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European Music Tour

Posted on: 04/09/2018

Whilst standing on the deck of the Dover to Calais ferry, a student turned to me and said “Sir, this is the first time I have ever left the UK.” This moment encapsulated one of the main reasons why we run trips – to provide students with opportunities, expand their horizons and inspire them to achieve more than they thought able.

It was January 2017 when I first started making enquiries about running a choir tour to Europe in July 2018: to many, this would seem like an extraordinary amount of time but inclusivity is paramount to the Music Department philosophy and I wanted to give parents the time to be able to afford a trip abroad. Initially we planned for 50 students to attend and got quotes accordingly. Little did I know that by the time we left, we would have recruited 138!

From the moment we announced the trip, the excitement about it was tantamount around the department – students were talking about Music and discussing what we were going to do on tour. The opportunity to perform in other countries was one that many could not resist as the majority of our students had never performed outside our own school hall. Fortunately for us, the reality exceeded expectation!

The day we left was an early start with students needing to be at school at 5.45am so we could leave by 6.30am. The combination of bleary-eyed fatigue and bright-eyed enthusiasm was apparent from students, parents and teachers alike! The journey was long and traffic is clearly not isolated to the UK; however, we were excited upon our arrival in Antwerp, and hearing the girls rehearse in the evening in preparation for the next day gave the staff goose bumps! 

The following morning, after an early start, we headed off to Bobbejaaland theme park for a morning of rides and fun. Some students, and staff, tried out the many adventurous attractions whilst others, myself included, stuck to the more sedate options. This was the first opportunity to see students act independently as they moved around the park and I was delighted to not only see that our students acted in their usual mature and sensible manner, but also demonstrated so many positive friendly qualities in talking to other students from different friendship and year groups.

The afternoon brought our first concert in a bandstand in the middle of Ostend in Northern Belgium. The nature of the venue was very daunting as we had a 360o audience with hundreds of members of the public surrounding us; however, the students stepped up and performed fantastically with many highly positive reactions from those who heard the students. One member of the public, so impressed with what he had heard, told a member of our staff that the performance was “like watching joy itself”. This level of effusive feedback had a significant impact and I could see the elation on their faces when it was relayed to them. It often takes a person without a vested interest to make young people really appreciate how wonderful they are!

Day three began with a trip out to Maastricht in Holland to perform in the market square. This concert was particularly well-attended as many were nearby to attend a later concert by André Rieu (I like to think that we were his support act…). The students were, once again, fantastic and the praise equally positive with one man saying that Rieu would “have to be pretty good to beat this beautiful singing!”

Following the concert and some time in Maastricht, we headed for Drielandenpunt, the point at which Germany, Holland and Belgium meet, where there is a maze. The maze provided much excitement for us, as, despite having a method for completing the maze provided by Dr Shaw, we entirely failed to complete it and ended up back at the entrance four times! Upon our return, we all got together in the dining hall, giving everyone the chance to say thank you, and good bye, which was emotional after such a wonderful time spent in each other’s company. 

On the Friday we returned home having spent some time exploring Antwerp and it was at this time I could really sit back and assess the week – students had made new friends, enjoyed new and unique experiences, and encountered cultures which they may have never done so far in their lives. For staff, as with many trips, it was an opportunity to learn more about our students’ personalities and see them in a different context.

For me, the success of a tour can be measured by my willingness to do another and, now that we are back, I cannot wait for the next. The sheer amount of joy and pride I felt at every moment during the trip is addictive and I am truly an addict.

Thank you to all the wonderful staff and students who made this trip possible and, I am sure, will make them possible again in the future.

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