And the inside was every bit as incredible as the out. The stained-glass windows were especially wow.
And do you see the iPhone in my hand? I was planning to take a selfie of Linda and me...just waiting to finish singing the song. When going through my pictures a bit later I was surprised to find a selfie I hadn't intentionally or knowingly taken....
With the group back together we boarded the bus and headed to the Strahovsky Klaster Monastery. Up on the hillside, it gave us stunning views of the city below.
We began our concerts surrounding the audience and sang four songs there before moving up to the front of the hall. I found myself standing right in front of an older Czech gentleman who was missing a few teeth...something that was obvious to me as he watched me intently throughout our first few numbers with a huge grin on his face. As we sang our third number, the "Ave Maria," his smile gave way to tears. And after the song was done he leaned over slightly and started talking to me. I was a little taken aback at first...having a conversation with an audience member in between numbers is not usually considered proper concert etiquette. But I couldn't really deny him the opportunity to tell me that "Ave Maria" was his favorite song, and had been sung at his wife's funeral. It was actually a rather sweet moment.
This was our best concert of the tour. Whether it was the great acoustics or just because we knew it was our last, I don't know. Without a doubt, when I was singing the Benedictus I know I was buoyed by the amazing accompaniment. And I sang it the best I ever had. I was having ridiculous amounts of fun...it just felt SO good to really nail it, you know? To sing it in concert the way I knew I truly could. This opportunity...to solo in these amazing cathedrals in Europe, to sing Haydn in Budapest, Vienna and Prague....is truly one of highlights of my life, something I am hugely proud of, but also very much humbled by. I will never forget it.
I love this picture because while I'm blurred, my Mom is in focus....and she's watching me sing.
Yes, Chris is indeed facing away from the choir and conductor while playing this organ. Believe it or not, he used a rearview mirror to see. I imagine that had to be extremely difficult to watch the music in front of him at the same time he's valiantly trying to focus on Lyle so as to stay with the beat. But Chris did so, admirably.
One of the songs we performed, "Waters Ripple and Flow," is an old Czech folk song that at one point in time had been banned. Under communism, possibly? One week before we were scheduled to leave, our director Lyle decided that we should learn the song in Czech. Have you ever tried to sing in Czech? It's harder even than German...and German gives me fits. (Thank heavens my solo was in Latin, yes?) We weren't sure we'd be able to truly pull it off. Would our audience just laugh at us? But when Bonnie, the first soloist for the song, sang her first phrase in Czech, we could see the huge smiles and the slight chatter as they realized what song we were singing and that we were singing it in their language. They even started to clap in the middle of the song, they were so delighted! And afterwards, unlike our other concerts, rather than go off stage and into a side room we exited down the aisle and out the back where we were able to shake hands with our audience and talk with them as they left. And oh, how they wanted to talk! Part Czech and part broken English, we mostly were able to understand their words. Such amazing people...stoic on the outside, genuine and beautiful on the inside. It truly was a great concert...a perfect way to end our Europe concert series.
After the concert we were let loose to find some dinner and enjoy night life at Old Town Square.
Our final day in Prague was basically a do-whatever-you-want sort of shopping/sightseeing day with no concrete plans other than a dinner cruise later that night.
We hit the Charles Bridge again...a little more leisurely this time.
Then we headed over to the Lennon Wall. At first I thought it was the Lenin Wall and wasn't quite sure why everyone was so jazzed about a wall commemorating some communist leader. So it made much more sense when I realized that actually it was John Lennon that was referred to. This wall was a place where Czech youth in the late 80's would air their grievances relating to the communist government, but also their hopes for a better world...a movement that was called Lennonism. Clashes between students and security police over this wall was common and even when it was painted over, the very next day it filled up with poems and lyrics and other such graffiti again. The graffiti continues today, a symbol of love and peace.
And we had to laugh a little at Linda when we saw that she had unintentionally placed herself right underneath Lennon's handlebar mustache...
After making a quick stop at the hotel to get fancied up a bit....
We had a buffet style dinner inside the boat, but spent the majority of our cruise time on top so we could see the view.
Melissa and I both made it into the finals with her can of Prague air and my "Mona Shrek" painting.
We were loading luggage onto the bus by 6:00 AM the next morning, heading to the airport. Our glorious European singing tour was done. Good heavens, what incredibly wonderful and memorable adventures we had!
(Granted, we had no idea the adventures that were still in store just trying to get home....)
There has already been talk about another tour in 2-3 years...this time to the British Isles. I hope so. Because I already miss these people so much!
Eisenstadt and the dead composers club
Vienna: Lipizzaner Stallions, a Vineyard and Karlskirche