Tag Archives: europe

Day 12 & 13: Venice to Paris

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Today, Birralee woke up to a lovely sunny day in Mestre, and had a filling breakfast at Hotel Russott. At 8:30am we all boarded busses to take us up the road to the Grand Canal ferry terminal where we boarded separate boats to the island of Venice! Our journey towards the city was a little bumpy, but we all arrived safely. We split into six groups and were given some radio devices to listen to tour guides. Many thanks to Barbara, Filippo, Pamela, Cinzia, Manu and Nora for showing us around Venice and introducing us to the sights of this city.

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Lunchtime saw each group venture to various eateries on the island; though of course pizza was a favourite for many! After lunch we all met up for a truly Venetian experience – a Gondola ride! In groups of six we were taken into the canals on the gorgeous wooden boats as they sleekly slunk through the quiet ‘streets,’ buildings looming over us.

Next stop was Doge’s Palace, where we were led through ancient halls covered in old art including pieces by Titian, and across the famous suspended ‘Bridge of Sighs.’ Farewelling our amazing guides, we once again split up for some shopping and dinner – many had their sights set on gelato for desert! Reconvening with all of Birralee at the docks at 7:45pm, we boarded our boats back to the mainland and watched with smiles as the glinting lights of Venezia faded away.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Today, we travelled to our final European country, France! We split into two different groups between choristers, staff and AP’s for the journey from Marco Polo Airport in Venice, to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. With no glitches, we all arrived safely. Tomorrow we take on EuroDisney!!!

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11. Shopping, pizza, pasta, gelato!

Monday 15 April 2019

Today started off bright and early with our last delicious breakfast at Hotel Kristal. We then hastily packed our bags and hopped onto the bus, excited for the next part of our European journey – Venice, Italy!

As we left Croatia, we were once again confronted with the awesome natural beauty of this coastal area. Whilst we were sad to be leaving such a picturesque place, we would all carry the happy memories of the Festival with us!

Along the way we stopped at an outdoor shopping complex in Palmanova, where the singers finally had a chance to shop. Many were so excited they almost ran off the bus! The choristers quickly found favourites such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and GAP, and also explored a very large and wonderfully-scented Lindt store. Others stopped for lunch at the Autogrill, or the bakery for some pastries.

Once we finally arrived and checked into our Italian accomodation, it was time for an evening trip into Mestre, the mainland town opposite the island of Venice. We all headed to the city Centro, before breaking into groups to explore and find dinner. Many groups headed for an authentic Italian selection, where pizzas and bowls of pasta were eaten (some even had some gelato on the way!). Michelle, Tony, Jenny, Ally, Ruth, Rochelle and Jaye’s groups all ended up at the same restaurant, making a normally quiet Monday night a very busy one for restaurant staff! Josh, Justine and Katie’s group went to a restaurant called “Al Corso” where we had some light and fluffy gluten free pizza!

After a quick tram ride home, we all headed to bed for a big sleep, in preparation for a massive day tomorrow exploring the island of Venice itself!

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9. The festival begins!

Saturday 13 April 2019

Today was a great day in Opatija – the weather was clearer and much more welcoming, with sunshine and a cool breeze!

After a lovely morning breakfast, we walked down to the Crystal Hall to have a soundcheck and rehearsal for the Friendship Concert later in the evening.

A few of us have been feeling a little under the weather, so whilst some singers went back to the hotel to sleep off their sickness, the other healthy ones were given a guided walking tour around Opatija.

We learnt about the history of this fishing town, the hot tourist spots, some interesting historical facts, famous visitors to the town, the mix of German, Italian and Croatian culture here, and the past Communist regime which affected so many lives.

Reconvening at midday, we returned to the picturesque Crystal Hall, where the view of the sea was now a piercing blue! We joined with all the other choirs, including from Catalonia and Graz, to rehearse our massed piece for tomorrow’s finale concert.

Blokes and BBV went to lunch soon after, with many travelling to “Roko”, a local pizza/pasta restaurant, whilst others went a little further north to “Ugo” and enjoyed (more) pizza, meat and vegetable dishes, and thick hot chocolates.

At 3pm it was time for the Friendship Concert, where each guest ensemble had 20 minutes to showcase their repertoire, culture and choral diversity.

We thoroughly enjoyed all the amazing performances, including Corale Santa Rita, Coro Alpi Retiche, West Hill Park Community Choir, Choir Burgas and Ted Bursa College Polyphonic Choir. The Blokes set was incredibly well received, with “Invictus” eliciting a delighted response, and BBV was especially poignant and vocally stunning in their performance of Paul Jarman’s “Malala”.

Our combined acapella performance of “Danny Boy” made a few of the audience members cry.

After this long but successful concert, we walked back to the hotel to enjoy another warm dinner.

Jenny and Paul, the conductors of our respective ensembles, congratulated us on our performances earlier – many were moved by our singing!

Our evening free time was spent doing some washing, packing a few things away, and preparing for our trip to the Postojna Caves in Slovenia tomorrow!!

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

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7. A TV moment, museums and markets!

Thursday 11 April

Today BBV and the Birralee Blokes woke up fresh and early to join with the APs for some Croatian adventures!

This began with BBV having the incredible opportunity to sing “Waltzing Matilda” on Croatian TV!

After their moment of fame, they joined with Blokes to bus out of Zagreb to Varaždin, the old capital of Croatia, an hour and a half away.

On the Blokes bus we were all challenged and entertained by a slew of riddles from Assistant Conductor Will Brown which kept us scratching our heads the entire trip!

In Zagreb, we explored the museum – learning about Croatian history and viewed antique homewares, outfits and artefacts – and the local markets, and then stopped for a lovely lunch at a wonderful restaurant.

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The singers were very happy to get out of the rainy, cold day and into a warm restaurant, where we were fed a hearty three course meal- favourites included the pork, and of course MORE bread!!

Whilst BBV returned to their billets for a rest, Blokes went out to the main town in Zagreb and split to explore two different museums: a Torture museum, and an Illusion museum.

 

The Blokes in the Torture museum learnt about a contraption called ‘The Impaler’ and ‘The Pear’ (we won’t go into the gritty details), and the Blokes in the Illusion museum enjoyed infinity rooms, mirror games, holograms and and visual tricks.

As the afternoon ended, we all reconvened in a small town just outside Zagreb, for a party hosted by the Tamboritza Orchestra and Čarobna frula.

We were greeted with warm smiles, happy faces and lively music, with performances from The Magic Flute Choir and the Orchestra too, on traditional instruments.

The choristers gave an impromptu performance of “Sesere Eeye”, which saw everyone join in (even Ruth!).

Our kind hosts provided us with a sumptuous three-course meal, goulash (made by the professor himself), barbecued meats and tasty pastries.

We left with full bellies and full hearts!

Thank you Zagreb for your generosity and graciousness!

Tomorrow we leave for Opatija – we can’t wait to start the Festival in this coastal town!

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

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6: A busy day immersing ourselves in Croatian Culture

Wednesday 10 April

Today, Voices of Birralee were greeted at a local primary school in Zagreb for a morning of cultural exchange. The student ensembles of the Mato Lovrak school and their music teachers and conductors had prepared a few songs to perform for us, commencing with the school’s anthem. Birralee was treated to a variety of dances, Croatian folk songs, game songs, traditional costumes, and some well-known songs in English, including an adorable rendition of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” by the younger choir, and “When I’m 64” by the older choir.

Each of these pieces were applauded heavily by the Birralee audience! The students also gave a very engaging slideshow presentation about Croatia, and the many beautiful parts of this small but astounding country.

We then sang for our guests in return. The Blokes’ performance of “Sarah” was well received, whilst BBV gave a moving performance of “Peace Song.” Finally, the Croatian and Australian singers joined forces to teach, learn and perform together in a boisterous “Sesere Eeye”, a song and dance from the Torres Strait.

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After our cultural exchange, we split into small groups to tour the school, learning all about a Croatian student’s way of life.

At midday, we were treated to a wonderful lunch, including ‘Rizi Bizi’, the Croatian term for risotto.

After farewelling our new friends at Mato Lovrak, we then all travelled to the centre of Zagreb – the “Old Town” – to explore the city sights and experience more of the culture.

Many singers and our accompanist, Justine, ate some juicy strawberries from the local market, whilst others strolled along the shop fronts window shopping, or purchased some snacks for later on.

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Moving to our concert venue, Blokes and BBV rehearsed for the evening concert, the Spring Festival Concert of the choir hosting us in this wonderful city, Čarobna frula! This was a wonderful concert and each choir sang with energy and passion. The Blokes’ rendition of “Privater Marsch” provided some comic relief, and “Kafal Sviri” sung by BBV was also met with rapturous applause!

Both the Vrapčići and Čarobna frula choirs also sang with elegance and precision, with an array of popular choral songs (“Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho”), and more traditional Croatian pieces. The evening culminated in a massed performance of “The Voice,” with all choirs singing in glorious harmony together! We were also very lucky to have the Australian Ambassador to Croatia, Her Excellency, Ms Elizabeth Petrovic, in attendance.

Concluding the evening, BBV and Blokes returned to their respective accommodation and unwound from a busy day.

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

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5: On the road to Croatia!

Tuesday April 9

Today began on a bittersweet note as BBV and Blokes farwelled our lovely billets from Austria. This was a sad event for all, as each chorister had been so warmly welcomed into each host’s house and family life – many lifelong friendships have been made!!

Our Australian choristers gave some memorable gifts to our Austrian hosts including shopping bags with koalas on them, Caramello Koalas, Australian-themed tea towels, plush kangaroo toys and many more. Of course, whilst being billeted itself is such a massive gift to us, some Graz families also gave gifts for us to remember them by – including some lovely pumpkin seed oil, maps of Graz, some more Zotter chocolate, coasters and badges. We hope to see these two choirs again in Australia (please come visit us!).

BBV met at the BischGym for the final time to say farewell to the choir and Valentine, whom we will see very soon at the festival in Opatija (they even gave us some Austrian music to learn before then)!

Blokes parted with the Singakademie after some fine group photos were taken to remember our amazing experiences.

We left Austria to head to Slovenia where we stopped at the Ptuj Castle. This historic building hosts some intriguing art, 17th and 16th century furniture, armour and weaponry and traditional Slovenian masks.

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We were even able to try on some replica medieval helmets! Chorister Isaac Kozlovskis said his favourite part of the castle was seeing the old musical instruments, and the impromptu performance of Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus” in the main hall.

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After this we departed for lunch. We were treated to a buffet selection of vegetables, schnitzels, soups, beef stroganoff, bread and some lovely desserts! Chorister Toby Sheppard said he especially loved the selection of cheese!

Feeling very full and satisfied, we hopped on the bus and made our way to our final stop. Parting ways, we all took advantage of some more down time on the way, recharging whilst we crossed over the border from Slovenia to Croatia.

When we arrived in Zagreb, BBV were greeted with warm hugs from our lovely Croatian host families, and spent the night immersed in their culture.

The Blokes’ bus dropped off our APs before settling in to a quaint hostel on the border of Zagreb. We were then taken to a hearty dinner prepared for us by KUD Dragutin Domjanic! We had a chance to meet some local young musicians from the Tamboritza Orchestra, enjoy some lovely crepes for desert, and perform two well-received songs for those who had prepared our meal.

Tomorrow we begin our Croatian adventures – stay tuned!

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

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4: Final day in Austria

Today marked the first of many concert days for our lovely tourers!

BBV started the day with a concert at the Bischöfliches Gymnasium, where both groups shared their wonderful music, finishing with a combined finale of “You, Me and the Wide Open Sky.” The concert was live streamed on the Voices of Birralee Facebook page if you still want to see it!

After the concert, our choristers split into groups and were each taken on a private tour by some student volunteers from the school. Rochelle’s group ventured to the Doppelwendeltreppe, or Double Staircase, whilst Ally and Justine’s group visited the Murinsel and enjoyed the views of Graz from the roof of the K&O shopping centre.

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Blokes meanwhile started the day early at 7:30am, and straightaway met to travel to the Theaterservice Graz factory. This is a very large workshop where a variety of multi-functional stages for opera houses and theatre shows are made. We were shown around the various rooms for sculpting large props, the silicon moulding rooms and the large spaces used for painting backdrops and furniture creation.

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After this, we travelled to where BBV visited yesterday, the Schlossberg. We walked around and admired the stunning views from above Graz, and then made our descent by the infamous Schlossberg Slide – even Mr Holley went down!

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BBV and Blokes then joined together for an impromptu sing at the Graz Cathedral, featuring “Danny Boy” and “Lauliku Lapsepõli”, both of which sounded beautiful in the acoustic of the ancient building, especially surrounded by the baroque and rococo architecture.

We then walked to the City Hall for a Civic Reception with a City Council member on behalf of the Mayor of Graz. Blokes sang a rousing rendition of “Sesere Eeye” whilst BBV gave a fine performance of Ruth McCall’s “Waltzing Matilda”. The singers then had an opportunity to check out the City Hall balcony for some prime photo opportunities before being treated to a scrumptious Austrian lunch, with roasted vegetables, chicken rissoles and schnitzel.

Whilst the choristers had some free time to explore and shop, the artistic staff went to present a Repertoire Reading Session for some local conductors with some music from Australian composers including Annie Kwok, Dan Walker, Paul Jarman and our very own Blokes Assistant Conductor Will Brown.

To finish the day, our local hosting Graz choirs and Voices of Birralee ensembles collaborated in a hugely successful evening concert in the Minoriten Hall. Special mention must be given to Flora, our guest violinist who performed the poignant piece “Tell My Father” with the Blokes. Such an eclectic array of music delighted the audience.

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Tomorrow Birralee heads to Croatia for the first time! We are all incredibly excited, but a little sad to be parting with our new Graz friends and host families. Onto the next adventure.

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

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