Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

BHSA Barcelona Music Tour

Our Birkenhead High School Academy 2015 music tour to Barcelona was a fantastic success. At the beginning of July, 80 students and 9 staff flew out from Manchester Airport to complete a four-date tour in Spain. I had the unenviable task of preparing and leading the tour.

The main three ensembles that we took across were the choir, the string group and the wind band. Alongside these, we also had a small guitar ensemble, a vocal ensemble and instrumental and vocal soloists. We had different repertoire for the different concerts, which was dependant on how formal each venue was.

There was a heatwave in Barcelona while we there and the high temperature made some of the concert venues rather difficult to set up and perform in. However, the girls were all very professional and gave fully-committed and musical performances throughout. We performed our classical repertoire at Barcelona Cathedral and the church in Place de la Villa, which went down really well with the locals. The acoustics at these venues really brought the best out of the string group in particular; the church also really suited the classical guitarists and singers. Both concerts had an excellent turn out as they were well advertised in amongst the community by Club Europe, our tour company.

Our other two concerts were less formal affairs and allowed our pop repertoire to be aired.

Placa de Barretina was a 15 minute walk from the hotel and this is where we set up on the outdoor stage in a courtyard full of relaxed bars where many locals were enjoying food and drink. The wind band really benefited from the more open acoustic at this venue as they were able to play their more boisterous repertoire.

Our other informal concert took place in our hotel on the last night and this was a fitting party-style way to end our stay in Barcelona. Following an hour of highlights from the rest of the tour, we hosted BHSA’s third live lounge, which was the first one to take place abroad! Roughly 25 girls starred in this and they really showed off their individual talent. We were the hotel’s official entertainment for the night and everyone who attended stayed until the bitter end, which was great testament to the professional quality of the performances. Not only were we celebrating the success of the tour, we also said goodbye to our amazing director of music, Chris Watson, who is moving on to pastures new in September, so it was also a poignant and rousing way for him to finish his tenure at our school. We wish him great success for the future.

Throughout the week, we were assisted by a lovely tour guide called Sandra who stayed with us at our hotel in Malgrat de Mar, The Sorra Dorrauda. The hotel was ideal both with its amenities and where it was situated; the girls were able to enjoy the hotel pool, the beach and the local town centre in their free time.

Big thanks must go to the Institute of Arts in Barcelona who loaned equipment to us for our tour; particularly thanks must go to its Principal, Giles Auckland-Lewis, vocal lecturer, Ian Davidson and Adaia Matas. Giles gave some of us a tour of the Institute while we were there and it was inspirational to both the staff and the girls and gave us a real insight into what they are working towards over there. Giles used to be the head of higher education at LIPA and he opened his own institution modelled on LIPA just over two years ago.

The experience of this week will stay with the students and teachers forever; it was such a musical, positive and worthwhile week.

I must thank the following staff for being so fantastic on and in the lead-up to the tour: Chris Watson, Jeanette Boyhan, Gwen Saccheri, Ellen Jeffcott, Ellie Crellin, Celia Hebbron, Rob Chalmers and Emily Jackson. Ed, Hannah and Alberto at Club Europe (our tour company) were excellent and worked hard to accommodate our every need. Also, Sharon Hayes, Hayley and the finance department were absolutely brilliant in preparing behind the scenes and are the unsung heroes of the tour!

A final thanks must go to the students. Seeing them enjoying and getting the most out of these musical offerings and watching them progress are the reasons why I teach. I am lucky to work with such talented young people.