece Lux Aeterna performed by the Glennie girls was pure magic! The acoustics of the cathedral meant that some of the notes, especially at the ends of the phrases, resonated for seconds through the majestic archways and domes. The boys sang Go Down Moses to the same magical effect, before launching into some combined choral sacred pieces. There were tears from the lucky tourists who chose this day to walk into the cathedral and from many of our supporters as well. The twenty minute performance in this cathedral has certainly been one of the highlights of the tour so far.
Day 7 Neuschwanstein Castle
We had an early start again today to travel through the Barvarian countryside towards Neuschwanstein castle, the inspiration for Disneyland. According to the guide books: This castle was built for the King Ludwig 2 (1845–1886) but was never fully completed. The king saw his castle as a monument to the culture and the concept of monarchy prevailing in the Middle Ages, which he greatly admired and wanted to create. This castle was built in the medieval style but equipped with the latest technology of the day. It is the most famous and historic building in the world.
After a 30 minute, uphill walk, we got to tour the castle. We found that every surface of every floor, wall and ceiling in the completed rooms had murals on them. Two million square tiles made up the mosaic floor in the throne room - all perfectly flat and polished. The Singers’ Hall was the largest room that we saw. What good is a singers’ hall without a bit of singing? We had the opportunity to hear the amazing acoustics in this room with a very short unaccompanied piece from the boys and the girls. This castle was a tribute to the composer Richard Wagner, were many of the rooms’ paintings were based on his operas.
After a quick lunch, and a quick change of countries we reached Austria. Saltzburg is to be our home for the next few days. Dinner was in the oldest restaurant in Central Europe, 1200 years old! Parts of the restaurant were carved into the sheer rock. What is a meal in Austria without schnitzel? This was followed by a very wobbly traditional merengue desert of the region. Tomorrow we have another performance for the choir and finally some free time to do the washing!
Day 6 – Montreux to Zurich via Lauterbrunnen and Intelakken
Today was our last day in Switzerland, tomorrow we head off for Austria. If we took a direct trip to Zurich it would have taken us only two hours, but today was an opportunity for a little bit of sightseeing. We went through the Alpine towns of Interlakken and Lauterbrunnen on our way to Zurich (sort of like a trip to Brisbane via Gympie!)The majestic Alps and clear green waters of the lakes and streams was a beautiful sight. The rivers were fast flowing rapids as the summer months herald the melting snow. The 72 waterfalls around Lauterbrunnen were spectacular, even in the rain. Although we prayed for a clear day for our Alpine sightseeing, we were out of luck with the weather department. After a photo stop in Lauterbrunnen, it was off to Interlakken down the road for a lunch stop. Many took the opportunity to shop for chocolate. Hopefully some might make it home for those family members in Toowoomba! Umbrellas were also a popular purchase, as the weather forecast is not looking great for the next few days. We arrived in Zurich late afternoon for some free time.
The city was busy and bustling and a little bit daunting with the constant traffic, trams and large amounts of people all with somewhere to go. A little bit more chocolate shopping and perhaps even some Swiss army knives and watches were on the list of things to buy, before we met for dinner at a very charming restaurant called the Crazy Cow. The very traditional Swiss meal of salad, meat, cheese and rosti (fried grated potato), finished off with ice-cream and Tolberone chocolate, quietened the hunger pangs and left everyone feeling much heavier than when they walked in! Arrival at the beautiful hotel a little out of Zurich was met with sighs of relief after a very long travel day. Tomorrow we look forward to another beautiful sightseeing day and at this point we hope that the weather will cooperate a little more!
Day 5 – Montreux – Chillon Castle and Jazz Festival
There are really no words to describe the acoustic effect created by our orchestra and choir in a ninth century castle “warrior’s room”. This was the venue for today’s hour long performances. The sounds of the Glennie/Grammar ensembles are now mixed with those that resonate from the ancient stone walls that have heard many a performance over the last 1000 years.
The effort required to climb the hundreds of steps up and down to visit each of the countless rooms was rewarded by the grandeur and incredible history of the castle. Built on a rocky outcrop on the banks of Lake Geneva, just north of Montreux, Chillon Castle is the biggest tourist attraction in the region. Music lovers who chose today to visit the castle were very impressed with the sounds they heard coming from the warrior’s room, exclaiming how beautiful the music was is such historic surrounds.
After a quick photo session with the girls in their new performance outfit (and how spectacular they all look), there was a quick change and loading of the bus to head over to Montreux for the Big Band’s performance at the Festival. Light rain put a little dampener on the proceedings, but even with the performance of Stormy Weather, the rain held off until the end of the hour long session. The performance today was even better than yesterday, with all the students and the conductors knowing the way of things a little more. Our audience was a mix again of nationalities and people of all walks of life. A couple who saw us perform that morning at the castle, even came over to Montreux especially to see us perform again (this time with Big Band). We are all very proud of our girls and boys today. Four performances down, eleven to go!
Day 4 Montreux Performance!
Today started very relaxed with a lovely buffet breakfast. We had a quick rehearsal for the choir in readiness for tomorrow’s first performance and then a quick rehearsal for big band before packing up the instrument truck again and transferring 130 people down the mountain to Montreux. This small town is usually home to 25,000 people who live and work in the region. Over the next two weeks, this number swells to 200,000 to host one of the biggest and most well-known music events in the world.
As we were the first performance for the day, we had lots of time to set up the stage and be really prepared. After two years of planning and rehearsing, a tick in the box for many people’s dreams was about to happen! The performers dressed in their tour polos. So too did the students and parents in the audience so they were highly visible in their support. Our audience quickly grew and continued to do so during the hour long performance. People started dancing, strangers came up to staff complementing the amazing talent of the students. A man from Melbourne mentioned that he was homesick when he heard that we were from Australia. A lady from Sunshine Coast was due to fly out tomorrow and came to watch us especially as she found out we were from Toowoomba. And so the stories go on! There were people from all over the world. To think that our music (many took videos of us) will go with them all over the world is just mind boggling!
Congratulations go to Jason Wisley and Gavin MacKenzie on getting the best performance from the students on this world stage. The students (very well promoted with a very large Australia flag stuck to the stage) did themselves, their families, their schools and indeed Australia very proud! In the next day or so the Glennie website will have a link for youtube for the full hour performance - stay tuned!
Day 3 Germany to Switzerland
Leaving our hotel in Germany at 8.30am after a very German breakfast of salami and cheese, we travelled through what looked like the fruit bowl area of Gatton before reaching the Swiss border. On the way, we learnt that Switzerland has the highest altitude golf course in the world and the longest tunnel through a mountain. The conversation also turned to Swiss army knives and chocolate, which many on the bus were looking forward to discovering! After a stop for a paperwork check, we travelled on towards the magnificent mountain peaks in the distance. We arrived in Montreux about 6:00pm. We were so excited they could barely sit in our seats!
After a quick walk around the market areas around Lake Geneva, it was off to dinner at a beautiful restaurant overlooking the water and the beautiful mountains (that were actually in France). The scenery is indescribable! Montreux is on the shore of Lake Geneva, with a great expanse of water surrounded by mountains. The juxtaposition of these two beautiful scenes combine to be breathtaking. Although the heat haze (still 34 degrees at 6:00pm!) gave a blurry effect to the peaks in the distance, it did not detract from the natural beauty of the region.
The jazz music being performed on the foreshore and the many nationalities of the people wandering the pathways, all indicate a wonderful few days ahead of us.
After dinner, it was off to the Novatel Hotel in Lausanne (about 40 mins from Montreux) to find our beds after a very long travelling day. Tomorrow is our first performance at Montreux!
Day 2 SOUVENIRS, SAUSAGES and . . . STORMS!
After a very long flight, we finally arrived in Frankfurt at six in the morning. We moved through customs and made our way out to meet our guides and bus drivers for the tour. The temperature hit 32 degrees, a lovely summer's day in Europe! A little unexpected as it was 10 degrees when we left Toowoomba.
We had a leisurely cruise down the Rhein River which, at 1230 km, is one of Germany's largest rivers that winds its way through a number of countries. We only travelled a few of those kms but on the way we passed lots of castles and saw the beautiful German architecture of the quaint villages along the banks of the river. There are no bridges over the river to mar the countryside. The water traffic is considered too important for the way of life to be worried about the height restrictions that bridges would impose.
We stopped for lunch in Rudesheim, with its cobblestone pathways and lovely buildings. The girls got a chance to spend some Euros on souvenirs. After lunch we took a guided tour through downtown Frankfurt’. After a quick stop at the hotel to change, we headed back into the heart of Frankfurt for dinner. Traditional country fair was on offer and the girls got to try some sausage casserole, a tasty dish featuring one of Germany’s main meats - the sausage!
Not even half way through our outdoor meal, a storm brewed. With all the wind and rain it felt just like we were at home! The rain has continued overnight and it’s raining again for our journey south to Switzerland today. Seven hours on the bus today will see us through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world - can't wait!
The Glennie/Grammar Music Tour is underway. The 120 tourists have a long day of travel ahead before they arrive in Frankfurt at 6:00am tomorrow.
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