Saturday, July 5, 2014

Vienna...Lipizzaner Stallions, Heruiger Wolff and Karlskirche

Ever hear of the Lipizzaner Stallions? I had not, but apparently they are very famous. Melissa and Mom were in raptures when they heard that we would have the option to go watch a practice at the Winter Palace stables. (Melissa took riding classes in college and my mom has read countless books about horses, specifically show horses and race horses.) I thought it sounded interesting and decided to go. And the stallions were indeed beautiful, graceful and talented. Others of our group found the two hour practice somewhat boring after awhile and left to find gelato. (Because I mean, seriously....can you ever get too much gelato?) I left too, but not because of boredom or a gelato craving...

Sitting next to Melissa and Mom who were so enthusiastic about the whole thing and knew what each of the moves were called and how complicated and complex they were made our experience maybe a little different than others of our group. But shortly after arriving, I started sneezing. And going through mounds of kleenex. My eyes were itchy and watery. I'd been suffering from hay fever type allergies ever since arriving in Vienna and so that's what I thought this was. But it continued to get worse. Soon my throat was scratchy and sore and Katie gave me a jolly rancher to suck on. Eventually I started coughing...and realized that my throat was closing off. Good heavens, this is what that feels like? I'd never had this experience before, though I had watched Bryan suffer from these same symptoms. It dawned on me that this was no ordinary hay fever symptoms...I was clearly allergic to something in that enormous room. Probably not the horses themselves but more likely the dust in the air from the stuff they were prancing around on. (And can I say once again...since when do I have allergies?? Hmph.) Though we still had over an hour left of the practice, I decided I needed to leave. And I'm glad I did because though I immediately started feeling better after I left, it still took me quite a few hours to really get over the allergy attack. I was disappointed to miss out on the rest of the show.
 The courtyard of the Winter Palace...

We weren't allowed to take pictures, but Katie had already snuck this one before we were told to put our cameras away. (Funny side note: they were so incredibly strict about pictures that they even had employees wandering back and forth through the crowds to make sure no one had any cameras out. I'm sure it had to do with safety for the horses with flashes and such. But Katie unthinkingly made a comment about "camera nazis" under her breath. To which Melissa quickly reminded her that maybe referring to people in Austria as Nazis might not be in the best taste. haha!) Chandeliers and statues and other such finery...that's where the Lipizzaner Stallions go through their daily practices. I guess that even when you are a horse, royalty has its privileges.

We had lunch at at Heruiger Wolff...a vineyard up in the Vienna Woods just on the outside of town. It was a charming little place and we passed a few relaxing and happy hours here.

Though I opted to not sample their homemade wine, I did order some some fresh grape juice seeing as it seemed the thing to do, being at a vineyard and all. Nicole dressed up that day in her traditional dirndl (which led to an informative and somewhat humorous discussion as to when and where "d├ęcolletage" is appropriate. Apparently wearing a dirndl is one of those times. Good to know.) Nicole's parents met us at the restaurant, also dressed traditionally Austrian. Her father brought his accordion and the three of them performed song after song...we all joined in at times with singing and dancing. Out in the courtyard under the trees and beautiful weather, it was just a delightful afternoon.

That evening we sang at Karlskirche. Over 400 years old, this cathedral had seen its fair share of musical greats performing or even debuting their works. The architecture and interior decor was absolutely breathtaking.

To be singing here, to join the legacy of those who had performed here before, to know that I was standing where Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven and Haydn had...was nothing short of mind boggling to me. In light of that, I was nervous, but completely giddy about singing my solo, the Benedictus by Haydn, in the very city where Haydn had written it! The Viennese have high musical standards....and who can blame them, living in the City of Music as they do. But they seemed to enjoy our concert.

From Melissa's email home to Dad that night:
Our tour guide Nicole counted 200 people in the audience and made a point that these were people who came in and stayed the whole time not those who wandered in and out off the street. She also commented that  Viennese people are a bit particular and judgemental about the quality of music they enjoy. Lyle had been warned against doing too much Americana stuff and encouraged to keep it classical. He disregarded the counsel, trusting his gut, and in the end the man who had arranged the concert and given that advice told Lyle that it was perfect and well received and he was so glad we presented the selections we did.
I saw tears after Katie's Homeward Bound. I saw awe on the faces during Sarah's Benedictus. Lyle mentioned that my How Can I Keep From Singing was one if the highlights. You should be proud if your girls daddy!
It was a great concert. Unfortunately not flawless but a good concert. We performed two encores and they asked for a third, had we had one to give them!

We were told that European audiences don't give standing ovations like Americans do. But this audience clapped in rhythm continuously at the end of our concert...their version of a standing ovation. In fact, some of them did actually stand.

By the time we made it off "stage" and into the back rooms after our second encore, I was in tears....joyful, giddy tears. I pulled my sisters into a big hug and said, "I am so proud of us!!!" I was completely overcome with the evening and the over the top "coolness factor" of singing what we did, where we did that night. It's an experience I will never, ever forget.

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