Day 11: Our last day in Vienna.

This Blog has been written by Fin Casey.

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After breakfast, we went off to the House of Music or the Haus der Musik. On the way, Ivana treated us to a map reading lesson, ready for our free time that afternoon.

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As we were entering the museum we were treated to Steve playing the grand piano in the foyer. As I went through the first level I learned about the fundamentals of sound including what overtones were and what white noise was. Then there was a room that simulated what it sounded like in a mother’s womb and there were many simulations of music concrete. The was also a series of rooms dedicated to the lives of famous composers including Johan Strauss, Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart and many others. But by far everyone’s favorite thing to do was to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. It was a simulation, but a very realistic one with a real baton. It responded to your change in tempo and dynamic and it even had a score to follow. As well as this it told you which sections were getting annoyed by your conducting (it was usually the irritable violas) and if you were bad enough a member of that section would stand up and yell something like “ Enough, aimlessly waving a stick around in the air is not conducting, we cannot do this get off the stage,“ this was usually followed by a round of applause. This went with a live interactive screen with the recordings of the orchestra that sped up and slowed down according to your actions. I’m sure these made us all feel what it was like to be Mr. Scott.

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After this we embarked on a guided tour of the city ‘off the beaten track style’. The highlight was going to the biggest cemetery in Vienna and as the gloomy fog rolled in and graves were all that could be seen it was quite picturesque. Here we visited the graves of Brahms, Beethoven and Strauss (Haydn being buried in Eisenstadt). We also stopped at the Hundertwasser House, a house designed by Austrian artist/architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser. This colourful building stands out amongst the other apartment buildings and was built in the 1980s.

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After this Dom and Steve left to have lessons with ex-philharmonic players and the rest of the rabble had free time to roam around the museum quarter, markets and long shopping strips.

A small group of senior boys and players were fortunate enough to attend a Vienna Symphony rehearsal to hear them working on Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony. By all accounts it was a valuable and enjoyable experience seeing such incredible players in a rehearsal situation.

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After our free time, we went to a concert in a palace hall with everyone in their most causal smart and their smartest causal. We were audience to a Mozart and Strauss medley, which was an experience for all with Erol being called on at the last minute to valiantly play the triangle with the performers.

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After the concert, we went to another Christmas market, in front of the massive Vienna town hall, the biggest market we’ve been to yet. Geordie bought an affectionately named ‘heart attack on a bun’ and by the end everyone had finally had enough of Christmas markets.

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A delightful end to an inspiring city.

Day 10: Even more Vienna!

This Blog post has been written by Nico Maclean.

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This morning all boys enjoyed a well deserved sleep in. After a late breakfast, we all got on the bus to Gumpoldskichen. There, the choir all enjoyed an energetic and helpful workshop with the amazingly talented Professor Elisabeth and Wolfgang Ziegler. All the information learnt was used and it helped in our final concerts. We also learned some yodels which were great fun.

 

 

Elisabeth

We then took a short bus trip to Baden, a small town surrounded by acres of vineyards.

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There, boys had free time to wander the parks, Christmas markets and the street shops. Most boys were quickly done with the markets after seeing so many so went up the hill beside the park and the view from the gazebo was stunning. You could see the city and far into the distance on our first sunny and clear day.

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Then we headed back to Gumpoldskirchen and the choir got changed into school uniform. We then raced to the parish church where we were sat up in the organ loft to listen to other choirs perfoming. There were 4 other choirs, conducted by Elisabeth and Wolfgang and ranged from a mens choir to a choir of young children, called The Sparrows.

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Our choir was last to perform. We were introduced in German by Erol and Matthias who got a few laughs from the crowd! We sung very well and received a warm applause from the packed church. At the end of the concert, all of the choirs joined us on stage and we performed some yodels together.

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Erol and Matthias

Happy, the choir got changed and we went to dinner, where we were entertained by a man playing piano acordian. He played a number of traditional Austrian songs and even surprised us with Waltzing Matilda and Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport. Everyone enjoyed singing along and doing some more yodeling.

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Tired, we headed back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.

Day 9: More Vienna

This Blog post has been written by Dale Schlaphoff and Jacob Lawler.

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One of our most historically important events on our Music tour took place today, going to Eisenstadt and the visiting the great Haydn Hall where the great Haydn himself created and played some of his best music.

It all started with our normal breakfast in which I am sure I do not need to talk about. We then hopped onto the bus and drove to Eisenstadt. When entering Eisenstadt Mr. Scott’s enthusiasm for Haydn hall and Alphas (Alpha Romeos) both made us all feel cheerful and more enthusiastic then we were before to perform in such a special place.

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Haydn Hall is located in Esterhazy palace. This palace is a beautiful structure with yellow walls and many rooms. Although smaller then Schönbrunn Palace, it was just as important holding the history of many generations of royal blood and importance. One fact that we learnt while stopping at the palace was that yellow was the royal colour of Austria, and any building painted in this colour indicated a royal family lived there. When we arrived in the actual courtyard of the palace, we were lead into a room in which the floor was made of old wood that was uneven. Despite the looks the acoustics of this smaller room were amazing and with this we found that Haydn himself rehearsed in the same room. The wooden floor was used instead of marble or concrete as it increases the acoustics of the room.

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After setting up we were allowed free time to roam the Christmas markets within the palace and walk down the road where there were more Christmas markets.

The first performance of the day was the Wind Band who delivered an outstanding performance of Ukrainian Bell Carol and the 2nd 3rd and 4th movements of the Second Suite in F. After that performance both the Seniors and Juniors went for a tour of the palace. We saw 600kg of silver ware, on of the biggest collections of baroque porcelain and saw the more important royal family members. The next performance was the Strings who played a few pieces as well as the a piece by Haydn himself with Dom on the Trumpet. We then had more free time until the choir’s performance of Still, Still, Still, The Silver Stars Are In the Sky, The Three Drovers and Stille Nacht. Then, the Orchestra finished up with Christmas Festival. To sum up the evening we drove back to Schönbrunn Palace to look at the Christmas Markets.

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Overall we had an amazing time following in the footsteps of this musical genius and influential musician.  Our performances were loved by both the audience and the staff at the Haydn Hall who said we would be welcome to come back again. Today we had a musical experience like no other, being able to play in the very hall that Haydn played in.

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Day 8: Vienna

This Blog has been written by Christos Tatsis and Alex McNaught.

 

To our beloved readers,

Today we began our exciting endeavors in Vienna by taking part in a number of activities. It was a jam-packed day but we all dragged ourselves to the end.

We started the day with an early morning, having to wake up at 7:00 to have a filling breakfast. Most plates were eagerly filled with fried potato scallop-like objects, sausages and keftethes.  An hour later we took of on an extravagant bus ride with our favourite driver ‘Tomas’. We did not end up stopping at the graveyard, but we did stop off at a gas station café where many people bought refreshments using the rest of their Hungarian Forints, which are 300 to 1 Euro.

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Several hours later of resting and games we stopped in the wonderful city centre of Vienna. From here we bought food and some souvenirs. Many boys came out from ‘H&M’ with one too many jackets, which were definitely stolen from the fashion of Chris Cooper.

After this fabulous adventure we headed off for a tour of the city with the tour guides. This tour was three hours long. In the tour we learnt about were many famous composers lived and died, for example Mozart and Liszt.

Mozart HouseOpera House

We followed in the footsteps of lesser known composers such as Schubert and Strauss, learning about them and visiting places which housed very important moments in their lives, such as where they wrote some of their most famous compositions. We also looked at some districts in the city and some names of places, such as the large Saint Steven’s Cathedral.

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Then we went to the summer palace of the Imperials, the Schönbrunn Palace. The palace was surrounded with large walls and included Christmas stalls and finely cut grass. It had many amazing statues and water features.

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After this we headed to the beloved Joota’s (pronounced Yoo-tah) penthouse, who is a famous German Lieder singer. She invited us in there where we got a lecture from Professor Edward Kudlak, and Austrian Music Professor, who gave us a very interesting speech on musical history, with many references to Mozart and Beethoven, also explaining how they lived and the difficulties of that era.

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After this we had a wonderful dinner prepared by the very kind Joota. The dinner was amazing with an entree, main and dessert for 72 people. We also had the choir and strings ensemble perform for Joota, who stated that she was near tears, and appreciated it deeply.

After this we enjoyed some downtown on the bus, and headed into the hotel going straight to bed.

Day 7: Buda/pes(h)t

This Blog post has been written by Jack Crawford.

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WOW! What a day it has been in the capital of Hungary, Budapest!

From the beginning of the day everyone has been at full pace with so many amazing sites to see with not enough time see them. On the double decker bus at 0900 hours started Mr. Mountain’s usual routine of taxing some boys euros for all the stupid things they did the day before and the handing over of the clown hat(s).

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On the way to the first of three landmarks in Budapest, lead by the two brilliant tour guides Nora and Dora, many jokes were made about Hungary and hungry as well as the pronunciation of different words in the Hungarian language for example to say good morning in Hungarian is like saying “you’re a cat” in English.

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Our first stop was at the Hero square which is the pride and joy of Budapest as it not only is original but it is also one of the few landmarks in the city that are the best not second like usual for everything.

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Kids SquareGroup Square

Next on the city tour was to cross the Lion Bridge to the Buda side of the city and walk up to the amazing lookout over the city at its heart of the river Danube. After this exciting and beautiful time that saw the snap of everyone camera’s emerge through the “oohs” and “aahs” as we looked over the city we moved onto the most beautiful time of the city tour.

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Choir Church

We went to the most breathtaking and humbling building of Saint Mathias’ Church where the choir performed a few songs in the amazing acoustics of this architectural treasure.

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When we all walked out of the church with goose bumps we came to the more relaxed part of the day free time in the city centre. This saw many things bought in the little Christmas markets like wooden instruments and local foods. Miss Smith also enjoyed a quick dash into Zara.

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After this we all went to the workshop to all learn how to dance in the traditional folk way. Our instructor was amazing showing-off to us all with his dancing. Yet still everyone still had a go and left with an amazingly large smile on their face.

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Soon after this energetic dance party we moved to a lovely restaurant where many began to fall asleep to the smooth sounds of the band and the warm yummy food. Soon, a traditional contest began to see who could drink the most fluid from a continual stem out of a long glass tube held up by one of the waiters. After this exciting challenge the touch of folk was continued with a few more dancers coming to before on the stage and soon after this we left to go back to the hotel for a well needed sleep.

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I think everyone would agree if I said that this was truly a memorable day that impressed everyone and left people “Hungary” for tomorrow’s adventures.

Day 6: Three Countries, One Day!

This Blog post was written by Jeremi Campese and Tom Sanders.

Day 6: Three Countries, One Day!

Following a vast day on Tuesday, we found ourselves quickly out onto the bus for longer than usual. Only this time we had a treat of cultural and atmospheric diversity. Breakfast in Hodinin, lunch in Slovakia’s capital Bratislava, and dinner in Hungary’s capital Budapest. It gave us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in a more laid back, but still intriguing very day.

Theatre

Perhaps the highlight for the entire group was the professional performance of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet “The Nutcracker”. Performed by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra in the historical building of the Slovak National Theatre; a small but very special building that brought us closer to the dancing and to the music, then we had ever been before. For many it was the first ballet they’d seen, but for many, not the last. It was a particularly different stage experience for many; to have to follow a story without dialogue allowed them to focus more on emotions and the music. The music was filled with famous tunes, such as “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies”, “Waltz of the Flowers”, and “The Russian Trepak” kept the excitement throughout. The dancing proved much more exemplary than many of the boys would have expected, the sheer fitness and strength of both male and female dancers, both young and old was extraordinary. Tchaikovsky continues to capture the hearts of all those who experience his works.

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We were then given free time from 1pm to 3:30 to engross ourselves in the atmosphere of the concentrated, but very lively Bratislava city. For all of us this was lunchtime; Mr. Scott made sure that no one was to buy “maccas” and gave the Slovakian cuisine a try. From Bratislavan skewers, to public ice rinks and the Christmas markets, we explored the city and found many quirky, useful and unique souvenirs.

Markets Bratislava Brat Street

Soon we found ourselves on the bus again, gazing at fields and towns whizzing past, playing card games, socializing, all in good spirit. Until around 6:30pm when we finally arrived in Budapest, met with more chilly weather and surreal night views of lit-up bridges, opera houses and palaces in what will most definitely prove to be a captivating city as we look forward to exploring it tomorrow.

 

Brat CastleGroup BRat Church

Day 5: Heading to Hodonin

This Blog post was written by Mattias Laubi, Darcy McDonald with a helping hand from Charlie Moir.

Day 5: Heading to Hodonin

On the 10th of September our day started with a 6:30 wake up call in Prague. We had a buffet breakfast as usual before getting ready for the bus trip. The bus trip was to Hodonin and took roughly four hours. It was an adventurous bus trip as usual. It was also the start of the 1£ fine policy and embarrassing hat for wrong doing (coming late, wrong clothes etc.) the hat was the for the biggest clown and the most annoying person of he day and is hat has to be worn at all times in public. It is bright red with sparkles and white polka dots.

Panon Hotel
Once we arrived in Hodonin at our hotel, Hotel Panon. We then had some free time in the town centre to look at what this small town had to offer. After supporting the Hodonin economy we trekked back to the hotel to get our stuff for the rehearsal. We then had a rehearsal at the beautiful St. Lawrence town church where we got our pieces ready. After rehearsal he went back in the cold to our hotel for a bit of chill time and getting changed for the concert.
HodoninGroupBrat Church
The concert was jam packed and had a full church. Everyone was getting ready for what soon proved to be a good concert. All the groups played brilliantly and thanks to mr Mountain and Dom for playing outside while people entered.
Jon and Dom
The concert was capped off with a encore of silent night in German.
Hod COncertDom Church
After our concert we went back to the hotel to get changed for the dinner. We arrived at a vineyard winery. We arrived to dinner and an amazing local folk band. They played many requested songs and the highlight instrument was the Cimbal. A traditional instrument bought from India to Hungary in the early times. It’s a cross between a piano and a xylophone. You hit it with a mallet and it makes a sound like a harpsichord but a bit harsher. After dinner we voyaged into the wine cellars. We not only learnt about wine but learnt about the history of the winery and wine in the Czech Republic. It holds of 6.5 million litres of wine overall and there is over 360 barrels. We returned to our tables were we saw some traditional folk dancing complete by the instrumentalists.
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After that we finished up and all went back to the hotel. Quite a tiresome day and everyone crashed out as soon as we got home.

Day 4: A Trip to Chlumec

Dear Parents,

Thank you for all of your nice comments. It’s great that you’re enjoying our stories and adventures. We’ve had a couple of late nights so we’re running a day behind on the blog. A quieter day and earlier night tomorrow will hopefully get us back on track. Rest assured, we’re having a remarkable time!

Tamara

 

DAY 4: A Trip to Chlumec

This Blog post has been written by Erol Gorur

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On Monday, the tour group embarked upon a busy yet fulfilling journey, beginning in the centre of Prague and ending in a small town in northern Bohemia. A relatively early start shocked some still suffering from jetlag, but after this slight hitch, the bus was soon packed with eager faces ready to soak up the sights of Prague.

On the bus, our guide, Karolina, filled us in on some of the rich history of Prague and the Czech Republic. Despite somewhat miserable weather, or perhaps just European weather, we were dropped off beside the Prague Castle, situated above the western banks of the Vltava River. Walking along the beautiful cobblestone roads and paths, we reached the opening courtyard. The astonishing mix of architecture, from gothic to classicist, amazed the students, who then received their tickets to enter the St Vitus Church. This spectacular monument, completed over centuries in different architectural eras to the same plans from the Middle Ages, allowed the tour group to admire beautiful stained glass windows, statues and great arches.

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Following this, Karolina took us out into the Golden Lane, an historic, cosy, cobbled street, lined with stores and exhibitions. The lane originally served as the working ground for the castle goldsmiths, and soon the shops that could usually accommodate a few small children were packed full with dozens of students, rushing to purchase gifts and trinkets for their families. Such stores included medieval armories, crossbow shooting galleries, puppet shops, ceramic stores and the house of Franz Kafka. Very soon every boy was walking around with a pocket watch purchased from the weapons exhibition.

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Exiting the castle, the group was greeted with a magnificent view of all of Prague, with its hundreds of towers and endless red rooves. From this lookout we walked down to the Charles Bridge, constructed in the Middle Ages, and since then, dotted with 32 black statues of mostly Czech saints. Crossing this gave us a magnificent view of the Vltava River, and we then crossed to its eastern banks, walking towards the Old Town Square: where we’d spent the previous evening.

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Here we were given an hour’s free time for lunch and to roam the Christmas Markets. Many enjoyed sausages or crepes, whereas myself, Ben and Mathias were treated to a delicious meal of schnitzel and pork knee. After this we headed off by bus to the town of Chlumec, an hour and a half a way. The bus trip served as a sleeping opportunity for many, and consequently a sneaky photo opportunity for the rest, but it was the beautiful sights of Bohemia that captured the most attention.

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Arriving in Chlumec was an unmatched experience. Smiling faces greeted us as we exited the bus, and the warmth and hospitality shown towards us – visitors from thousands of miles away – overwhelmed us all. We rehearsed in their hall, the house of culture, and then watched as it filled with locals and parents awaiting the joint concert.

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The international award-winning children’s choir of Chlumec, conducted by Josef Riga, opened with beautiful songs in both Czech and English, and the boys were humbled to hear their amazing abilities. Next came our band, the choir, strings and orchestra in their first performance of the tour. Seeing the appreciative faces in the audience as the choir beautifully sang Silent Night in German was a highlight for many of the students.

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We were fed a delicious dinner in their cafeteria, and subsequently the opportunity arose for the boys to test out their social skills with the predominantly female choir. After an exchange of Facebook details and the signing of the historic town chronicle, we left the lovely town and its residents, bound for Prague. The bus was silent with almost everyone asleep as we zoomed back towards the city.

All in all, Monday was an incredible day for all, packed with both amazing sightseeing opportunities and humbling experiences that could be had nowhere else. We have enjoyed Prague and all of its old beauty, and look forward to moving on to the next leg of our journey, eastward bound.

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Mr Scott signing the Chlumec Town book that keeps a record of visitors and events in Chlumec. Each boy and staff member also signed the book as well.

 

Prague: Day 3

We’ve just arrived back from out concert in Chulmec and given our early start tomorrow, the bloogers have been sent to bed. An exciting account of our day will be uploaded tomorrow.

Meanwhile, please enjoy a few pictures that give a sense of our day.

Tamara

Church

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Day 2: Rehearsing, Opera and Christmas Markets

The first day out and about Prague, we got a true sense of the Czech capital.

With rehearsals after an early buffet breakfast, everyone was keen to get outside and brave the cold weather to experience all the Prague has to offer.

Opera House

OPera Audience copy

Seeing ‘Rusalka’ at the Prague State Opera House has been a highlight of the trip thus far. Some students found other parts the opera somewhat more fascinating (Tom…).

Outside Opera

For evening entertainment, we explored the town square, immersing ourselves in the Prague Christmas Markets, trying some local cuisine and seeing the dazzling christmas lights.

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Old Town Square

Tomorrow we visit a local school and do a tour of Prague Castle and the surrounding area.