Salzburg on song!

A cho­ral trip to Aus­tria’s most cel­e­brated city of mu­sic will make your spir­its soar

Irish Daily Mail - - Travel Plus - BY JANE SLADE

TAK­ING 13 ladies of a cer­tain age and turn­ing them into a singing group good enough to per­form in one of Salzburg’s most pres­ti­gious venues would be a chal­lenge even for The Choir’s Gareth Malone.

Most of us had never met be­fore and had just four days to learn 10 songs in Latin and English on a hol­i­day which was billed for ‘up­per voices’, or­gan­ised by Run By Singers.

What bet­ter place to learn our Do-Re-Mi than in Aus­tria’s Alpine city, where Mozart was born and where The Sound Of Mu­sic was filmed.

We were a di­verse bunch, rang­ing from timid tremo­los to con­fi­dent cho­ral singers, in­clud­ing one woman from Canada.

But in an early catas­tro­phe, a so­prano had to back out due to laryn­gi­tis.

With just 12 voices singing in four-part har­mony, there was nowhere to hide.

Thank­fully, our con­duc­tor, in­ter­na­tional singing coach Ghis­laine Mor­gan, helped us find our voices in ways we could not have an­tic­i­pated.

‘Imag­ine a boomerang shape, keep it aligned with good head and back pos­ture and think of singing back­wards to the au­di­ence in the cheap seats,’ she in­structed.

She had us hiss­ing and shoosh­ing; stretch­ing our arms to the ceil­ing, trilling our Rs, ex­hal­ing to ‘br­rrrr’.

We even im­per­son­ated the cries of seag­ulls.

‘Pre­tend you are a com­plain­ing aris­to­crat,’ Ghis­laine told me as she tilted her head down and pulled in her chin.

‘That’s how you can ac­cess higher notes.’

She had us pre­tend­ing to cry and laugh, while fo­cus­ing on breath­ing and vow­els. Ghis­laine stud­ied mu­sic at Ox­ford Univer­sity and the Royal Col­lege of Mu­sic and has sung all over the world as a so­prano with top choirs. She has held work­shops for pro­fes­sion­als, in­clud­ing the choir of St Mark’s in Venice and sum­mer schools for en­thu­si­as­tic am­a­teurs – like us.

With two prac­tice ses­sions a day in our com­fort­able but far from lav­ish ho­tel, there was no let-up. The posters had gone up ad­ver­tis­ing our concert and in­cluded the words ‘a capella’, mean­ing ‘un­ac­com­pa­nied’, or to us, ‘you must be jok­ing’. No amount of bond­ing over meals and drinks calmed the nerves.

One of our group, 71-year-old Carol Bux­ton, had been on no fewer than 26 Run By Singers hol­i­days.

‘I keep com­ing be­cause I love the reper­toire,’ she said.

‘Also, be­cause we sing in some fab­u­lous places and the teach­ing is al­ways top qual­ity.

‘Singing makes you feel good. We per­form cho­ral works and mu­sic from an eclec­tic reper­toire, so it’s very wide-rang­ing.’

Carol even brings along her non-singing hus­band, Jeremy, who likes to do a bit of paint­ing.

Be­tween re­hearsals, some vis­ited Mozart’s house, oth­ers walked by the river pho­tograph­ing the Baroque sky­line.

I tried to find the abbey where Fraulein Maria had lived as a nun.

WE went to a can­dlelit concert din­ner in the grand Baroque Hall of St Peter’s Monastery, the old­est restau­rant in Europe, where Mozart used to dine.

On a Sound Of Mu­sic Tour, we sang in St Michael’s Church at Mond­see, where the Cap­tain and Maria mar­ried in the film.

We must have been all right as some Ja­panese vis­i­tors asked if we were nuns.

As concert day loomed, we felt ner­vous but ex­cited.

The Mirabell Palace’s lofty hall with its mar­ble stair­case, art­works and in­cred­i­ble acous­tics, was beau­ti­ful but in­tim­i­dat­ing.

I imag­ined Mozart en­ter­tain­ing Salzburg roy­alty here.

Would any­one come to watch us, we won­dered?

We en­tered the hall singing a Vaughan Wil­liams canon be­fore tak­ing our places.

To my amaze­ment, I saw we had nearly a full house.

The nerves dis­ap­peared and we sang our hearts out.

The thrilling half-hour went in a flash.

The au­di­ence even stayed for an en­core.

Ro­man­tic: Salzburg is a beau­ti­ful des­ti­na­tion

Choir: Jane (mid­dle row, far left) and her friends

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