Tag Archives: music

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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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!

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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!!

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8.Welcome to Opatija!

Friday April 12

A cold, wet morning in Zagreb greeted Voices of Birralee on the choristers’ final day in Croatia’s capital.

BBV bid farewell to their kind and welcoming billets, who had hosted us so graciously and helped fill our hearts with incredible memories!

The Birralee Blokes also packed up and left the hostel they were staying in, and boarded the bus to continue to our next destination – Opatija!

Many took the long bus trip to catch up on some much needed sleep and rest. We did have one quick stop where Ruth Moores and Ally Dunk had a very tasty hot chocolate though!

Choristers read, listened to music or audiobooks, or played quiet card games on our journey to re-store energy.

We arrived in Opatija and stored our belongings in our accommodation – the Kristal Hotel.

With an afternoon of free time in this coastal town, many went searching for some food. We discovered the love this town has for seafood; marinara, oysters, fish-based meals and crustacean delicacies which were heartily eaten for lunch.

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Due to the inclement weather and chilly temperatures, some choristers also visited a few cafes to find a warm hot chocolate.

 

As the afternoon passed, Voices of Birralee congregated at the hotel once more, now fully dressed in attire appropriate for the the Welcome Assembly concert for the “We Are Singing” Adriatic Festival.

 

Each choir had the opportunity to sing one piece, and we were thrilled to hear some incredible ensembles from Brussels, Italy, Hungary and the UK.

Of course, BBV and the Birralee Blokes performed incredibly well too for the fellow Festival ensembles.

Following the concert, we had a few minutes to mingle with the members from each choir – many of the choristers caught up with Valentin’s choir who had hosted us in Graz!!!

Finally, we returned to our seaside hotel for a delicious buffet dinner.

A host of international cuisine styles were on offer and all the singers thoroughly enjoyed this warm meal after a cold day out and about in Opatija.

Tomorrow the Festival starts in full – stay tuned!!

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.

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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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