By Cathy Johnson
Who knew that for Voca Lyrica, the name of this column would finally come true in the summer of 2017? We literally did go up and down the Danube River on our recent performance tour. And it was delightful.
Our traveling group of 41, including Voca Lyrica singers, spouses and supporters, flew into Munich on June 28 and left for Passau and the Danube the following day. After boarding the SS Amadeus Royal, the first leg of our river journey was UP the river to Regensburg, where we sang a concert in St. Agidien Church. And after a lovely surprise reception, we went back to the riverboat and proceeded DOWN the Danube.
They told us we would go through eleven locks while on the river, and although the first set happened on our way to Regensburg, we passed through most of the rest at night. Riverboat travel feels a bit more low-key than the big cruise ships. Obviously smaller, only three decks, there were 114 passengers total and 43 crew members along on the journey. The meals were wonderfully varied, reflecting the cuisines of the countries we sailed through. The service was both attentive and personal, and the weather was pretty cooperative too.
Our concerts were all in large, established churches along the way: the Monastery Church of Corpus Christi in Czesky Krumlov, Czech Republic; St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna; Holy Savior Jesuit Church in Bratislava, Slovakia; and the final one, with another surprise pre-concert reception in the Reformed Church in Budapest. And while five concerts may sound like a lot, we had many more singing opportunities along the way. In most of the churches that we toured, our guide Marta would say, ”Would you like to sing?” Of course, the answer was always yes. And so we did – 15 times. We even got to sing informally in the Vienna Opera House when we toured that famous building.
We sang on board the riverboat as well: at a Sunday church service, “O Canada” on July 1 and “The Star Spangled Banner” at dinner on July 4. We sang in two wine cellars during scheduled wine tastings, and we composed a song for our guide Marta and sang it to her on the bus on our last day with her in Budapest.
But besides all the singing, there was sightseeing as well: castles, churches, centuries-old cemeteries, national monuments, a synagogue, a tram ride and Pletna boat ride in Slovenia during the optional extra 5-day tour, and shopping. The people in the countries we visited couldn’t have been friendlier and our two guides were outstanding – so knowledgeable and flexible.
Ask any Voca Lyrica member who has traveled on our various singing tours and she will tell you what a great bonding experience it is to travel and perform, share meals and bus rides, take selfies and watch the world go by. And besides all the boosting of those local economies, as shown by our well-filled, weighty suitcases coming home, Voca Lyrica hopes that we represented our home town and country well during our time in Europe and left a positive impression in the gift of music and song.