Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Last day in Austria

Friday June 1, 2012.

Vienna was a beautiful city; I cannot do it justice in words. I loved the never ending stunning beauty of all the old buildings, and the way it felt to walk among them.  Everything is old; everything is full of history.  It's like walking through a living, breathing past.

Typical street in Vienna
St. Stephen's Cathedral (where Mozart was married)

St. Peter's church (we performed here)

Don't remember what this was... pretty awesome though.

Me in front of Belvedere Palace, Vienna

Famous Sachertorte from Vienna  (chocolate cake with apricot filling).

However, I eventually needed some green, so on our last day, I woke up early, and hopped on a streetcar to the Vienna Woods (Wienerwald).

The landscape was very hilly, and the trees very tall.  Even though I didn’t go very far along the trail, the woods seemed very secluded, as if I had escaped the city entirely.  I just sat for a while, enjoying the quiet.

Me in the Vienna Woods

Loved it here.

Eventually I had to turn back and get back on the streetcar for our bus transfer to the nearby town of Gumpoldskirchen.  We had seen in our itinerary that we were to have a reception by the mayor before our concert there, but none of us was quite sure what to expect.

When our bus arrived in the small town, we were greeted by someone from the town, who walked us to the church we were to perform in later.  It’s a wine-making town, so there were beautiful vineyards everywhere we looked.  The town itself was full of beautiful little buildings, all originals from way back in the 1500’s.  It was neat to walk around this quiet little town.  It felt like we had stepped back into another time.  Little did we know what was yet to come.

Gumpoldskirchen (building with the pointy green roof is their city hall)

We were walked to their tiny city hall where the mayor was waiting for us, and we all shook his hand as we walked inside.  There was a long unbroken round table that circled the room, and the mayor and our conductor sat at the head of it.  We felt very special and official.  Our conductor and accompanist were presented with bottles of Gumpoldskirchen wine.  Gumpoldskirchen is apparently famous for two things: wine and choirs (they have seven of them!)  We were then all given a small glass of wine to taste.  The all-male choir, Mach 4, was there as well and performed a few pieces for us, which was awesome.

YUCC and Mach 4 in front of Gumpoldskirchen city hall.  Photo courtesy of this article about us.

Then we were all taken outside and a small plaque with our choir’s name on it (and our country and date of visit) was attached to their wall of special guests.  It was a pretty incredible afternoon.  We hadn’t known what to expect, and we all felt so welcome and special. 

Our conductor and the mayor screwing on the plaque


After our conductor got us all a quick bite to eat (which was very kind of her but also very wise – her entire choir had just had wine right before a performance!) we went to get changed and ready for the concert. As we walked over to the church, the bells were ringing, and people from the town were walking and driving up to the church to watch us. Our conductor said this is what they used to do in the renaissance – everyone from the town coming up to listen to music together.

Drawing of the church that they gifted us with
I can’t describe the concert itself- how do you put a musical experience into words?  Mach 4 performed first, and I really enjoyed listening to them.  They were very good – and there’s something very satisfying about listening to all-male choral music.

YUCC and Mach 4
Then it was our turn.  As we went along and sang our other pieces, our audience reception just got better and better; after a couple of pieces, they just wouldn’t stop clapping!  Apparently when they’re really impressed by a piece, that’s what they do.  Then after our last one, they started the rhythmic clapping, which means they want an encore, so we did one of our pieces again and received even more applause. 

Afterwards, Mach 4 joined us on stage and we all performed a traditional yodeling song together (a very slow, calm one, that sounded like a lullaby), to the delight of the audience.  They just wouldn’t stop clapping for us!  I think we were all overwhelmed by our reception in that small town.   

Afterwards, we all went together to this delightful little tavern-like place, made of wooden logs on the inside and very low ceilings, and had a buffet of traditional Austrian foods.  The wine was plentiful and kept coming - very generously offered to our table by the house.  After dinner, Mach 4 spontaneously started singing, encouraging us to clap along or sing along if we could pick it up.  Then it was our turn, and we sang “Locus Iste” – and of course everyone in the tavern joined in, because they all grow up with this music over there.  

We were all profoundly moved by the experience – everyone was so warm, so friendly.  Even though many of the Mach 4 couldn’t speak English and none of us could really speak German, we were united by our love for music.  It was our common language, and that evening in the tavern, with the food and wine and singing, with the genuine feeling in their eyes when we clinked our glasses and said, “Prost,” we all felt strangely at home, loved and connected.
Gumpoldskirchen wine in the tavern

I’m having trouble putting the experience into words.  It was just very profound in all respects.  Who would have thought we would end up having such an incredible time in the small little town of Gumpoldskirchen?

1 comment: