10. Into the caves

Sunday 14 April 2019

These lovely past few days have been leading towards the finale event of the ‘We Are Singing’ Adriatic Festival in the Postojna Caves in Slovenia, and all of the Voices of Birralee touring party were very excited to experience this cave system!

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Today was also Tamaki Minto’s 17th Birthday, and at breakfast we celebrated this special occasion with her.

After some slight ‘technical difficulties’ with the buses and getting our passports checked and stamped crossing the border into Slovenia, we arrived at the caves just after midday.

We headed straight to the on-site restaurant – a lovely dining room befit with polished wooden fixtures and many floral decorations. BBV and Birralee Blokes dined together with the APs and staff on a two course meal, starting with noodle soup followed by steamed vegetables and grilled pork and chicken schnitzel.

Many happy faces appeared after this delicious food! We then had an hour to pick up a few souvenirs and shop around the knick knack stores leading up to the cave opening.

Trinket magnets, jewellery, clothes, snow globes and plush toys were purchased as gifts for those back home. As other choirs began arriving, we all joined on the steps to the cave entrance to sing together a fun fruit-based warm-up we had been taught yesterday by West Hill Park Community Choir conductor Wendy Blunn.

This was a fun chance to reconnect with the other international choirs before heading into the caves for the finale concert! Birralee were steaded into small (but safe) open-air train seats to take us deep into the Postojna Caves, and we passed incredible crops of stalagmites and stalactites, many still dripping with ice cold water.

These natural formations formed some sort of macabre theatre; wavy curtains of stone, great protruding cathedral spires, macabre chandeliers and gothic organ pipes were lit up along our journey, and we were all in absolute awe of these beautiful, mysterious sights.

After a quick guided tour and many opportunities to photograph these caves (including a habitat for the local wildlife – a dark tank for salamanders) we arrived at our concert venue in proper, a large clearing in these caves with seats and a stage.

Each ensemble had the chance to perform a few short pieces from their repertoire, and Birralee gave standing ovations at the end of each choir’s set to show our appreciation and admiration.

Due to the chillier temperatures this far down, we sang with our dark blue Kathmandu tour jackets!!

After Blokes sang Sarah, the two Birralee ensembles joined for a reverent performance of Mozart’s Ave Verum, which echoed around the cave walls and filled the space with stillness.

BBV finished the set with a wonderful performance of Peace Song.

Blokes and BBV Senior Music Assistant Josh Clifford was singled out for the special privilege of being music stand for the UK choir’s violinist. Definitely the tallest music stand we’ve ever seen!!

After each ensemble had performed their individual sets it was time to close the Festival with the massed piece Don’t Worry About Me, conducted by Wendy Blunn.

Met with rousing applause from our audience, we all caught the mini train back to the surface for a warm shared dinner. After once again singing (and embarrassing) Tamaki with one more “Happy Birthday”, conductors from each ensemble were thanked for their involvement in the festival.

Many choristers took the chance to reconnect with their billet hosts from Graz, and leave them with some parting gifts from Australia – some small clip-on koalas plushies, and boomerang key rings.

As the night drew on, we left to return to Opatija. Back in our warm rooms, we went to bed swiftly due to the lateness of the hour and exhaustion from an exciting and fulfilling day! Tomorrow we say goodbye to Croatia and move on to Venice!

We invite you to keep following our journey of this epic Europe tour!

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#vobanzac2019 #vobeurope2019 #voicesofbirralee

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