What a time we had!
Thursday at the turning circle: five in the morning doesn’t feel so early when the weather is good and the Coach drivers Chris and Martin are so cheery and welcoming. Many roads, one ferry and thirteen hours later we arrived in Cologne to a friendly welcome and fine dinner at our splendid Jugendherberge. The perfect journey preluded a perfect tour!
Friday dawned beautiful – indeed the weather throughout our stay was glorious – unbroken blue skies and crisp summer sun to banish any wintry chill. The walk across the Rhine towards the soaring Gothic masterpiece that is the Cathedral could not have been more inspiring: the breath-taking space once inside quite overwhelming. And to think we were not simply tourists here, but guests, choristers for Midday Prayers (after a quick busk outside!). And the acoustic. Oh my goodness… voices rising higher and higher, further and further. What a privilege to perform there; what a memory. Quickly followed by a dizzying ascent to the top of one of the dreaming spires for views to horizons barely contemplated below. And there was a trip to the famous Chocolate Museum as well. What a day… so far! Because soon after we were off to Heimersheim to perform in the ancient Pfarrkirche St Mauritius. A beautiful setting in which a small but perfectly formed and immensely appreciative audience delighted in the Chamber Orchestra’s brilliant performances and the Choir’s equally mesmerising repertoire. And our reward was a fabulously convivial dinner in the local Hotel zum Stern – no mean feat feeding forty famished folk so (e)fficiently.
Saturday took us to Bonn and a rendezvous with Beethoven (or at least his death mask, his birth house and a host of fascinating memorabilia besides). The Namen-Jesu-Kirche was fabulous: over three hundred years of history, beautiful spaces, glorious decoration, and another splendid acoustic. Lily used her fluent German to brilliant effect while the orchestra rehearsed to encourage passing trade to return for our concert. And another busk in the market square elicited great applause and one besotted baby, transfixed by Miss Weston’s conducting and the choir in full voice. The evening concert was majestic, presented this time to an audience worthy of its quality – the pews were full and the appreciation rapturous. It was a wonderful event and our thanks go once again to our hosts for such kindness and generosity.
Sunday meant Koblenz, an enormous statue of Kaiser Wilhelm, a cable car ride above a misty confluence of the Moselle and Rhine to a castle-topped hill across the waters. And then a quick trip to Andernach for our final concert to be given in the extremely modern Kreuzkirche – unprepossessing from the outside in its concrete carapace, but beguilingly spacious and beautifully wrought on the inside with glorious stained glass and finely panelled woodwork. The welcome was every bit as warm and welcoming, and the audience passionate and plentiful. The concert performances of orchestra and choir were as good as they had ever been, and with an acoustic just a little softer than on previous occasions the musicianship was even more brilliantly presented. Indeed, in response to Millie’s lovely speech in excellent German, the residents were moved to say that they had not hosted such a fine concert in all their long memories, their long and heart-felt applause testimony to the truth of that claim.
Marvellous.. and then it was Monday and a journey equally smooth to bring us and our wonderful memories safely home.
Many, many thanks to Mr Milton, Miss Weston, Mr Turner, Miss Alzapiedi, Mrs Hornsby and Mr Cole for their organisation, conducting (of course!) and care; and many more congratulations to our wonderful orchestra and choir for performing so well, and for being such a pleasure to tour alongside.