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Touring musicians astound European audiences

Sixty musical pupils enjoyed the delights of Holland, Belgium and Germany on an action-packed and eventful tour.

The musicians headed to the delightful town of Maastricht for their first concert. With slick efficiency the stage was set for an informal concert featuring a selection of popular music from Concert Band, Big Band, Jazz Band and some lighter choral numbers from Junior Chamber Choir, The Mayhemiolas, Chorus and Chamber Choir.

A large and appreciative audience enjoyed the impromptu dancing, led by Fifth Year Katie Collier, for YMCA and there was also an emotional moment as, whilst Junior Chamber Choir were singing ‘Hakuna Mungu Kama We We’, a lady approached the group, visibly moved, to tell them that she had sung this song whilst working with orphans in Kenya and thanked them for bringing her joy.

After some free time to look around the town and sample the local delicacies, it was time to set off for the next concert in Liège. The formal concert was held in the magnificent Église Saint-Jacques and featured First Orchestra, with Lydia Horne playing the ‘Second Movement of the Haydn Trumpet Concerto’, String Orchestra and Wind Orchestra, as well as Chorus singing ‘A Little Jazz Mass’ and sets by Junior Chamber Choir and Chamber Choir. With a healthy reverb of over four seconds, all of the groups sounded fantastic in front of an audience of approximately one hundred people.

The third day was the longest journey to get to a concert as they crossed the border into Belgium to get to Bruges. On arrival the pupils had plenty of time to taste more local delicacies before taking the short walk to Bruges Cathedral – a fantastic building in which the choirs sounded superb. There were hemiolas aplenty with the Chorus’ ‘Cantate Domino’ and Chamber Choir and Junior Chamber Choir also performing beautifully. The Mayhemiolas excelled in a glorious performance of ‘Ave Maria’ by Holst, with Fifth Year Natalie Bennett’s soaring top B flats lasting well over five seconds as the sound drifted up to the vaulted ceiling. Audience members were heard asking for CDs after this concert so it was clear that they had enjoyed the singing.

With the weather still beautiful outside, the musicians headed to the next venue in the sleepy town of Leuven, Belgium. The last formal concert was held in yet another beautiful church and was hosted by a local MC who had meticulously researched the school and the pieces being performed. A retiring collection from the concert of nearly 200 Euros meant that the group had some ice-cream money for the next day.

With only one concert left on the tour, there was time to start engaging in some leisure activities. On day four, the pupils walked – and sang – from the hotel to Agogo, the Valkenburg toboggan run. On the way back through the town the pupils performed a ‘Lion King’ flash mob to the amusement of local residents. They then had a great time at the borders of Holland, Germany and Belgium at the three countries point maze before heading to Aachen in Germany for the final concert – an extremely enjoyable way to finish the tour concert programme. Concert Band had never sounded so good, with the ‘Rotunda’ in the Elisenbrunnen providing an amazing acoustic for their light-hearted set. Audience members were dancing and cheering throughout the show and a local chocolate shop was so impressed that they made up packages for all of the children and staff.

The group then stopped off at the Lindt Chocolate Factory shop where they benefited from the many discounts and deals on offer and in the evening they played skittles, sang karaoke and watched England’s FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final.

With all of the concerts complete, that meant that day five was theme park day and the pupils headed to Die Efteling near Eindhoven for a full day of fun. After the final dinner in the hotel, Mr Dow and Mr Kennedy hosted the obligatory awards evening with every pupil receiving an award based on their actions on the trip. With categories such as “Lost Property Superheroes” and the “Best Powernap In A Concert”, it was a fantastic and hilarious way to end what had been a spectacular tour.

The final day involved breakfast after a 5:30am alarm call before setting off on the long drive back to Stockport. The highlight of the journey was seeing the Batmobile drive on to the Eurotunnel just in front of the coach. With only a few minor delays, the travelling group made it back to Stockport more or less on time, tired and exhausted but with memories that will last a lifetime.

Head of Music Mr Michael Dow said of the trip: “The pupils had a good time performing in some amazing European venues and it really was the perfect way to end what has been a fantastic year of Music at Stockport Grammar School.”