Victoria Thomas, a soon-to-graduate BMus student, tells us about Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra’s recent tour to Germany and Belgium…
Bright and early on 12th June, Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra ventured on their second tour to Germany and Belgium with a series of four concerts lined up in which we would perform Sibelius’ Finlandia, Pärt’s If Bach had been a Beekeeper, Michael Czani-Wills’s Seagull Nebula, and Liszt’s Totentanz. After a long journey, rehearsals began the following day in Oberwesel under the baton of the orchestra’s conductor, Mark Eager. Although our numbers were reduced in comparison to the forces during term-time, the performers accepted the challenge and proved that reduced numbers does not mean reduced quality.
The rehearsals ran smoothly and before long it was time for the first concert in Peterskirsche, Heidelberg on 15th June. The acoustic here was challenging with the sound ballooning in the tops of the arches and lingering for a good 10 seconds meaning that it took some adapting of how the music was played so as not to overwhelm the acoustic. Nevertheless the concert was a success and the audience was very receptive. Following the concert, we made our way back to Frankfurt where we had set up base for the duration of the first two concerts.
On 16th June, the second concert of our tour was held in Wiesbaden. The audience here, although small in number, were very enthusiastic, encouraging an impromptu encore by Professor Hamilton who performed Chopin’s Polonaise in Ab major. This was preceded by an orchestral encore of Dvóřak’s seventh Slavonic dance, which was performed at every concert.
After a hectic five days, two concert-free days let the players recuperate from the long journey and intensive rehearsals before continuing the tour. This also gave us the opportunity to see Frankfurt for ourselves before moving base to Stuttgart. Having recuperated, we performed an afternoon concert in the Kurhaus Casino in Baden-Baden on 19th June. The venue was truly beautiful and the acoustic us allowed to communicate across the space more easily than in previous venues.
We then made our way to Leuven, Belgium, having completed the German instalment of the tour. The journey took some 5 hours, and once in Leuven, we were able to take an hour of respite before a short rehearsal in the church where we quickly got used to another more challenging acoustic, and more challenging layout, ahead of the final concert of the tour.
We had a free day in Leuven to end the tour and give us a break from the travelling. Many of us ventured to some of the recommended attractions around Leuven, including visiting the university’s Library Tower, a very impressive building giving a vantage point to see the skyline of Leuven and beyond. This was also a chance to try the local delicacies, with many of us waiting to sample a genuine Belgian waffle. This culminated by visiting some of the record-breaking bars in Leuven, including one that boasted around 2,000 different beers.
The journey back seemed short with the start of the journey being used as an opportunity to catch up on lost sleep before arriving back in the UK. The tour was a success and everyone seemed to have enjoyed it, which was great to see as a member of the management team.