The anticipation (and fundraising) almost killed us, but the day finally arrived – Phoenix was on its way to Germany!
On August 6th, a very excited group left for Frankfurt, clutching their hot pink itineraries in their hands. In this document our conductor Dr. Ramona Luengen had painstakingly laid out every detail of the tour. She spent literally years planning, pleading via long distance for the use of fabulous venues, finding special accommodations, pulling in favours from German relatives, and not a detail was overlooked.
We arrived in Frankfurt on the morning of August 7th. Our first job was to find our bus…which turned out to be a shocking yellow and pink coach with garish palm trees painted on its sides. But what the bus lacked in aesthetics it made up for in entertainment – there was beer on tap IN the bus! Walter was our driver and, unfortunately, navigation was not his best skill. Thank heavens we had map reader extraordinaire, Brian Day, along!
We were taken up the Rhine to Rüdesheim for some lunch. Afterwards, Walter took us for a bit of sightseeing along the Rhine River up to the top of the Loreley. We drove as far as St. Goarshausen where we turned around and headed back to our destination of Bingen on the other side of the river. We struggled to locate our first hotel. After discovering the hotel had changed its name and not notified us, we checked in and spent the evening exploring the hillside, complete with a castle and vineyards.
The next morning, breakfast was served in a beautiful room right on the edge of the Rhine. Some people chose to climb the hill to see the Hildegard von Bingen Forum, a centre dedicated to Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). Although the centre was closed, a nun from the convent kindly opened it for us. The only thing remaining of Hildegard’s original buildings was a large stone, set in the garden outside the Forum. We would remember this place as we performed her chant at our concerts.
In the afternoon, we boarded the bus for Luxembourg. We were hosted in Remich, at the wonderful (and eclectic!) home of Madame and Herr Thyes, friends of Ramona’s aunt and uncle. After a glorious meal (including AMAZING chocolate ice cream!) we sang our thanks.
Returning to the bus, we were driven through countryside and forest to a hostel in Larochette. We gathered in the common room for a rehearsal – we were eventually sent off to bed by the staff!
The next morning, August 9th, Herr Thyes joined us and directed us to Vianden Castle, where we sang briefly in a chapel, just for fun. To add to the atmosphere, there was a mediaeval fair going on. After a tour, and a 45-minute wait for our bus (thanks to Janet for running down and up that huge hill to look for it!) we were off to our first concert venue at Clervaux. The original plan was to sing in the chateau courtyard, but Ramona had been promised the church if there was inclement weather. Instead, we were offered a small hall. Luckily Ramona’s mom was along. Adele started making phone calls, and eventually was able to set up a last minute meeting with the priest. After Adele’s persuasions, the concert was back on in the church! And, we were so grateful – it was such a beautiful venue and had gorgeous acoustics. The response from the audience was so great that we sang more than one encore. One couple had driven 300 kms just to hear us. What a great start to our tour!
On Saturday, August 10th, we spent the morning sightseeing around Luxembourg City. Then it was back to Germany, to the Roman city of Trier. We eventually found Robert Schuman Haus, a beautiful peaceful retreat on the hillside above the city. After a quick change of clothes we headed back into Trier and met up with Danielle Hoskins-Hamilton, our alto who had been delayed in leaving Canada with us.
Our next concert venue was a huge courtyard surrounded by a pink palace and a cathedral. This concert was part of the Mosel Festwochen Musikfestival, and its theme (strangely enough) was First Night of the Proms. We began our rehearsal with conductor David Gilson and the Blaserphilharmonie orchestra. The venue was outdoors, and huge – with over 1000 tickets sold to the concert. While we were rehearsing, it began to spit with rain - somewhat troubling for an outdoor performance. We were told that there was a back up indoor venue, but the concert organizers were determined to keep with the original plan (weather reports seemed promising). Well, the rain increased…and increased. The final decision to change venues was not made until 8:15! So, the entire orchestra, all the sound and lighting equipment and 1000 ticket holders had to be moved to the indoor venue – St. Maximin. The audience sat patiently for almost two hours waiting for the gear and performers to be transferred, set up and for the concert to start (in case you were wondering it was POURING rain by this point. So much for weather reports). Phoenix didn’t finally get on stage until 11:45! But, when we were finished our performance, the audience stamped and cheered. In the newspaper the next morning a reviewer called us “Brilliant!” And, in true “Proms” style, the concert ended with “Rule Brittania”. Margaret Barry was draped in a Union Jack and did a fabulous job with all of the solo work. We were all presented with bottles of champagne and did not get back to our rooms until after 2 am! What a night – and easily one of the craziest Phoenix gigs EVER!
For Germany/Luxembourg Tour August 2002, Phoenix was…
Danielle Hamilton (Hoskins)
Brian (Hoot) Gibson
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