WSSSO Concert Tour to Tuscany, Italy – July 2016
After several years of planning and preparation, our senior ensembles; the Concert Band and Symphony Orchestra, travelled to Italy and Austria respectively during July to perform for the first time outwith Scotland. Long journeys by coach and ferry and late night/early morning arrivals at our destination hotels did nothing to quell the sense of excitement and anticipation of what lay ahead…
The symphony orchestra were first to leave Glasgow on 3rd July, travelling by coach to Newcastle, overnight by ferry to Amsterdam and then onward by coach to Montecatini, Tuscany. The first performance took place in Pescia on 5th July. This event, organised by local town council official, Lando Silvestrini, in partnership with One Stage Concert Tours, was a wonderful way to begin; a beautiful Tuscan town square and a large and appreciative audience. Cheers and encores followed the final bars of Phil Cunningham’s ‘Cathcart’ and the orchestra rallied twice more to satisfy demand.
Before departure, Signor Lando was keen to express his delight, stating several times that he thought WSSSO were “Unbelievable” and the best orchestra to perform in Pescia in 10 years of concert events.
The following day, Wednesday 6th July, saw a daytime visit to the beautiful walled city of Lucca followed by an evening concert in the stunning setting of Pistoia Cathedral. Here, our orchestra members showed great maturity and resilience to the challenges which touring can sometimes present. Transport and meal delays meant a later than planned arrival at the Cathedral but WSSSO took to the stage without any rehearsal and performed as always with great style and finesse. The final chord of Berlioz’ Roman Carnival Overture resonated and rebounded for several seconds around the capacious interior as audience members sat in stunned silence before regaining their composure to provide fully deserved and rapturous applause. This was yet another fabulous concert event for all concerned.
WSSSO’s final performance took place on Thursday 7th July at the Tettucio Spa in Montecatini following a daytime visit to the historic city of Sienna. This concert venue, a large courtyard set within a Roman style forum surrounded by marble pillars, statues and fountains, provided a dramatic and ornate setting for WSSSO’s final performance in Italy. A larger than anticipated audience, which included many families who had travelled from Scotland, created a warm and friendly atmosphere. As WSSSO once again performed works by Berlioz, Nielsen, Elgar, Cunningham and McGuire, it was striking how settled and at ease the orchestra now seemed. In 3 days the ensemble had matured and developed considerably and much of the credit for this lay with our unflappable and eminently cheerful Artistic Director, James Lowe, who was able to extract the very best from our fine young musicians in 3 very different settings.
WSSSO’s final day in Italy saw a daytime visit to the city of Florence before boarding the coaches once again for the long journey back to Amsterdam and the ferry to Newcastle. Throughout the tour, our staff team led by Jane Ferguson, worked tirelessly to ensure orchestra members were safe and well and able to fully enjoy every aspect of the trip. WSSO trust would like to thank them all for their incredible hard work and dedication.
As the orchestra coaches were pulling into Collins Street in Glasgow on Sunday 10th July, 2 more were heading to Newcastle. It was now the turn of the Concert Band. The band’s journey followed a similar pattern with a long haul by coach across Europe following the overnight ferry to Amsterdam. The band arrived at Hotel Hutter in Huttau, Austria near Salzburg on the evening of 12th July. The schedule for the next few days was a busy one with several excursions and concert events planned.
The next day saw the band travel across the beautiful Lake Wolfgangsee from St Wolfgang to St Gilgen. On arrival in St Gilgen, the large bandstand beside the lake was prepared and our young musicians took to the stage for their first performance. Nigel Boddice led the band expertly through an hour long programme to a large audience who were obviously delighted to be entertained during their day out in St Gilgen. The band performed a programme which combined challenging wind ensemble repertoire with popular works to reflect the lighter nature of this first performance.
The following day, the band set off for a visit to the sights of Salzburg including a trip on the funicular railway to Hohensalzburg Castle and of course, Mozart’s Birthplace. Surprisingly, the skies which had clouded over during the morning grew darker as the day progressed and it was with reluctance that the evening’s outdoor performance in Filmoos, was eventually swapped for a rehearsal in the hotel. Although not planned, this turned out to be a very valuable session allowing our young musicians to settle confidently into the repertoire they would be performing over the next 2 day in Schladming.
The Mid Europe Festival is the largest event of its kind in Europe and plays host to over 3,500 musicians every year who perform in venues throughout this scenic mountain town. As the Concert Band took to the stage in the Congress Theatre, it was difficult not to feel somewhat nervous. The setting was very large and formal and it was clear that this performance would be attended by many serious minded wind band enthusiasts and professionals. Our fears were soon dispersed however as the band launched into a stunningly polished and refined performance which many of us agreed was among the best in the 20 year history of the Concert Band.
Concert Band members would have been justified in thinking their day of hard work was now complete but this being a festival, it had only just begun. Later that evening, the band took to the stage once again, this time at the other end of the town to perform as part of the famous ‘Lange Nacht’ at the Festival. Here, to a packed crowd, Nigel Boddice directed the band and entertained the audience with a fabulous programme featuring several solo items and many which the audience recognised. The atmosphere was electric and the many hundreds of festival goers listening made their appreciation very clear. This was quite simply, an extraordinary and fabulous day!
The following morning began even earlier than normal with a 7am breakfast in order to return to the Congress Theatre in Schladming for a ‘Reading Session’ at 9am. This set the challenge of performing new works which had not been seen before by conductor or ensemble members. Not surprisingly, the Concert Band rose magnificently to the challenge and many appreciative comments from audience members and festival officials followed.
The final event for the band in Austria took place later the same day with a performance on the Open Air Stage in the centre of Schladming. For the last time, Nigel Boddice directed our seasoned performers and once again, a large, knowledgeable and appreciative audience enjoyed every moment.
The weather, although not as hot and sunny as expected, didn’t dampen the spirits and all but 1 performance took place as planned. The band set off for home later that evening following a remarkable concert tour of which every member can be very proud. Course Director, Fergus Kerr, led as always with enthusiasm and energy and the whole staff team made sure this was an unforgettable trip for all concerned.
Our main aims in organising these tours was to celebrate 20 years of music-making, widen awareness of our activities and provide our ensemble members with life-long and happy memories. We are grateful to everyone; Trustees, staff tutors, members, families and friends, who helped us achieve this.