Concert performances were different every time. The venues were different and the selection of songs to sing varied according to the venue and the anticipated audience. Some concerts were heavily promoted and others seemed to be word of mouth. So, before the concert, there was a rehearsal, then clothing changes, maybe another warm-up, all the while there is a stage and sound equipment to be set up as well. Musicians tuning up. Taking into consideration the various elements of the weather and lighting. When setting up for an outdoor performance, the chorus is “on” as the audience begins to gather. To draw folks in as well as entertain before the concert, the musicians would play. Tonight, one of the songs, “Sooth Me”, drew in people nearby, as well as one little girl in blue.
“Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.” Peter Hoeg
I look at these photos and find it difficult to even describe the daily pace of this tour! From Matej giving us history on the big bus while Antonia gave similar talks to the little bus crowd, to a guided tour of an old part of a town, to special lunches prepared for us, more tours of castles, more history, on and off the bus, singing in amazing venues, sometimes for our own pleasure, sometimes for informal performances and sometimes for formal concerts, then late night dinners following concerts or travel to the next city. Wow! Here are a few images from the first few days in Zagreb, Pregrada, Samobor. More to come in the next few days as I process it all.
“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Aldous Huxley
The day began with boarding buses decorated with American flags and banners. After announcements, we noted it was the Fourth of July. We sang patriotic songs and talked about being American. Charlie talked about being in Africa during the draft of men during the Vietnam Nam conflict. We have been on tour in other summers when we find ourselves not home on Independence Day. As we listen to history of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Croatia from our guide, we are grateful to be from America.
We drove about four hours to the Plitvicka National Park, a natural wonder with several lakes that spill over in glorious waterfalls. This is a very pristine park, the pride of Croatia. Interesting experience to be in this beautiful setting with probably 6,000 other people (they expect 10,000 visitors daily in the high season!). One wants to capture the beauty in a photo, but rarely snaps a shot that doesn’t have a human walking through.
Our guide was Blanka Turkalj-Dupanovic, who was so enthusiastic about the park and the preservation that’s been done. She invited us all to her family farm/dairy the next day!
The day began with a little check in with folks to talk about how things are going. We shared ideas about how to connect with local people more. One suggestion was to pull children aside because they are often able to speak English (it is taught in most schools) and they can translate with parents. It was a good day to just check in with people about dealing with typical travel stresses and remaining flexible.
Our tour guide gave us some history of the area, noting that Slovenia is bordered by Italy, Austria and Hungary and became its own country in 1991. There is a large Austrian influence on food, language and music.
In Lake Bled there is an island with a church on it. Rowboats took us over in groups of about 20. The boats have been built and rowed by members of one family for generations. The chorus sang inside the church which led to one of the magical moments of this tour.
As the choir sang, I turned around and noticed a woman with tears streaming down her face. This of course made me also feel teary. She was recording the music. She put her camera down and I reached for her hand, not knowing if she spoke English and just said, “Keep recording. You will be happy.” She understood and replied, “Oh it is too much emotion!” She of course kept recording and as they sang To My Old Brown Earth, a Pete Seeger song, she and I looked at each other as they sang the line ‘…and now I’m yours and you are also mine’, the tears were flowing for both of us. After the concert, we hugged one another and then exchanged information. I told her about the Chorus and the mission of spreading peace and connection through music. It turns out she is a teacher of teachers from Ireland and she squeezed my hand and asked me to tell the Chorus that they touched her heart. It was just one of those tremendously powerful moments that is what the tour is all about! Magical!
When we left the Island, we drove a ways and then stopped for dinner at the Asvenik Museum of accordion music. Lots of interesting information, including this bit: they have amazing costumes and were told that the men’s costume costs $2500 and the women’s $3000!
At the restaurant, next door to the museum, we were greeted with plum brandy, a now understood welcoming custom with entertainment by a polka group. The music was really fun and we had another great experience.