Choir of the West International Tour 2019
About the Tour
Choir of the West is currently on a performance tour of Scotland, England, and Germany from May 26-June 12, 2019.
Cities along the way include Edinburgh, York, Cambridge, London, and Oxford in the UK – along with Marktoberdorf, Germany.
Choir of the West will share concert performances and social interaction with the University of Edinburgh Chamber Choir, the Choir of Royal Holloway – University of London, and the Choir of Queen’s College, Oxford. The choir will join with the King’s Voices to present a Choral Evensong at famed King’s College Chapel in Cambridge.
Following the tour of the United Kingdom, we will fly to Germany to participate in the 16th Marktoberdorf International Chamber Choir Competition. This bi-annual event is considered one of the world’s most important competitions for chamber choirs, and since its inception has drawn over 200 choirs from more than 40 countries. Choir of the West will participate with thirteen choirs from Cuba, the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, the Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States. Each choir will perform in two rounds of competition, juried by renowned choral experts from Australia, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, and the United States. The festival includes a number of opportunities for the participants to share social interaction, and the choirs will be paired to perform evening concerts in venues around the Allgäu region (Bavaria).
Departure and long-awaited arrival in Scotland. Our trip has gotten off to a fabulous start. After a long cross-country and transatlantic flight, a tired slog through the Frankfurt Airport involving a long walk, multiple bus rides, and some high humidity we have made it to Scotland.
The weather is working out in our favor, what was anticipated to be grey and somewhat rainy has been only partially cloudy with a good amount of fairly clear sky and sun. We arrived intact albeit expectedly tired our first night. After a quick lunch provided in our hotel, we managed to climb back aboard our coach for a tour of the city (in an only mildly glazed-over fashion). Some good first/second night’s rest with the time change and we’re off to St. Giles’ tomorrow for our first UK performance.
The first UK performance today, at St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh was fantastic. Choir of the West shared a rehearsal and performance with the Edinburgh University Chamber Choir under the direction of Michael Bawtree. From the audience the choir sounds to be at the top of their game and it warms the heart to hear them in such a splendid acoustic space! Lunch exchange to follow and we’re off to see Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and other sites tomorrow before departing to York and England the following day.
A wonderful day to explore what Edinburgh has to offer, starting with an excursion to Edinburgh Castle and followed up by a tour of the Royal Mile ending at Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace. Other activities include Scottish fare (haggis!), ghost tours, underground tours, the National Gallery and other museums, and more. Off to York tomorrow morning!
While in York we had another wonderful performance at the University of York in Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall. The remainder of the day allowed us to see what this unique town had to offer. Surrounded by 2,000-year-old walls built by the Romans, sights included visits to York Minster (some were able to attend Evensong), also walks along the walls and the river, but also the opportunity to meander through the medieval streets and buildings, including the Shambles (previously an alley allocated to butchers), which has meat hooks still attached to the buildings that were, “older than our own [United States] constitution.”
On the way from York to Cambridge we made a stop in Peak District National Park. We were able to visit the picturesque town of Bakewell and go on a hike, enjoy the beautiful day, and fresh air. We arrived at our hotel in Cambridge in time for dinner and had some time to catch up on a bit of rest before heading out to see the city.
Today allowed time to explore the city of Cambridge. We started out with a nice breakfast at the hotel, and then took a walking tour through the town. The morning was filled with church bells. By the end of the tour we were able to spend the day seeing the sights. Many of the colleges, the town market, punting on the river, museums, as well as evensong and chapel services (the one at Trinity Church was particularly good to see and hear). We’ll participate in evensong at King’s College chapel tomorrow evening and then off to London!
The first part of the day allowed for a little more time to see Cambridge. We arrived at King’s College in the early afternoon and were grateful to have a workshop with assistant director of choirs, Ben Parry. Shortly thereafter we headed over to King’s College Chapel. Choir of the West had a brief warmup and after only a few notes there were tears because of the beautiful way the space sounded – such a unique sound that can be heard in this chapel. After this the choir joined the King’s Voices for rehearsal and then sang for the evensong service. What a unique experience! We were able to rehearse more and have the chapel to ourselves following the evensong, which was even more of a treat, had dinner and then boarded the bus and headed off to London!
Today was the first day in London. It gives us a free day to see what the city has to offer, and everyone has a chance to venture off and see what they want to see. We get to use the Tube (subway system), and sights include London Tower, Tower Bridge, Thames River, Borough Market, Spitalfields Market, Tate Modern Art Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum, and evening shows in the West End. We’ll hopefully have a chance to see some of the other sites a couple of days from now before heading out to Oxford and on to Germany. Only a couple of days left in the UK – tomorrow we’ll head to Royal Holloway for a performance and then back to London for a group dinner and evening show.
We headed just east of London today to perform with the choir of Royal Holloway. The building and chapel were exquisite. After an afternoon performance, we headed back into London to have a group dinner and see an evening show in the West End – at the Lyceum Theatre. We briefly toured the Covent Garden area and sat down to an Italian dinner before heading a few blocks away to see “The Lion King.” Tomorrow we’ll run out to Oxford for our final performance in the UK before gearing up and heading off to Germany the following day for the Marktoberdorf choir competition.
Today is our final day in the UK. We spent the first part of the day seeing some of the remaining sights in London, including Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye. The second half of the day we headed out of the city to Oxford for our final exchange and performance at Queen’s College, with Owen Reese and the Choir of Queen’s College. Here again was another lovely space to perform with fantastic acoustics. We had a very good showing and even a few current Lutes who are studying away, along with some PLU Alumni who were all great to see and have in attendance. After a dinner with the Choir of Queen’s College who graciously hosted us, we headed back to London for an early morning flight to Germany – off to Marktoberdorf!
June 7th & 8th
We’ve arrived in Marktoberdorf!
After an early flight, our first day in Germany kept us busy getting acquainted with the competition, our accommodations, and many other details. The region we are in is just beautiful, and we have a very nice view of the Alps from our accommodations at the Bavarian Music Academy. We are also fortunate to have along with us now not one, but a total of three composers whose repertoire we are performing – our very own Brian Galante (“Exsultate”), student composer and Choir of the West performer, Austin Schend (“To Achieve Thine Ends”), and now Daniel Knaggs whose work “Of Time and Passing” has been absolutely delightful to hear performed over the past couple of weeks. It was a long day, but with a short rehearsal, dinner, and an opening ceremony later in the evening we have finally been able to settle in. We are tired from all of our travels and our first day here, but in good spirits and ready to sing!
Our first full day at the competition was fruitful. We performed our first round repertoire in the morning and were able to hear many of the other groups as well. There is a diverse range of choirs and countries here – all extremely talented – among them are several groups from the Philippines, we are one of three representing the United States, the Czech Republic, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Ireland, Cuba, Sweden, and Switzerland.
We traveled out to the nearby town of Kempten and sang a shared evening concert with one of the Philippine choirs and the Swiss choir at St. Mang church. The church was beautiful and had lovely acoustics – Choir of the West sang marvelously (their rehearsal and performance was perhaps one of the highlights of the trip thus far).
A brief image to share:
A young child walks toward the altar, drawn to the sound of a choir whose hands are locked together as they share the sound and love of their art and journey together. As they sing, the tones shine through – expressing moments of pure joy, pure emotion. Tonight the choir sang, their sound pouring though the church – uprooting and uplifting the soul – causing a tear, a smile, a moment of nirvana; as if to deliver a sigh of relief and contentment upon the world, or at the very least, the room and those who were present to breathe in the moment.
Today was the second and final round of competition – the choir gave a stellar performance. For the evening concert we headed to Dreifaltigkeitskirche in the nearby town of Kaufbeuren. Choir of the West was the highlight of the evening, singing alongside the German and Swedish choirs.
We are coming to the end of our journey – today was an eventful day. We headed out to Schwäbisches Bauernhofmuseum (open air farm museum) in Illerbeuren. Here the choirs meandered through the barns and fields singing at random places and sharing music with everyone visiting and walking by. Ironically we got caught in the middle of a thunderstorm and had to find shelter in an old barn, among several songs the one that stood out was “Unclouded Day.” Following the visit to the farm museum and after escaping the rain we headed out to the city of Ulm for our final evening concert, shared with the choir from the Czech Republic. Ulm has a fantastic cathedral which claims the tallest spire in Europe so we’ve been told. We were able to catch a glimpse of it on the way to St. Georg church where the concert was held. Choir of the West again delivered. We headed back to Maktoberdorf after a long day and late night participating in the festival events.
It’s our final day in Marktoberdorf and the final day of the competition and festival. What a fantastic day it has been. We’ve decided to do an excursion to Neuschwanstein Castle, and hiked up to a bridge near the castle for a fantastic view. The area is beyond stunning. We’ve rightly ended the excursion and in many ways our trip with a final group lunch in a little biergarten at a hotel and restaurant in the town of Roßhaupten. It proved an excellent meal and some of the better food we’ve had during our stay in Germany, with cheers and accolades for many throughout the choir and other members traveling along. We’ve ended the day by attending the final ceremonies in Marktoberdorf.
Choir of the West wins the Noël Minet Prize for the best interpretation of a religious choral work in the competition – by composer and current honorary choir member, Daniel Knaggs (who has been traveling along with us since we’ve been in Germany), for his work “Of Time and Passing.”
After the closing and final festivities we will call it a night and wrap up our tour, getting up early and heading home. It has been quite an adventure, but we are ready to return home and cannot wait to share more music and good times with everyone down the road. Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible, to family, and friends. Auf wiedersehen und bis bald!