Music Choir Trips

Barcelona March 27th – 31st 2015

One of the real highlights of this year was the Choir’s tour to Barcelona and Montserrat. The nineteen singers, accompanied by a handful of Spanish language students hoping to hone their skills, escaped the overcast skies of the UK to spend five gloriously sunny days in Catalonia.

On the first day, following an outdoor rehearsal on the roof terrace of the hotel, the group sang a 30 minute a cappellaconcert to an appreciative and attentive audience at the iconic Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. The beauty of the architecture and the special atmosphere of the building made this a quite remarkable experience, and this was just the first of many Gaudi masterpieces we were to encounter during our brief stay in Barcelona.

After a spot of lunch, the group walked down to the harbour area via Las Ramblas, taking in the sights and sounds of the busy market and admiring the Gaudi houses to be found en route. After an evening stop at the market we headed back for dinner and some rest in preparation for the clocks changing and the loss of an hour’s sleep.

The early start the next day proved immediately worthwhile upon arrival at the spectacular mountaintop Abbey at Montserrat. Greeted by a cacophony of tolling bells announcing worship for Palm Sunday, we witnessed the extraordinary sight of the congregation welcoming the Benedictine monks before mass with a sea of rustling olive branches.

The choir rehearsed a little Haydn in the open plaza, before performing inside the Abbey to a full congregation of 600 people. The acoustic was rich, warm and beautifully reverberant, and the choir filled the building with superb performances of Bruckner, Tavener and Bortnianski. After this wonderfully uplifting experience, we took the steepest of funiculars up the hillside and walked in the glorious sunshine to see the panoramic views back across to Barcelona and to the sea beyond.

That evening the group split into two groups, some visiting the aquarium and others attending the Jamboree Jazz club to hear the Barcelona Blues Big Band. The club dates form the 1960s and, being down in a brick cellar, had a really authentic feel. The band played superbly, showcasing the skills of the pianist in particular, and the night ended with the students and staff dancing in the vaults.

Day three was centred on our two performances in Barcelona Cathedral. After another rooftop rehearsal, we made our way to the cathedral on the metro, where the students gave an impromptu performance of Bruckner’s Locus iste. We were met at the side door and given a private chapel in which to leave our belongings and took our place on the steps of the high altar of this magnificent building. Mr Gordon and Chris Hamilton went to investigate the splendid baroque organ and see if they could coax some romantic sounds out of it.

The 60 minute recital featured Haydn's Missa Brevis, Emma Nelson performing the mesmerising Handel aria ‘Lascia ch'io pianga’, a performance of the ‘Litany to the Holy Spirit’ by Peter Hurford (OB) and culminated in a full performance of Fauré’s Requiem, including solos by Rosalie Sanders, Adam Soul (both Year 11) and Kieran Smith (Year 10).

After dinner at the Hard Rock Café, we returned to the cathedral as the guest choir for mass in the beautiful Chapel of Christ of Lepant. It was fascinating to be involved in this catholic service and the choir sang beautifully in a highly resonant acoustic; John Stainer’s ‘God so loved the world’ in particular sounded spectacular, sung with great sensitivity to the demands of the space and liturgical context. It was an extremely uplifting way to end the performance part of the tour, although the high level of music continued that evening as we attended a performance of Mozart’s Requiem in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Palau de la Música Catalana.

After a brief visit to Gaudi’s incredible Parc Guell the following morning, it was time to fly back to England, leaving with many happy memories of a cultural and musical odyssey. Many thanks must go to the well behaved and good humoured students who made leading the tour such a pleasure, and to Miss Scott, Miss Hosking, the Rev’d Hunt, Mr Gordon, and Mr Hernandez Garcia for their assistance.

OJL