With bright yellow itineraries in hand, Phoenix flew to Frankfurt, arriving in the morning of July 19th. We met our bus driver and - contrary to appearances - discovered that he was, indeed, old enough to have a driver’s license! The first thing Sascha did was to play "O Canada” over the sound system, so it all started off well. He then informed us that he had learned his English from Chinese tourists that he had driven around. It took us a while to discover that he was delightfully full of it - his English was excellent and he was actually over 25 (surprise)!
We drove to the small town of Eltville to Hotel Tillmanns where we stayed our first night. This was a beautiful house built in the 1800s in the French style. After a short rest, a number of the choir headed to a lovely restaurant where we ate a delicious dinner in a courtyard under umbrellas. What a great start to the tour.
The next morning, we walked through the huge French doors to the terrace and garden where we ate breakfast and planned our morning of sightseeing around Eltville. A group of us passed a church and went in. The acoustic was so lovely we were compelled to sing a Bingen chant!
The town itself was very well preserved, with narrow cobbled streets and tudor-style buildings. After a quick lunch, we headed to the bus for our next destination. Before departing, we presented Sascha with a choir tour shirt and a small Canadian flag. Little did we know that this flag would be in his hand every morning as we boarded the bus to the strains of “O Canada” and that it would be waved vigorously at the back of every church as we filed on to sing.
Our destination for night two was only 10 kms away, at Kloster Eberbach, and a modern hotel built on the grounds of the monastery that dates back to the 12th century. Grapevines covered the hills surrounding the property, and ancient wine presses, barrels and cellars were located in the old buildings.
In the church there was a daily music festival throughout the summer. Unfortunately, we had applied too late to be included in the series, and on this night there was an orchestra playing. We had a wonderful dinner in the hotel’s dining room and the staff asked us to sing for them. We were rewarded with schnapps all ‘round.
After dinner we set up in the hotel lobby for a rehearsal, and because it was so hot we had all the windows open. When we started to sing, Sascha was totally enthralled. He phoned his mom in Köln and proceeded to hold his phone up to the window so that she could listen to us rehearse. Then - oops! - we had someone from the church show up to say our singing could be heard over the orchestra! Needless to say, we postponed the remainder of the rehearsal until they were finished. We ended the day with cool drinks in the lounge and then it was off to bed.
After a great breakfast at Kloster Eberbach, we boarded the bus for Trier. We had visited this Roman city back in 2002 and loved it so much we decided to visit again. We headed up the hill to the Robert Schuman Haus overlooking the city and discovered roadwork on the sharp turn in the road. Sascha got out of the bus and pushed the metal construction guardrails out of the way, but as he drove he felt the edge of the road give way. He quickly decided that would be his last trip up the road to the building!
We were given lunch and then boarded the bus for the trip back down the hill. In Trier, we stopped at Porta Negra, and all headed out for sightseeing. A number of us chose to visit the very baroque St. Paulin Church where we sang Bogoroditse in front of some amazingly ornate gates guarding the altar. Then we split up and wandered the city. We returned to Robert Schuman Haus for dinner and a rehearsal in the chapel, and ended the night in the pub downstairs.
On Sunday July 22nd we were up at 6 am, in preparation for singing mass in the Trier Dom! We had to walk part way down the hill to meet Sascha and the bus below the roadwork. Hilariously, he had backed the bus up the hill as far as he could to save us the walk (the guy was a master at manouvering that bus!)
We were able to have a good warm up in the cathedral and when the mass started the cathedral was packed. Our opening chant happened to be in the same key as the ringing bells, which was positively magical and a beautiful effect. Once again the Trier Dom organist displayed amazing musical skill, improvising on phrases from our selections.
We returned to Robert Schuman Haus for lunch and a rest before heading out for our televised evening performance in Treis-Karden, as part of the Moselfestwochen. We had the main course of a positively gourmet meal in an old restaurant, and returned after our concert for dessert. The acoustics in this church were lovely, as was the audience. And Sascha’s parents drove from Köln (a long distance away) to hear us sing, after listening to us over the phone a few nights previous!
After dessert we drove back to Trier at 1am, with the bus backing up as far as possible up the hill. When we got off the bus in the residential neighbourhood we forgot how late it was and were a bit loud.
The next morning we discovered that a senior neighbor had come to the bus in the morning to complain about the noise the night before. Feeling guilty, we came down the hill and stood outside her house and sang to her. She came out onto her balcony to listen, and cried! All was forgiven.
This day turned out to be all about wine! We were driven to Bernkastel (centre of the wine universe for Barb) where we had hours of free time to wander the quaint town and taste wine if one was so inclined. (Barb was able to taste over 30 wines at a wine centre … and yes, she remained upright!) In the late afternoon, we were driven to a nearby town and taken down into a wine cellar for a meal and wine tasting. The walls dripped and it was lit by candles. I think the only one who didn’t enjoy it much was Leanne who was horribly allergic to the mold and damp!
Then it was back to Trier for one last night at Robert Schuman Haus. Jaime showed off her amazing arm wrestling skills in the pub, and the party continued until late in the night.
On tour in July/August 2007, Phoenix was…
Brian (Hoot) Gibson
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