27 September 2006

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Wednesday, 27th September 2006

Back on line at last!  Apologies for the silence, but we had no Internet access in Dresden. Time (or rather, an extreme lack of it) is also a huge factor. We are printing the e-mails to the children, but can unfortunately not send any.

DRESDEN

Dresden is a breathtakingly beautiful city. Situated on the banks of the Elbe River, there are quite a few hills and green patches around. Three majestic castles overlook the river. The children were placed out to their host families, only to be met again at 15h00 on Sunday. Everybody therefore had a chance to sleep in a while and the adults booked into the International Youth Hostel, overjoyed at the prospect of no children for 24 hours!

Most of the children were taken around the city by their most gracious hosts, some even went on bicycle tours! The adults spent the evening at the house of Annelies Sommer, the conductor of the Dresdner Spatzen.

The concert on Sunday was in a small church called Maria am Wasser Kirche. It means Maria at the water, and is, of course, right on the banks of the Elbe River! The Dresdner Spatzen consists of children from the age of 5 to about 12. They obviously sing music that is very different from ours, but their enthusiasm and enjoyment is catching!

Our part of the concert was very well received and we had a long standing ovation and an encore!

On Monday we celebrated Melissa and Andre's birthdays. While they were homesick for the families at home, they each had a very special day which they won't ever forget!

We were first taken on a bus tour of the city. Our guide was very good, telling us enough interesting facts, without boring us with too much detail. We were allowed off for a walk around  Schloss Albrechtshoff, where the adults also had lunch on Sunday.

The bus then took us back to the Altstadt (old city) for a guided walk. Many of the buildings were originallty built during the time of August the Strong who, it is said, could break a horse shoe with his bare hands. A particularly special building is the Frauenkirche (Women's Church). along with a large part of Dresden, this building was completely destroyed by American and British bombers during the Second World War. A project launched to rebuild it, was expected to take a very long time, but due to generous donors from right across the world, was completed two years ago. It is truly a beautiful building and we'd love to arrange a concert there in future!

The local VW factory canteen then supplied a delicious lunch, whereafter we had a mini-concert for the staff. This factory is in the middle of the city, and built entirely of glass. You can see the cars as they are manufactured! They only produce two types of cars, the Futon and Bentley. These are super-luxurious vehicles selling for a mere 500 000 Euro's each!

For the afternoon we travelled to Schloss Moritzburg. This castle was built for the annual hunting season and is completely surrounded by water. We had a little concert in the entrance hall. There are also many horses in that area, and they have shows like those of the Lippizzaners.

On Monday evening the Spatzen had arranged a party, where everybody ended up singing and dancing together. We once again see that music breaks through all barriers and that the lack of ability to communicate in the same language is no problem at all!

The goodbye on Tuesday morning was emotional, with many a tear shed on either side.

LEIPZIG - HALLE

We were fortunate enough to have almost an entire day in Leipzig, before travelling on to Halle, our final stop for the tour.

Before making up for the lack of shopping opportunities in Dresden, we walked to the church where Johann Sebastian Bach worked and is buried. Unfortunately the organ on which he worked, was destroyed, but the church is beautiful and we could see quite a lot of his manuscripts and some period instruments on display.

After a meal of McDonalds, paid for with our money from the street concerts, the children (and adults) were let loose on the shopping centre at the central railway station - what FUN!!!!!

HALLE

We arrived in Halle at 16h00. As most of our hosts work during the day, we had an opportunity to relax in the music school's garden, before being placed out. Word has it that many children were asleep by 21h00!

Today we are experiencing our first rainy whether (save a short-lived drizzle in Liberec) on the entire tour! We started off with a group photograph taken in the church where the composer G.F. Händel received his first organ lessons, whereafter we toured the house in which he was born, now turned into a museum dedicated to his life. We even had an opportunity to play some of the period musical instruments!

We are off to luch at the university now, whereafter we will meet the mayor of Halle, before travelling to Zerbst for the evening's concert with three other choirs.   

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