On Friday 13 February 2015, 46 members of the Christ College Chapel Choir departed with 5 staff for Prague. Our 1.00a.m. departure from the Quad marked the start of a 5 day adventure, via the delights of Heathrow’s Terminal 3, to a city bursting with history and culture.
Once deposited at our hotel on the outskirts of town we explored the locality, taking note that it was only a 5 minute walk to the Metro that would whisk us into the centre of town each day for our engagements. A group of older choristers and 3 members of staff were fortunate to get tickets to see Bizet’s opera ‘Carmen’ at the State Opera House and for some, who had never experienced such entertainment before, the event was certainly memorable. The interior decor of the opera house alone was enough to make the most seasoned traveller draw breath. For the remainder, somewhat deprived of sleep at the end of a busy first half of Lent term, the first night in Prague was rather uneventful and the hotel corridors fell swiftly silent.
After a refreshingly continental breakfast we departed for the centre of the city and a breathless trip up the Petrin Tower, built just one year after Eiffel’s famous Parisian landmark. Following this, we braced against the bitter cold and travelled down hill towards the iconic Charles Bridge, scene of many a marriage proposal and photo opportunity (there were none of the former on our trip I hasten to add!).
The afternoon was our first chance to sing together formally in the Czech Republic, gathering at the beautiful venue of our first concert, the Church U Salvatora. With a stunning acoustic inside the church, the choir and soloists enjoyed the event very much, as did the large audience who had gathered to see what a choir from Brecon could muster. Mr Power, our organist, did well to move his way athletically from high up in the distant organ loft to the piano between items.
On Sunday, the second full day of our tour, we headed to the mighty St Vitus Cathedral, high up inside Prague Castle, to perform at Mass. It was interesting to note that the temperature inside the Cathedral seemed to be a full 5 degrees colder than the already Arctic conditions experienced outside! Even cold Tuesday evenings in the Christ College Chapel couldn’t prepare us for this 14th Century Gothic heating system and toes were suitably numb as we neared the end of the 30-minute sermon. We sang from high up in the organ loft and it was tremendously exciting to hear our voices echo round this vast and ancient space. At the end of the service we were permitted to perform other items from our repertoire and a large crowd gathered far below which was a pleasant reward indeed. After a warming lunch we headed for our final concert venue in a different quarter of the city, this time a pleasant residential area and a smaller church with a more intimate acoustic and this time, 21st Century heating. Again, we were fortunate to be joined by a responsive and generous audience, including some loyal choir parents as well as Mr and Mrs Halpin, who were visiting friends in the city!
For the remainder of our trip we were blessed with ample time to explore the city on two feet (and for some on two wheels in the shape of Segways, which seemed to be everywhere). On Monday morning we returned to Prague Castle, this time in glorious winter sunshine, for a formal tour of the surrounding area, and in the afternoon a sunset cruise on the river, which was certainly memorable.
I have been on many school trips, but few as enjoyable as this one, thanks mainly to a fantastic groups of students and staff. Evenings playing cards in the hotel stick in the mind, as do those chances to perform glorious music in new and beautiful surroundings. My thanks to Mr Cooper, Director of Choral Music, for masterminding the trip, and also to Mrs Taylor, Ms Jones and Mr Power for being excellent company and for all they did (and do) to support our fabulous Chapel Choir. One question remains: where to next?
Jonathan Ling, Director of Music
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