Friday, May 13, 2005
Singing in the cathedrals of Eastern Europe
The Concord-Carlisle Concert Chorus traveled to Europe this past April, and it was a trip which none of the participants will be able to forget. The chorus traveled through the countries of the Czech Republic and Austria, and visited the three cities of Prague, Vienna, and Salzburg. Along the way, they performed at four different cathedrals in four different cities, each one providing both visual and acoustic grandeur.
After leaving Boston on the evening of April 13, the chorus arrived in Prague, where they would stay two days. The time in Prague was spent seeing the breathtaking city, touring sites like bustling Wenceslas Square, and the Jewish quarter. After exploring Prague in and out for two days, the group headed out, ending up in the small town of Velehrad. Velehrad is centered on a monastery and huge basilica, and this basilica was the site of the first concert that the chorus performed. The chorus sang with two high school groups from near Velehrad, and combined with the other groups for one of the pieces in the program. The concert attracted much attention from the local area, so the basilica was packed with people for the performance. With such a large audience, this first performance started the trip off with great excitement.
After singing at mass the next morning, the chorus headed off again, this time for the city of Vienna. The group arrived in the afternoon, and wasted no time in beginning to see the sights of the city. The Vienna Opera House and the Huntertwasser Haus, an amazing "organic" building designed by Friederich Huntertwasser, were only a couple of the different sights seen on the first day. The next day, however, it was time to perform. The group headed to Stephansdom, a Gothic cathedral right in downtown Vienna, and sang a short concert under the Stephansdom's vaulted ceilings. With a few short hours to eat and explore, the chorus headed out once more on their way to Salzburg. However, there was a stop at the Abbey of Melk. A Benedictine Monastery since 1089, the Abbey of Melk houses a grand baroque cathedral, which was the most ornate that any of the singers had ever seen. Gold statues adorned every wall leading all the way up to the grand painted ceilings, and a massive organ occupied the back wall. This was one of the most amazing buildings many of the students had ever seen, an opinion clearly evident from the jaws opened wide as students entered the massive room. After giving a brief performance, the group continued on their way to Salzburg.
Known both as the birthplace of Mozart and as the setting for The Sound of Music, Salzburg was a hotly anticipated destination on the itinerary, where the group stayed two days and three nights. The highlight of the city was the performance at the magnificent Salzburg Cathedral, where Mozart spent his tenure as Salzburg's court organist. One of the most astonishing features of the building was the five different pipe organs, four towards the front of the building, and one giant one at the back.
After reveling in the acoustics of this beautiful cathedral, there was a chance to see the many sights of Salzburg, including Mozart's birthplace, the Mirabel Gardens, and the Hohensalzburg Fortress, the stronghold on the hill overlooking Salzburg, providing a breathtaking view of the entire city.
One of the highlights of the stay in Salzburg and of the entire trip was the visit to the Salzburg Salt Mines. Salt was the economic backbone of Salzburg during the middle ages, and the mine still extracts salt from the rich underground deposits. Before entering the mine, everyone was dressed in traditional miner's outfits, consisting of baggy overalls, shirts, and a belt. After boarding a mine tram, they were off, entering the mine approximately 150 meters below the surface. In the mine, the group was taught about the history of the salt mine, and sent down long slides and up funicular trains, just to keep it interesting. After emerging from the salt mine (and glad to be back in modern dress), the group headed back to spend their last day in Salzburg. The day ended on a high note, literally, when the Chorus went to see a musical revue from The Sound of Music.
After a week in Europe, the entire group was exhausted and glad to get home. The sounds of a familiar language and the comfort of knowing that you will not be eating liver soup that night awaited our weary travelers after the seven hour plane trip from Frankfurt. But after this week, we brought back something more than what was declared on our customs forms. The memories of the trip were all positive, but none could match the experience of singing in some of the most beautiful places in Europe.
© 2005 The Carlisle Mosquito