Thomas Mills High School enjoy the sites and culture of Belgium on a choir and orchestra tour!

Last updated: Jun 4th, 2024

No concert tour to Belgium is complete without a boat trip along one of the beautiful canals, a taste of some true Belgian chocolate and a moving and commemorative performance at the Menin Gate. Thomas Mills High School had it all and the experience was topped off with an impromptu encore and a standing ovation. Find out exactly what the group got up to as Roy Varney, Rayburn Tours’ courier, shares the details.

Day 1:

After a smooth overnight journey, we arrived at the hostel in Ostende in time for breakfast, and a morning rehearsal. We then visited the pleasant seaside town of Blankenberg, a beach haven with sand dunes and seafront restaurants, for a late lunch and some souvenir shopping.

Day 2:

After an early breakfast, we set off for our day in Bruges. Following a short walk around the centre to get everyone familiar with the sights, we did our first excursion – a boat trip around the canals; a light rain shower didn’t dampen our spirits, and it was both enjoyable and informative. And so onto the Chocostory Chocolate Museum, where the free chocolates were much appreciated!

The afternoon saw our first concert, in St Salvator’s Cathedral. With the excellent acoustic, our orchestra and choir rose to the occasion, and delighted the large audience.

An impromptu encore brought a standing ovation!

“Staff were helpful, the acoustic was excellent”

Mr Richard Hanley, Head of Music, Thomas Mills High School

We ended the day with a fun evening at a bowling hall near the hostel.

Day 3:

This day revolved around the events of World War One in the Ypres Salient. On arrival in the morning, we immediately made our way to the Menin Gate, where we were to participate in the Last Post Ceremony, a daily tribute at 8pm to the courage and self-sacrifice of those who fell in defence of the town during the First World War. The orchestra and choir practised a walk-through of their programme, including a rousing verse of ‘God Save the Queen’, rather to the bemusement of the passers-by! Our excursion was to the excellent ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum, followed by shopping for presents and souvenirs; the local chocolate shops did a roaring trade!

The group found their participation at the Menin Gate deeply moving. In particular, the choir’s performance of ‘Steal Away’ was enormously effective and memorable. After the ceremony they received many compliments from amongst the nigh-on 2000 people in attendance.

“Outstanding and moving experience. Provided the most memorable experience of the tour. Groups need to be prepared to be flexible and well organised, but can expect a wonderful acoustic.”

Mr Richard Hanley, Head of Music, Thomas Mills High School

Day 4:

With the musical element of the tour successfully completed, our last day of the tour was pure fun at the ‘Plopsaland’ Theme park near De Panne, before an afternoon departure for Calais and the road home.

If you’re feeling inspired to embark on your own concert tour then visit our website or call our team on 01332 347 828 for more information on the excursions and performance options available in Belgium or any of our other recommended destinations.