Greetings from Prague –
We’ve had plenty of success in posting on facebook and instagram, but wifi insufficient for much else. The boys are off singing at the Hagibor retirement home today, and I am staying behind to find better wifi than what’s in our hostel lobby, where Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album is playing. Sorta strange to be listening to “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” today…
To catch up:
Sunday’s concert – The boys had the great privilege of performing in the theater of Schwetzingen Palace, the summer home of the princes of this region of Germany. Built in 1753, Mozart performed here when he was 7 years old! In honor of that, our accompanist, Immanuel Mykyta-Chomsky wowed the sold out house playing the final movement of Mozart’s 12th Piano Sonata
Between the rehearsal and the concert, the boys walked the formal gardens that are reminiscent of Versaille with reflecting pools, water spouting statuary, and all manner of topiary, etc.
We shared the concert with three other choirs, one the age of the trainers and apprentices, one the age of Towne and Concert Choir, and a PG Motet-aged girlchoir. We sang two sets, and of course finished with the typical South African set outside the venue. A typical tour treat is hearing new boys take on solos like Andrew P singing “Baba Yetu” and Calvin W. singing “In the Still of the Night.
The concert was sold out, and the audience not disappointed! The boys’ host families turned out in full force with the affection that had grown quickly over the first four nights of the tour. As usual, the boys have been terrific ambassadors of our choir and our country. The audience was delighted and impressed with the diversity of repertoire, the quality of the singing, and the excitement of watching the choir, especially so to an audience more accustomed to boys standing still with their hands behind their back. A perfect end to the first leg of the tour, made even more so with the addition of KSB alumni Alexander and Konstantin Minch joining the grads for a few pieces. Alexander and Konstantin, sons of our ace tour planner Angela Wende, sang and toured with KSB for many years before moving back to Germany.
On Monday we said goodbye to Heidelberg, boarded the buses for Nuremberg, a halfway point between Heidelberg and Prague. Boys continued having their individual time talking with Inge about “I Am A Star” and her experiences in Terezin. For a couple of bus rides, I’ve been sitting in front of Inge, and so have had the chance to eavesdrop, and have been impressed to a boy with their thoughtful, insightful questions and with their engagement with Inge, which always ends with a hug.
First stop in Nuremberg was a formal reception in the mayor’s office. After the reception, a walk through the old town led to a detour into the Church of St. Sebald, a gothic vaulted ceiling, just the kind of space for a boychoir! Didn’t have to be asked twice when a church staff wondered if the boys would sing. Zikr and Ani Ma’amin may not have been what they expected, but the boys sounded so beautiful in the space that expectations were exceeded.
Our final stop was a tour of the Palace of Justice, including Courtroom 600, site of the Nuremberg Trials of 1946, the first time in history when war criminals were tried for crimes against humanity. This stop was especially meaningful for me, since my 95 year old dad, who served in World War II in the 1258th Army Engineers, was part of the American team who prepared the Palace of Justice for the trials in the summer of 1945. It was quite moving to stand where he stood at the end of the war, at an age not much older than the grads. I shared his story with the boys, reading a text that he sent me with his memories, adding the voice of an American GI to Inge’s stories.
Harry Platt (right) somewhere in France, 1945
Monday concluded with a delicious dinner where the boys could make their own choices from the menu, and then were turned out into the square to buy some ice cream afterwards. Back at our hostel, we turned the corner from homestays to what the rest of the trip will be, hostels and hotels!
On Tuesday, once again we loaded the buses, this time to Prague, but with a first stop at the Nuremberg Rally Grounds, to witness the site of Hitler’s rise to power. Once again, the boys were thoughtful in processing this experience. Alex G. pondered the dissonance between the quiet park grounds with the intensity of the hatred that once filled the place where we walked. At our final stop, the stands where Hitler spoke and where the allies tore down the Nazi swastika, we sang Ani Ma’amin and the Star Spangled Banner, marking our visit in song.
Prague – longest leg of the tour.
We’re settled into our home for the week, and have started to explore this most beautiful of European cities. In addition to planned performances, the boys have been singing everywhere! If you’re following us on instagram and facebook you’ve seen the video evidence, everywhere from Prague’s iconic Charles Bridge to the packed restaurant where we had dinner on the first night.
The mornings have included rehearsals and performances at Hagibor, a project of the Jewish Community in Prague, both a retirement home and a day care. We’ve been joined by students of the Lauder School, which originally served the community as a Jewish orphanage in the pre-WWII era, and was site of the first performance of Brundibár.
Yesterday afternoon, the boys sang the national anthem at an early July 4th party at the US Ambassador’s residence, then filled themselves with endless food from Burger King, KFC, Starbucks, etc, and rubbed elbows with diplomats and generals. #tourheaven say the veteran singers and chaps!
It’s a rainy afternoon, so the plan to do some sightseeing may be replaced with a movie before we make our way to the Spanish Synagogue for this evening’s concert. The boys are having a great time – everyone is happy and healthy, well fed, and sounding great.
Thanks to all the chaps for their photos. We will keep adding more pictures to this post as wifi allows.