Fifty-one excited SMUS music students gathered at 5:15 am Wednesday to begin their tour of Europe. The group’s listening skills were immediately put to the test as trumpets, violins and cellos were handled onto a bus, onto the ferry, off the ferry, onto another bus, into the airport and, at last, onto the airplane. It was clear that moving as a group in the coming weeks was going to take good listening and cooperation, and we were off to a great start.
An uneventful flight saw us arrive on time in Frankfurt, Germany and we moved quickly to our waiting coach for the two-hour trip to our first stop in Eisenach, the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach. A quick trip into town kept the group moving and helped battle the jet lag.
Friday morning was spent at Bachhaus, which is reportedly the birthplace of Bach himself. Now a fully restored and functioning museum, it served as an outstanding first stop. After an orientation and brief performance on period keyboard instruments, the group explored the museum at leisure. A highlight though, were solo performances by Cole Piche and Lucy Lu performing Bach pieces on a 250-year-old harpsichord.
A visiting group of German students coordinated by Mr. Ian Farish and his counterpart at Geschwister-Scholl from Berenbostel, Mr. Felix Maier, joined us for the afternoon and the first concert of the tour. A small church served as the first venue and it provided an excellent space for the students to get to know their German counterparts, and it was clear that some of these friendships will carry forward from here. The show opened with the choristers singing from the rear of the church with crowd favourite “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The Strings Ensemble followed with Boris Li conducting a piece that he composed in honour of Bach. Mr. Butterfield then took over conducting the entire group of 60-plus students in a combined Canadian and German orchestra and choir. “Sanctus” is part of The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by composer Karl Jenkins, and the students performed an outstanding rendition that filled the space beautifully.
Up next was a Canadian and German R&B band led by Mr. Farish and Mr. Maier. It was fun and energetic with soloists Cole Piche, Andrew Ganz and Cole Ashley stealing the show from the horns section, and Rose Nguyen, Charlotte Kessler and Sophia Vitrouk singing strongly. I am told a good R&B show is not possible without a good rhythm section which, in this case, was led by Markus Swoveland, Sascha Skoronski and Stephanie Ganz.
German addition Greta Soderberg provided amazing vocals in a powerful rendition of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”
Finishing on a high note, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” brought the SMUS choir singers into the show and brought the house down. It was an outstanding afternoon all around!
Tomorrow the group is back in travel mode as we head to our next stop: London.