The S. Anselm's Chapel Choir Salzburg Tour left Bakewell at 2:30pm with 25 very excited members on a glorious Sunday - 10th April. We arrived at London Gatwick's North Terminal Premier Inn for a noisy dinner and we were joined by further choristers now totalling 27.
After a pleasant evening meal and hearty breakfast, we eagerly joined the early Salzburg BA flight from Gatwick. Shielding our shattered eyes from the Austrian sun, we landed at Salzburg, met our jovial tour guide 'Ted' and proceeded by coach to our pleasant Meininger Hotel where we had lunch.
After a guided tour of the centre of Salzburg and some free time in the market place, the choir proceeded to rehearse in a quiet corner of the famous Mirabell Park with the sun shining down on us. Before long, the area was filled with an attentive audience plus parents and our first unaccompanied rehearsal became our first performance.
Eager for more fame the choir took centre stage in the gardens and an a Capella version of 'Lean on Me, 'So Long, Farewell' and 'A la Carte' were performed to a huge audience aided by comic audience members impersonating the unwitting Mr Percival. Ice-creams followed and a trip back to our vibrant lodgings led to a good evening meal and a welcome bed.
Waking refreshed and excited, the choir made their way into the city centre in search of Mozart's House. An absorbing hour or more passed engrossed in the excellent displays including personal heirlooms, original letters, locks of hair, jewellery, original harpsichords and sound room. The choir were encouraged to pay attention as a there would be a quiz about it later in the week.
After many efforts to leave, we finally did and headed for Salzburg Cathedral - the Dom. This magnificent building was awe inspiring and the children marvelled at its size and decor. A short a Capella practise ensued to ascertain what the cathedral acoustic was capable of. Their voices were picked up and floated around its vastness. This was followed by lunch at the best and only pizza house in Salzburg where we ate pizzas so large that even half of one would overspill a giant plate.
In the afternoon, a comfortable coach ride took us deep into the snow topped mountains until we reached the town of Mondsee, famous for its part in 'The Sound of Music' film. Mondsee Basilica was indeed beautiful standing in baroque splendour with an interior emblazoned in ornate gold with a golden altar.
Our last choir member joined us after driving from Prague and the choir was complete with 28 members. Before Mass, the children enjoyed an ice-cream and met parents in the sun whilst an interesting conversation commenced with the director of the church, Mr Percival & Mr Clarke our excellent organist who had accompanied us from England. Eventually the service was clarified and a Hallelujah response was taught to the choir in less than 1 minute. The next hour was truly wonderful.
The choir lined up exquisitely in utter silence beneath the alter, a bell was rung and the Vaughan-Williams magnificent Antiphon introit was performed. A full mass service ensued with the choir responding as if mass was second nature. Stunning performances of the Faure Messe Basse enhanced by soloists Tom Hartley & Shea John projected through the Basilica and a breath taking a Capella J. Rutter 'The Lord Shall Bless You and Keep You' ended the service led by soloist Francesca Newton. Leon Boellman's Suite Gothique reigned out from the magnificent Baroque pipe organ as we left the Basilica, a performance to remember.
A change of atmosphere for Wednesday morning starting with a relaxing and intimate performance in the traditional Niemetz Coffee House near to the Salzburg Philharmonic residence. Cake and hot chocolate accompanied this terrific performance and children had a chance to chat to parents and friends.
With the sun shining again, our private coach tour guide Wolfgang drove us to Hallein whilst pointing out sights from the Sound of Music. The famous salt mine of Hallein dates back over 3000 years and was only decommissioned in the late 80's. Parents, staff and all the children entered the mountainside as miners would have done (minus the screams) and had a wonderfully informative and high tech hour long tour. Sliding down the original wooden slides deeper into the mountain in groups of 2 or 3 was especially enjoyable. A brief rest during the afternoon allowed school houses to compete in the Mozart quiz.
To end this fun day the Super Bowl was booked and upon returning to the hotel we announced the quiz results: the winning House was Pitts after a nail-biting tie with Churchill’s.
A brief bus journey into town on this overcast Thursday dressed in school uniform in preparation for the Salzburg Cathedral concert at 2pm was preceded by a tour of the Salzburg Castle ascending by the steep Funicular. After a quick hot chocolate interlude we then processed into the cathedral for a rehearsal whilst staff promoted the concert.
Appearing at 2pm, the choir led out into the hugely magnificent Basilica and were met by an audience of 250 including Professor of Music at Salzburg & Director of the Basilica, Janos Czifra.
The next 45 minutes left the audience in no doubt that this small choir from Bakewell, England were indeed a talented ensemble producing a wonderfully varied stylistic programme that impressed all who witnessed it including Professor Czifra who invited the choir to perform in the Sunday morning Mass upon their return to Salzburg, praise indeed.
An evening meal in one of the best restaurants in Salzburg was just rewards for the choir joined by over 35 parents and siblings. This fantastic evening included a brief presentation, singing that involved everyone including solos from Mrs Stansfield, Mrs Brailich, Mrs Carr and Mrs Newton. A wonderful music tie and Austrian hat were kindly given to Mr Percival by Head Chorister, Shea John.
A shattered choir still in good spirits with the sun still shining left the Meininger Hotel at 9:30am and returned to an extremely cold and rainy Gatwick with the M25 's exhausting congestion. Upon arrival at S. Anselm's at 8:30pm parents met exhausted children and plenty of thanks expressed to the staff.
Definitely a S. Anselm's Tour that we shall never forget.