Director of Music at Warminster School, Caroline Robinson, gives us her account of a magical and moving concert tour to Paris and Belgium…
Saturday, 5.30am. I was sitting on a coach in the dark. The wind was howling and rocking us from side to side, rain was battering at the roof and windows. I was contemplating how we would cope with a ferry crossing in the Gale Force 9 drama of storm Brian. My thoughts were then rudely interrupted by saxophonist Ben singing Jubilate at the top of his voice, with the backing harmony of those at the back of the coach. I knew that this was going to be a fantastic concert tour!
We survived the crossing and enjoyed glorious sunshine on our journey, winding through the French countryside. Group bonding then got off to a super start on the first evening with a mixture of bingo and card games. Much later I heard some more lovely singing in harmony along the corridors as I tried to encourage lights out.
Our first full day, and the excitement was palpable as we journeyed to the Pluto Gate at Disneyland Paris. Experiencing the unglamorous backstage with no shine, no glitz and no characters was so interesting. We needed none of it, such was the excitement of getting to perform on the vast stage in the Videopolis. Never before has our Orchestra been so quiet as they were when the French sound technicians adjusted microphones, and set levels. Even the rhythm section were silent. Finally it was time for our 20 minutes of fame and the Jazz Band rose to the occasion putting out note perfect renditions of The Chicken and Canteloupe Island. Audience members swiftly trickled to the front of the arena and were justly rewarded with excellent performances of Queen, The Lion King and Michael Jackson from the full Concert Orchestra.
Packing up and changing had never before been so slick, such was the pull of the rides ahead of us. A day experiencing the Tower of Terror, Thunder Mountain & amazing parades amongst so much more was fully enjoyed by all. Most skipped lunch in favour of getting as much Disney time in as possible. Dinner at the Planet Hollywood restaurant was fabulous. All this and it was only day 2!
Trumpeter Maddie found day 3 to be one of her highlights: “One of my favourite parts was when we went on the river cruse. It was really interesting learning about the history of Ghent, which was also really pretty.” On day 4 it was time to fill our boots with chocolate in Bruges and then it was onto a lovely Church in De Pannes for a concert. I don’t know if any of the orchestra had experienced a standing ovation before, but I do know that it was most well deserved and a moment to make everyone incredibly proud.
We found ourselves on Day 5 and wondered how it was possibly going so quickly. A visit to the Tyne Cot cemetery was a far cry from the rides in Paris. Each pupil thought carefully about where to place the little wooden crosses supplied by the Warminster British Legion. Many found soldiers with their own names, whilst some chose graves simply marked “A Soldier”. Later we travelled to Ypres in readiness for our performance in the daily Last Post Ceremony. In his own words, trombonist Matthew said “I will never forget my experience going on the 2017 Warminster Music Tour. Playing Nimrod at the Menin Gate felt very emotional as it reminded me of my Great Grandad who fought in the battle of Passchendaele.” The battle had happened just about 100 years to the day when we were there. Head of Physics Mr Moxham travelled out to support the group. Following this performance he tweeted “Pitch perfect performance in front of 1000 people at the Last Post Ceremony.” This experience will stay with all of us forever.
Viola player Maisie put simply “The tour was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Everything we did I will cherish and remember forever. Thank you so much to the teachers for organising such an amazing trip. It was so great to see all our hard work and dedication finally get put to the test in the Concerts.”
The tour was organised by Rayburn Tours who we are looking forward to touring with again in two years time following this excellent experience. Check @warminstermusic to see the many tweets we put out whilst we were away. We are also very grateful to our sponsors The Sound Post, Yellow Balloon Films, Coach House Pianos and David Wiltshire Photography.