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Radley College Concert Tour – Florence

15th to 19th March 2013

FirenzeThe Tuscan sun was shining over Florence this February, just in time to receive the 43 boys (aged 11 – 19) and teachers from Radley College School music department.

 Staying in modern hotel, positioned behind the train station of Santa Maria Novella, we resided only a ten minute walk from the centre of Florence.

Our coach & instrument van, (hired for certain parts of the tour) easily picked us from outside the hotel, something which can often be a headache in historic cities.

On our trip to the world famous Uffizi it was astounding to see our concert leaflets everywhere and this was followed by several great concerts: the beautiful church of Santo Stefano Al Ponte; St. Mark’s English Church; a joint concert with the Music Academy of Florence (supported by the regional council) and (on a glorious Sunday morning), mass for the choir at the magnificent Duomo in Siena.

All of the concerts were well attended, with up to two hundred people coming to watch a group of talented, young performers in their element. It was a pleasure to be with, and to work with this group.

As a tour manager in Italy, one always has to deal with the occasional confusion, or the common problems such as “gluten free v. the traditional Italian menu”. But any problem was resolved quickly and the tour was a resounding success. Culturally attractive and full of beautiful venues, this region is ideal for a classical concert tour.

From Bohemia’s Woods and Fields

 

100_1555 thumbMaria Young, Director of Music at Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School in Canterbury reflects on her experiences on the OneStage familiarization tour for musical directors to Western Bohemia in October 2012

As a result of visiting OneStage’s stand at the ABCD Convention in Leeds, I was kindly offered a place on their music directors’ inspection tour to Western Bohemia. This was a fabulous opportunity to experience first-hand the possible performing venues, to see various hotels and to experience Czech hospitality, all of which helped to sell the region as a really exciting and worthwhile destination for my forthcoming tour with the School choir.

Day 1:

After a very early arrival in Prague our party sets off westwards, visiting several traditional Bohemian towns to familiarise ourselves with the region. The spa towns offer impressive ‘colonnade’ –style venues with dedicated, sheltered performance spaces attracting  substantial audiences from the many seasonal spa-goers in the summer: the acoustics are great (forget the usual worries of outdoor performance, even for choirs)

We are told how spas are completely embedded into the Czech health system, with state-provided ‘cures’ of several weeks ‘treatments’ being commonly prescribed,  including the all-important daily stroll along the colonnades to take the spa waters and enjoy the opportunities to watch regular musical performances. The water is challengingly unpleasant to taste: far nicer are the wonderful oplatky – large wafers that were being made by hand alongside the spa fountains.

We visit a couple of large, elegant and well-patronised hotels, each with at least one substantial performance space. All seem to come with a gleaming Petrof grand piano and a stage or platform for the performers. Even on this cold late-October day, there are well-attended musical events happening: no fears of encountering a disappointingly small audience here!

We stay in Plzen, the famous brewery city about an hour west of Prague. In 2015 Plzen is the European Capital of Culture, opening up huge cultural linking opportunities for music groups to explore. A short presentation to us on our first evening introduces us to the OneStage personnel and their partners in the Czech Republic. The atmosphere is unfailingly friendly and convivial, and tremendous fun and I can’t conceive of planning a concert tour to a new destination without this kind of pre-tour familiarisation.

Day 2:

We continue to see some more traditional performance spaces, with every town boasting some kind of  theatre/’house of culture’, with a substantial stage, the obligatory Petrof grand, and good audience capacity. All are well-kept, performers are provided for, and each is shown to us by their hugely enthusiastic (and proud) manager.

For venues, OneStage really spoil us for choice today, showing us some of the options for performance in the amazing variety of churches. We begin at the monastery in Ostrov, where the now disused chapel has become a beautiful arts centre with a great acoustic and a versatile performing space; then on to other churches – largely Protestant, so generally with no programme restrictions – plus some more unusual places of worship – in Cheb, we are shown a tatty, abandoned Franciscan church in the heart of the very beautiful old town, which, with a little effort and imagination, makes the most memorable performing space and attracts a loyal audience from the local neighbourhood, who hardly ever get the chance to see inside. Such a privilege to be welcomed into these buildings, something that OneStage seems to manage for us at every turn.

Day 3:

The morning starts with an amazing trip to Plzen’s tourist jewel – the Pilsener Urquell brewery – which is greatly recommended even at an early hour!

Finally, we return to Prague, which is even more picturesque than it looks in the guidebooks. A wonderful selection of venues is on offer here, both churches and more unusual spaces such as the main hall of the National Museum of Music. The obligatory visit to the Old Town Square, then the minibus to the airport: can’t believe we’ve packed so much into the 2 ½ days: a huge number of performing, eating, sleeping and sightseeing options.

There’s an old saying in Czech: ‘If someone’s Czech, then they’re a musician’, and this seemed to ring true on our visit. It’s a country that values music very highly, and offers the most amazing welcome to its musical visitors.  If like me, you have never really considered Western Bohemia as a possible destination, I urge you to take a second look, you’ll not be disappointed! And do investigate OneStage: their local knowledge, their attention to detail and their high level of service really are second to none, and I shall certainly be using them in the future.

Redland High School concert tour

Redland High School for Girls - Tour partyRedland High School for Girls decided on Paris as a destination for their February half-term concert tour.  It was an active five days taking in the views from Tour Montparnasse, cruising along the Seine, performing and sampling the rides at Disneyland Paris. They even managed to squeeze in further performances in the Paris environs.

Follow this link for a fuller day by day report.

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