Tag Archives: performance

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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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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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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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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3. Making Austrian friends

On Sunday, Brisbane Birralee Voices (BBV) and Birralee Blokes woke to a beautiful Graz day and gathered out the front of the Styrian Armoury in the city centre.

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In small groups, we entered to learn about the military violence of this historic city, and the bloody past of the weapons stored there. This included guns, pistols, canons, swords, machetes and suits of armour. We were able to see a rare set of armour for a horse, try on a helmet replica, and hold a large replica sword!

BBV then separated from Blokes. After a quick bite to eat in the city centre – Schlossbergrutsche, the tallest underground slide in the world, was the next destination, which saw many of BBV choristers going for a ride, including Mrs C!

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Other choristers chose to ride the furnicular to the top, to see the incredible views of the city, whilst some of the staff enjoyed some hot chocolate at the bottom.

BBV then headed off for their first rehearsal with the Bischöfliches Gymnasium choir, followed by a fabulous folk dancing and yodelling workshop. The school’s acapella group also put on a lovely performance for our choristers, including their rendition of “I want you back” by the Jackson 5.

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They finished the day with an Austrian spin on an Aussie favourite- the sausage sizzle.

The still jet-lagged choristers then went home to their billets, and definitely enjoying some rest after a big day!

Meanwhile, with the Blokes… The boys went off with the conductor of the Singakademie, Maria, on a scavenger hunt around Graz!

They visited the town hall square, the ‘Blue Alien’ museum of modern art, a Double Spiral Staircase, an ancient cathedral and other exciting venues!

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Alex Graves cracked the hunt code, which was ‘A E I O U’ – the initials of an Emperor which were printed on all the buildings around us the entire time! His prize? A chocolate bar from the infamous Zotter’s factory. After this, we travelled to Eggenburg Castle, not far from the Graz main centre. This lovely estate was covered in abundant flower gardens, inhabited by peacocks and peahens, and dated back to the 17th century.

We were given a guided tour around the rooms of the Princess and Prince, bearing witness to original glass chandeliers, original hand-painted ceilings, lavish furniture and rooms full of enormous history. Many Blokes thoroughly enjoyed learning about the rich history of this building – and others also loved interacting with the local peacocks!

That afternoon, the Blokes joined with the Singakademie to dine on some gorgeous salad, tasty smoked meats, sausages and delicious deserts.

We were incredibly grateful to our host families who had come together to prepare this brilliant feast for us. We then joined the choristers for some traditional Austrian dancing outside, accompanied by an accordion, and to learn some short but tuneful yodelling music!

Whilst this was all fun, we had to eventually return to ‘proper’ rehearsals and sing through some combined pieces for tomorrow’s concert with the Singakademie choir. All in all, an incredibly fulfilling and enriching day – tomorrow we see some more of Graz’s delights before our first European concert.

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2: Exploring Graz!

After an early night for many of our choristers, Saturday saw a multitude of adventures across Graz (and beyond) with our various host families!

A popular destination was the Zotter Chocolate factory, near a beautiful town called Riegersburg, where a tour of the factory brought numerous forms of Mr Zotter’s tasty (and sometimes exotic) treats!

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Also at the factory, many of the choristers explored the Farm/ “Edible Zoo” and met a variety of farmhouse favourites such as chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep and cows, as well as ostriches, llamas and rabbits just to name a few. There was also a popular boot-throwing “farmers golf” course!

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The Riegersburg Castle was also visited by many of our choristers, who enjoyed exploring the medieval grounds and taking in the fabulous views of the countryside below.

Falcons flew overhead as we learned about the history of this 17th century structure.

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Our choristers enjoyed a range of acitivities during the day, including Jody Hurdial and Paddy Taylor, taking to the snow with tobogganing.

Another two choristers, Chloe Edgar and Jess Ruhle, explored the mountains, and were very excited to also find some “snow”!

Josh Phillips and Aidan Cobb enjoyed similar experiences, including a bird show, whilst Joshua Clifford and Jude Slade rode an Icelandic horse called Fifi.

Alice Barry and Samantha Dunk, on the other hand, explored the city of Graz, with Katja Bain and Emma Skegg exploring the historic buildings.

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Meanwhile, Emily Flanagan and Ashlin Cork went to enjoy the pristine stillness of a gorgeous green lake!

Others saw a movie, ate some interesting Austrian food (including liver sausages) and enjoyed some down time with their generous host families.

Tomorrow rehearsals with the Singakademie choir commence, and some more sightseeing – we all can’t wait!

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

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1: The Europe tour begins!

Hello! We hope you enjoy our 2019 Europe tour blogging journey, brought to you by Ally Dunk, and Joshua Clifford!!

Seventy-two choristers and their entourage, have departed on what’s going to be an exciting three week journey through Europe, with the first stop, Brisbane International Airport!

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After checking in and ensuring passports were all accounted for, we boarded our first flight to Dubai. This was a quick stop over with no time for duty free shopping!

The air stewards were so impressed with our behaviour on the first flight that they gave us the left over snacks!

Our trip to Vienna saw some of the choristers begin to hit a wall – the reality of staying up 20 hours with little to no sleep was getting to everyone. Luckily, the in-flight entertainment system kept us all hooked on the latest movie trends – lots of APs, staff and choristers watched “Mary Poppins Returns”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse”, and “On The Basis of Sex”.

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We also celebrated the birthdays of choristers Lily Forbes and Lily Weatherby, and Jane Sutton and Keppel Coughlan! Happy Birthday!

After a shaky landing in Vienna, we managed to successfully exit the Viennese airport with no lost items or missing luggage – hooray!

Splitting into Bus 1 (BBV) and Bus 2 (APs and Blokes), we moved directly on to our bus transfer to Graz, we made a quick pit stop at a McDonalds along the highway, allowing us to indulge in some ‘food from home’! It was also, strangely, a very ‘pretty’ designed Maccas, as some choristers notes it looked fairly different to those ones at home!

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We noticed some spectacular views of the wild mountainside in Vienna, cute villages and towns, small factory settlements and foggy lakes.

When we arrived, our tour uniform started to come in handy – our trusty blue Kathmandu rain jackets were necessary as a light rain started when we neared Graz.

Blokes were collected by their billets from a local boarding school after a beautiful musical welcome!

BBV, meanwhile, were collected from a local school, excitedly waiting to meet their family for the next four nights! Settling in, we are all surely looking forward to a well-deserved sleep.

Looking forward to a free day of relaxing tomorrow!

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

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