After a three-hour morning rehearsal, we actually started our journey at 4pm on Thursday 24th August when our very snazzy double-decker coach pulled up at the CBSO Centre. Many films were watched on the way to Watford Gap services where we met our lovely coach drivers Wayne and Trevor, before we reached Dover and boarded our ferry to Calais. On board, we played our favourite card game of ‘cheat’ and sampled the culinary delights, before arriving in Calais and bedding down for the night.
After varying amounts of sleep, we awoke to find ourselves in Germany and the excitement of paying to use the toilet. We continued our drive through Germany with many sing-a-long films blasting out until we reached a small German town near our hotel in Pretzsch to have lunch- it’s fair to say that we rather overwhelmed the lady in the only bakery in town with requests for fifty sandwiches!
We eventually reached our hotel to be greeted by the smiling Lucy, Julian and James (CBSO Director of Learning and Engagement, conductor and accompanist respectively) who had flown instead. We checked into our hotel rooms and then had a few hours to explore the town of Pretzsch - a very quaint, but quiet town - the supermarket was a favourite spot. We headed back to the hotel in the evening for a brief choir meeting and then a delicious barbecue in the outside restaurant, before having a relaxed first evening in Germany.
After a well deserved rest, we warmed up in the in local church, St.Nikolaus’, opposite our hotel. Our coach transferred us to Potsdam for lunch, where we walked under the Brandenburg Gate (not be confused with the more famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, but no less impressive) and had a bit of time to explore the beautiful town.
The evening’s concert venue was in the stunning and acoustically-incredible Brandenburg Cathedral. A two hour rehearsal prepared us well for our first night of music in Germany and it was a huge success. We sang to a full house and all our efforts had paid off as we were greatly received! We then enjoyed a delicious buffet in the cathedral’s restaurant, before driving back to our hotel, tired, but happy after our first day of music-making in Germany.
Sunday’s itinerary began with a surprise visit to St. Nikolaus’ Church near our hotel, where we were lucky enough to sing ‘A Gaelic Blessing’ for the 40th Anniversary vow renewal service of Franz, the caretaker of the church.
We then travelled to Leipzig, a city renowned for the famous musicians it has produced, including Bach and Mendelssohn. We had plenty of time to explore the city, eat lunch at one of the many outside restaurants and try the famous Leipzig ice-creams! With full stomachs we headed to our second concert venue: Nikolaikirche in Nikolaikirchplatze, Wettin.
After a rehearsal, we performed in front of an enraptured audience and it was such a success that they requested two encores; we even helped the church raise over €750 for the refurbishment of their entrance to make it wheelchair accessible. Dinner was devoured in a lovely restaurant down the road, and we sleepily returned to our hotel, happy in the knowledge that we had a small lie-in the next morning.
After a well-appreciated lie-in we got up for another rehearsal in St. Nikolaus’ Church and then took the coach to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, where the city was celebrating 500 years since the foundation of the Lutheran church.
After a look around the beautiful churches in the area we went for lunch and ice creams in the sun. We then returned to the hotel to prepare for the concert and our coach took us to Bad Schmiedeberg where we rehearsed for and then performed as part of a music festival they were running - our most prestigious concert of the tour. The audience were very responsive and some even gave us a standing ovation. One woman had cycled all the way from Brandenburg to see us perform again after Saturday’s concert- over 70 km! As a heartwarming show of their appreciation, the audience donated €750 towards the Youth Chorus - we were touched by their generosity and thanks.
We then returned to the hotel and sang to the kitchen staff as a thank you for their work before packing up our suitcases to leave Pretzsch the following morning.
Tuesday called for an early morning as it was time to check out of the Park Hotel which had been our home so far on the tour. We had a coach trip to Dresden where we had time to explore the beautiful city and locate some lunch to fill us up before driving again, this time to Hernhut, where our final concert would be.
After a brief introduction and talk about the history of the Moravian Church, we rehearsed and were well-fed ready to perform our concert for one final time. As always, the audience requested encores, and this time, much to the choir’s surprise, Julian moved aside for the final encore of Rutter’s ‘A Gaelic Blessing’, leaving the Youth Chorus to perform without a conductor in the concert, leaving many members of staff, audience and even the choir very emotional.
The response from the audience was lovely, with one woman telling girls at the end that we had ‘opened their hearts’. After the coach journey back to our new hotel we had a chance to present gifts to all the staff who had helped make this amazing tour such a success and make our dream a reality. While some girls who were exhausted turned to bed, some of the choir had the chance to celebrate the end of the tour.
Another much-appreciated lie-in was followed by our final German breakfast, made even more exciting by the presence of most members of the choir wearing pink, in reference to one of our favourite films, ‘Mean Girls’.
After checking out of our hotel rooms, we were given the opportunity to explore the medieval town of Bautzen, a beautiful town with some stunning churches, as well as restaurants and a much-enjoyed shopping centre. We made good use of the shops and even spoilt ourselves with huge ice cream sundaes to fill up for the journey back to Birmingham. We boarded the coach ready for another long drive, finishing watching the musicals we had brought with us.
Far too early the following morning, we arrived at Calais to go through border control and managed to get on an earlier ferry, before we began the long drive back to Birmingham. We arrived at CBSO Centre at lunchtime to be greeted by our parents, tired from the journey, but with many fond memories still fresh in our minds after an incredible and truly unforgettable week.
Written by Hannah Maddock, Nikki Nabavi, Alex Parker, Rosie Howl, Hannah Ludlow and Lauren Hockley