The main focus of the trip was to share music we’ve learned at memorable places, such as various chapels, cathedrals, theatres, town squares, dinners, and yes, we even sang on a river boat. Backtrack to the weeks leading up to the trip. In the choir room, we studied and learned an impressive repertoire that includes songs in English, German, Italian, Filipino, and a song that includes a mix of Zulu and Ndebele languages. The articulation and pronunciation took time and effort but by the time we left for Prague, we felt confident in our ability to perform.
by Nathan Lampshire ‘19
Our first “performance” was an unplanned sample of a few songs. We attended a dinner boat cruise and as the sky was slowly darkening, everyone journeyed to the top deck and we sang as the boat floated us down the river. On each bridge that we passed under, we attracted an audience that seemed fascinated by the American singing group. Small performances like this continued throughout the week as we sang at dinner events and on street corners.
The notable shows were the ones advertised by our tour agency at various chapels and cathedrals. The first was a chapel right in the heart of Prague. With tall ceilings and stone structures, our sound had a heavenly glow that rang and filled the room. Our slower traditional songs ended with chords that seemed to sit and sing on their own after our last note. The acoustics were like none other.
We had a more difficult time
by Nathan Lampshire ‘19
in Treban, however. The small town held an old theatre that was great for faster songs as our song did not carry, making slower songs more difficult to project. Nonetheless, the old box seat theatre was filled and we had a great time.
The big gun was St. Stephen’s chapel in the center of Vienna, Austria. As one of the most visited locations in Vienna, the pressure was on. The priest who was in charge of the logistics of the concert told us over 300 people were in attendance. Not only that, but more tourists filled the public area not blocked for seating. By far the cathedral was the largest I have stepped foot in. Once we started singing, it was a nice mix between our two previous performance locations. The church had spectacular acoustics and our sound carried, but not so much as to make our slower songs difficult to articulate. It was an amazing experience.
The tour agency was absolutely spot on with advertising. Every performance had a great turnout, and we were excited to spread our love for music in Prague and Vienna.
by Adam Levine ‘20
After spending nine hours in the air and a quick layover in Frankfurt, we finally arrived in Prague airport. The first thing my friends and I noticed was how much English there was. It was quite surprising as I had been lightly studying Czech before the trip.
Because our hotel wasn’t ready, we got a few free hours to spend in the city. We were released from Old Town Square with the sight of beautiful towers and vibrant buildings surrounding us. For lunch, I grabbed a sandwich with some friends from a local café. It was my first experience paying with the Czech koruna, and it went surprisingly well.
This morning we took an official tour of Prague Castle with our tour guides, who would be taking us throughout the city over the next few days. In Prague Castle, we were able to see St. Vitus Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Czech Republic. The cathedral was decked out with high ceilings, beautiful masonry, and magnificent stained glass windows. Even more magnificent than the inside was the outside which included intricate stonework, which made even the most irrelevant parts of St. Vitus stand out.
Our tour took us all the way to the John Lennon wall in Malý město (Lesser town), which was originally painted after Lennon’s assassination 1980. Over time, people began to cover the wall in paint with messages or just a pop of color. I left my mark by writing the first line of a poem I wrote on the river cruise.
We ended our tour of Prague by crossing the Charles Bridge, which is lined with statues, including one of St. John of Nepomuk, a saint of the Czech Republic who was drowned in the Vltava. Rubbing this famed statue can bring you good luck, grant your wish, or just guarantee your return to the city of 100 spires.
We were then given the afternoon to explore the city. My friends and I first went to the art museum of infamous Czech artist, David Černý, known for his alternative, unique, and quirky pieces. According to our tour managers, the Czech’s have a hilariously weird sense of humor and Černý’s art exemplified this beautifully. Just outside of the Old Town Square, we watched the Astronomical Clock show, in which statues filtered throughout two colorful windows centered above the clock while bells chimed.
That night, we went to a Czech folk dinner, in which we ate some traditional Czech foods (a.k.a. just meat and potatoes) and witnessed some traditional Czech dances. We even got a chance to play the fanfrnoch, a Czech instrument which requires the player to rub horse hair to create sound!
For our last day in Prague, we took a tour of the Jewish quarter. Prague has a rich Jewish history and we were able to see that by walking through all the synagogues, many of which had been turned into museums. One of the most interesting was the Pinkas synagogue which included a display of children’s artwork from the Holocaust and the walls of the lower levels were painted to include every name known of Czechs who died during the Holocaust. We also got to visit the Old Jewish Cemetery, where the tombstones are crowded, faded, and on different levels. This is because Jews were only given a certain plot of land on which they could be buried so they had to bury the bodies close together and some even on top of one another.
After our tour of the Jewish quarter, we got an insider tour of the Estates Theatre in Prague, where Mozart premiered his opera, Don Giovanni. An employee sat down with us and told us about the history of the theatre and took us up to the emperor’s box to look down upon the whole theatre.
Today we set off for Český Krumlov, a picturesque town with a colorful castle where the King of Bohemia once lived. We got a new tour guide, a native to the town, who showed us around the castle and took us through the town. Because it was where the royal family of Bohemia lived, surrounding the castle was a moat, which houses a bear. Unfortunately the bear, for whatever reason, did not come out for us.
That night we arrived in our next stop, České Budějovice.
This morning, we were given time to explore the town. This town though was quite boring, so the most exciting thing we found was pizza for 35 Czk (about 1.50 usd). Then we travelled to our next stop, Třeboň. Along the way, we got to see an old collectivized farm from the day of communism. Being in AP World History, it was cool to see what we were learning in the classroom connect to the real world.
Třeboň was another small town, filled with colorful buildings, painted after the days of Communism. Under the communist government, paint wasn’t allowed, so in 1989, when the Czechs gained their freedom, they went to town painting the buildings in beautiful colors all throughout the country.
Today, we headed out to the Austrian town of Dürnstein, Austria. A small town along the Danube, Dürnstein boasts a population of around 860. Even cooler, the town features castle ruins atop a large mountain, where King Richard was said to have been held.
After hiking up and down the mountain, we headed into Vienna where we were given some free time before we headed to a dance studio to learn the Viennese waltz. Despite many stumbles, I am proud to say I can do the Viennese waltz with better than the average person.
After a short tour mostly on the bus and a slight vehicular mishap, which may or may not have resulted in scratches on the car of a resident of Vienna, we were given most of the day free to explore the city. A few friends and I headed to the Imperial Treasury in the Hofburg palace, where we got to see the treasures of the Hapsburg family, the ruling family of the Austrian empire, known for their distinctive lower lip. We got to see the emperor’s robe, crown, and many other accessories. A portrait of Napoleon was also on display and gold, silver, and diamond could be found in every room of the treasury.
To end our last block of free time, we went to see City Hall, a building with stand-out Gothic architecture. There, we encountered a festival for Easter and to welcome spring where we ate lots of good German food, including a large pretzel and some inverted jelly donut-type pastry.