It was a special date for a few on the tour…Henri and Julie’s wedding anniversary and Sascha’s birthday as well! Sascha got us through the Czech border quite quickly by saying he had a busload of German friends. He said that if he had told them we were Canadians they would have taken all the bags off the bus and had the sniffer dogs out! Phew!
The scenery changed abruptly over the border. Conditions were much poorer and there was graffiti everywhere. We stopped at Pilsen for lunch and then carried on to Prague, arriving in the late afternoon. Our hotel was located at the far end of Wenceslas Square so there was quite a bit of walking involved to get down to the Old Town Square. We all headed in different directions to get our first taste of the city. And then some of us had our first taste of Absinthe! Powerful stuff!
On Sunday morning July 29th, we drove over to St. Thomas church to sing mass. Unassuming from the outside, the church was positively jaw-dropping inside. Wedding cake white, altars everywhere, artwork on all the walls, a painted domed ceiling …wow. The service was actually in English and the church was completely packed, with people even standing at the back. The acoustic was quite good and our contribution to the service was much appreciated.
The rest of the day and all of the next were free to explore Prague. Thanks, Ramona, for planning our itinerary so well! Everyone in the choir had different stories to tell about their day and a half in the city. So many interesting buildings, churches, bridges, and history everywhere!
On Tuesday July 31, we boarded the bus to travel back into Germany. The border wasn’t too problematic, and we arrived in Dresden around lunchtime. Our hotel was a real find by Ramona. Located on the river, the rooms were bright, spacious and comfortable, and within walking distance to everything. The dining room was a huge circular glass walled space that stayed open late for post concert meals.
We had time to go for a stroll around the city before our evening concert, which was in another beautiful church out in the suburbs. The pew backs were so high that we could only see our audience’s heads! Ramona warmed up the reserved audience and by the end they too took to their feet for another standing ovation.
One of the most important buildings in all of Dresden is the Frauenkirche, which was destroyed after an Allied bombing raid in February 1945. After the unification of Germany in the 1990s reconstruction began using the original stones, thanks to computer-imaging technology. The rebuilt church was consecrated in 2005. One of Phoenix’s most beautiful and powerful pieces, “Wie liegt die stadt so wüst” by Rudolph Mauersberger was written about the bombing, so Phoenix had a strong interest in being able to sing in this reconstructed space. On the morning of August 1st we were given permission. The church was packed with people touring but as we started to sing the whole church fell silent and our sound spun up into the dome. It was one of the most moving experiences of the whole tour…. goosebumps!
Our evening concert was held in another bombed but restored church. Photos of the restoration of Annenkirche hung on the walls. This church had a lovely acoustic and a small but enthusiastic audience. Afterwards we returned to the hotel’s beautiful dining room for another delicious late night meal. Dresden would remain a favourite location for many of us.
On tour in July/August 2007, Phoenix was…
Brian (Hoot) Gibson
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