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Ah, Prague! - City of baroque domes, gothic spires and romantic castellation. Place of unparalleled splendour, nestling on the banks of the Vltava.
To this settlement of divine initiation, 30 pupils and five members of staff departed at the close of the Spring Term for a week of singing and historical discovery. The first tour of its kind since 2008 (when the choir visited Rome), a visit to the Czech Republic was something of an unknown for many. A local contact in Prague, well-respected on the burgeoning music scene, gave the group unprecedented access to the hidden Prague, particularly its delightful musical venues. The highlight of the trip was giving a recital of English choral music in the Martinů Hall of the Liechtenstein Palace, a bejewelled classical arena now in the hands of the Prague academy of music. The choir also visited the birthplace of the revered composer Bedřich Smetana, Litomyšl. As well as performing alongside a local school choir in a vast stone-vaulted church, the group also had unprecedented access to the monumental Renaissance castle near the house where Smetana grew up. Also featured in this musical extravaganza was a trip to the old Catholic church in the centre of Prague. Here, alongside the local Anglican congregation, the choir sang Vierne’s Messe Solennelle, to wide acclaim.
Of course, the trip was not all work, and a happy coincidence of the excursion was found in the expression of goodwill from so many quarters. It was excellent to deepen links with the Johannes Kepler Grammar School, whose hospitality was exceptional. The choir also visited the Prague State Opera for a spell-binding performance of Madame Butterfly – even if the subtitles were slightly out of sync for much of the evening. The Headmaster and Mrs Collier kindly joined us for the final part of the trip: the pupils learned a great deal about Prague in his famous walking tour, which took in many of the sights and offered a wider vision into this intriguing city. This was a life-enriching tour of the highest value, and the pupils were impeccably behaved. Perhaps, appropriately enough for a choir tour, the last word should be left to the great Romantic, Wagner: “The ancient splendour and beauty of Prague, a city beyond compare, left an impression on my imagination that will never fade”.
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