40 singers and 15 supporters set off on our choir tour to the Rhineland at the end of May. This was the 12th Birmingham Festival Choral Society tour abroad. This tour had been delayed by a year by Covid and had indeed been planned while we were still experiencing restrictions, so it seemed extra special when it finally happened.
This video really gives the feel of the tour experience! The music, ‘El Grillo’ by des Prez, is one of the pieces we sang on tour.
(When playing, click on the symbol on the bottom right to open the video up on full computer screen)
Video credit: Martha Davis.
We travelled by executive coach through the Eurotunnel on the way out, and by ferry on the way back. The long journey was made much less tiring both times by an overnight stop in the lovely city of Ghent. We arrived mid to late afternoon, so had plenty of time to get the tram into the city centre and have a leisurely walk round the historic buildings and eat in one of the many cafes and restaurants.
The next day we drove on to our main base in Mainz, on the river Rhine, where we stayed for five nights at Novotel Mainz.
Our concerts, on three successive days, were in attractive
locations beside the river Rhine: Mainz (the capital of the region), Koblenz and Bingen.
Sightseeing tour. (click photos to open)
Evening concert in the Christuskirche, Maintz
Evening concert at the 1200 year old Basilika St Kastor, the setting for many historic events over the centuries.
Some of our party enjoyed a wine tasting tour in the morning, followed by a walk into Bingen.
Evening concert at Rheintal-Kongress-Centrum
Our final day in the Rhineland was a free day. The great majority opted for a short Rhine cruise from the wine-making town of Rüdesheim to Sankt-Goar, part of the Rhine Gorge which features legendary small towns and castles and vineyards along its course. That day was capped with our customary group supper and soirée at our hotel.
This tour had a great balance between ‘work and play’. The sightseeing was great, but the real highlights, which could never be experienced on a standard package holiday, were the concerts. The publicity had been sent in advance, but it was wonderful (and a great relief!) to see so many people coming through the doors, and to hear the generous applause and see the standing ovations at the end.
We were so lucky to have a trio of great professionals, helping to raise our concerts to such high standards – David Wynne our Music Director, Kevin Gill our accompanist and organ soloist, and Alexandra Wynne, our soprano soloist.
The choir had learnt a large amount of music for the tour and it was great to sing in those wonderful venues. But more than that – tours give a great opportunity for people to get to know each other better, and for strong friendships to be formed. We were particularly pleased that there were singers on tour who have joined the choir since the lockdown, as well as singers who have been on many previous BFCS tours.
Many thanks go to our wonderful BFCS tour committee, who organised the entire tour, without using a tour company.
It was hard work for them, but it was a great team effort and it
paid off. To judge by the very positive feedback, on the concerts, the locations, the hotels, the balance of performance and leisure, Rhineland 2023 was a great success.
Thanks to the photographers whose photos were used in this blog: Alfred White, Christine Wright, Peter Wright and Geoff Evans.