Australian Youth Orchestra International Tour 2019
By David Barlow
Germany! The home of Apfelstrudel, BMW and unfashionable sandals can be a foreign place for we Australians! A lot of life’s simple pleasures that we take for granted back home just aren’t the same in Germany (sadly, the standard of coffee leaves little to be desired). We also managed to somehow bring the sweltering Australian summer with us, and Germany suffered under oppressively barbecue-friendly conditions.
Thankfully, we survived the bus trip from our rehearsal venue – an old Dutch military base, the Akoestikum – to our next accommodation in Neubrandenburg.
Part of the old East Germany, our hotel looked like it could have been out of a Cold War flick. We then travelled from there to not one, but two barns in the vicinity. Indeed, one colleague of mine aptly quipped “…perhaps next time we should focus exclusively on barns…!”… For those interested, the locations we performed at were the fairly unpronounceable Ulrichshusen and Stolpe an der Peene.
These concerts were a welcome change after a long rehearsal period; we had around 5 hours of music to prepare in only 5 days with the conductor, Krzysztof Urbański. The two barn concerts were part of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival, known in the ‘biz’ as ‘Meck-Pom’. Thankfully, the egregious heat did not dampen the audience’s enthusiasm for the music (although we ourselves were perhaps a bit damper than ideal…).
After a short interlude in France and the Netherlands, we found ourselves back in Germany, this time in the beautiful town of Wiesbaden. With the weather still offensively rebuking us for trying to skip Australian winter, we played as part of the Rheingau Musik Festival in Wiesbaden. Once again, orange slices and ice baths were required post-concert to keep our trombonists in peak fitness.
Finally, we travelled from Wiesbaden to nearby Kassel and the Kongress-Palais. We played a final Mendelssohn piano concerto with our resident soloist, Jan Lisiecki, before travelling back to Wiesbaden.
I currently write this from our plane on our way from Europe towards China. While the coffee left a bad taste in our mouths, the friendly audiences and beautiful scenery made for a memorable trip; I’m sure many of us cannot wait to return. I for one (one of a small handful of dyed-in-the-wool Germanophiles) will be practising my German in preparation for a hopefully not-too-distant return trip. Tschüss!