Australian Girls Choir 2019 International Tour: Travel Diary
This month, 56 Australian Girls Choir choristers boarded a plane from Melbourne International Airport to Paris, to kick off the first leg of the 2019 AGC International Tour.
Touring internationally is a huge part of the work we do in performing for audiences across the world, and provides opportunities for young women to broaden their musical and cultural horizons.
Today we bring you our Australian Girls Choir Travel Diary which documents their adventures across Europe.
From the moment we arrived in Paris the girls were abuzz and captivated by this magical city. As we made our way through the busy streets, we were excited to catch glimpses of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Bastille and the river Seine. Once at our hotel we settled into our rooms, enjoyed a hearty meal and nestled in for the first night of tour.
Our first performance in Paris was the next morning at the Australian Embassy, in a magnificent space overlooking the Eiffel Tower. The occasion was a special celebration of our founder Judith Curphey’s 90th birthday, which she chose to celebrate in Paris with the Australian Girls Choir. Mrs Curphey was overwhelmed with the quality of the girls’ sound and performance, and couldn’t resist the urge to quietly conduct the girls as they sang.
Angus MacKenzie, the Australian Ambassador to UNESCO who was in attendance, loved the performance and said,
“Girls, you are fantastic! It was a real pleasure to hear you perform today and to see you representing the values of companionship and working together. You are a tribute to young Australian women and magnificent ambassadors.”
After practicing our conversation skills and sampling delicious Parisian sweet treats, it was time to begin enjoying the sights of Paris. First stop, the Eiffel Tower! We ate lunch near the Tower, soaking up the atmosphere of this beautiful city. Our walk along the Champs-Élysée to the Arc de Triomphe couldn’t have been more beautiful with the sun on our backs. We climbed the Arc de Triomphe to the viewing station for magnificent views of Paris in all directions.
The next day was action-packed with workshops and performances at the British School of Paris and the Conservatoire de Versailles. We worked with their school choir to present a combined concert for the school community. “Your performance certainly lifted us on to another level. It inspired us and will be long remembered.” Nicholas Hammond, Headmaster, the British School of Paris
Our visit with the Mixed-Voice Youth Choir at the Conservatoire de Versailles gave us the chance to work with an established choir of accomplished musicians and mature voices. We worked with Valérie Josse, Director of Versailles Mixed Voice Youth Choir to learn new vocal warm ups, new repertoire and the style and sound of French music. “Thank you very much to all the marvelous singers who have enchanted us at Versailles.” Valérie Josse, Director of Versailles Mixed Voice Youth Choir.
On our last day in Paris was warm and sunny as we immersed ourselves in the ambiance of Montmartre. We ascended the many steps leading to Sacre Coeur Cathedral and sang for the tourists outside in an impromptu performance. Following a visit to this beautiful building the girls had a few hours to wander the quaint laneways of this historical area and indulge in that great Parisian pastime…shopping.
We travelled north to Villers-Bretonneux where we were greeted by wonderfully warm host families who were eager to meet the girls. The girls spent the day with their host families who took them to local museums and memorials. In the evening we gathered to perform our show for their community and were delighted to receive a standing ovation. “A really great show! Your performance was amazing! You share so much happiness.” Isabelle Masson, English teacher, Jacques Brel College, Villers-Bretonneux.
The next day we visited Vignacourt British Cemetery where the girls performed the national anthems of both Australia and France in a moving ceremony, laid a wreath on behalf of the Australian Girls Choir. Australian soldiers saved the town during the First World War, and the town’s link to Australia is omnipresent, from kangaroos painted on murals to the streets named after Australian cities.
While in Villers-Bretonneux, we shared workshops with three different groups of local French-speaking students. Workshops are a highlight for the touring choristers; they present an opportunity to meet students from other choirs, share repertoire, and practice their conversation skills.
Neuenhaus is a small town situated near the Dutch border and many of the families live on farms in large houses. Upon arrival into Neuenhaus the girls were eager to meet their new hosts from Lise Meitner Gymnasium High School (LMG), practice their German and try the delicious local food which is so different in taste and style to French cuisine. The girls adored wandering the cobblestone streets, admiring the medieval architecture, and imagining what life may have been like hundreds of years ago.
The next day we met early at Lise Meitner Gymnasium High School and headed straight into rehearsals with their school choir (many of who were the host families). The girls bonded over their love of music and loved sharing repertoire with each other. The choirs performed together that evening for Neuenhaus 650th Anniversary celebration. It was so special to be included the celebrations, and the magical performance showcased this special bond the girls felt with the Lise Meitner Gymnasium High School students.
“We had a fantastic time together, it was so amazing! Come again whenever you want, you’re welcome at any time. I wish you all the best, it was a great honour!” Jens Peitzmeier, LMG Music Teacher
The following day we arrived at to Graf-Stauffenburg Gymnasium High School (GSG), where the girls jumped eagerly into workshops with their choir. The choirs rehearsed a joint concert for the GSG school community. “Thank you very much for this wonderfully inspiring concert! It was a great pleasure to hear and see the choir. Hopefully we will see each other again soon.” Barbara Niedderer, GSG Music Teacher
We set off to the lushly vegetated and picturesque village of Apeldoorn in the centre of the Netherlands where we were greeted by the friendly students and staff from Veluws College. We jumped straight into five hours of music workshops with their school choir in preparation for Saturday night’s performance – our last full-length concert of the tour.
After a long day of rehearsals the choristers were ready to meet their host families and experience home life in a new country. The girls had a lovely time with their Dutch hosts, making new friends, bike riding around town and enjoying home cooked meals. It has been incredible to see how quickly new friendships are forged. The touring staff have been particularly proud of the brave and positive manner the girls have approached this aspect of touring life.
That weekend the girls had a day-trip exploring the magical sights of Amsterdam! The day started with an hour long canal cruise followed by a walk to Dam Square to eat lunch while admiring the incredible architecture. We then spent the afternoon exploring the shops along Kalverstraat.
We caught a ferry across the English Channel from Dunkirk in France across to the beautiful White Cliffs of Dover, and soon arrived in Southend-on-Sea, a town in Essex, England. The girls spent the day in two workshops at St George’s Catholic Primary School and finished with a performance for the school community. We then spent the evening with incredible host families from Southend Choirs.
Wednesday was a big adventure through iconic London. We walked through the bustling streets to Covent Garden where the girls ate lunch and enjoy shopping in the bustling West End. It was then time for a sightseeing through Green Park to Buckingham Palace, Westminster, Big Ben, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.
We caught the tube into the heart of London for our rehearsal and first performance at Australia House. Set amidst the grandeur of the main hall in the High Commission we performed a day time show to an audience of Embassy staff, followed by an evening performance to dignitaries from Canada, Britain, New Zealand and Australia. ‘What a truly inspiring performance!! You have lifted the hearts of many tonight … What wonderful and inspirational young ladies you all are. Keep up the good work and be proud of yourselves.’ Ms Jennifer Hurst The Australian Federal Police Commander at the High Commission
This final performance reflected their incredible growth as a group and as individuals. Before heading to the airport we gathered as a group and had a final opportunity to congratulate all of the girls for their contribution to this wonderful tour experience. Each chorister made the most of every opportunity; asking for individual feedback in order to grow as a performer, reaching out to make new friends within the touring choir, and connecting with host families to learn about the culture of our many destinations.
There’s always exciting opportunities coming up!
Every year the AGC tours both internationally and nationally. If your daughter is primary school aged and you’re interested in having her enrol in the choir, you can find all of the information on our Enrolments Page. We’re always looking for creative and musical girls to join, and love welcoming new girls into the Australian Girls Choir.