Soprano Emilia Morton on her Seoul experience

So it’s with a heavy heart that we come to the end of our tour blog. We hoped you have all enjoyed hearing about our experiences – here is the final chapter!

We were understandably reluctant to leave Sydney and sunny Australia on Wednesday and it was the first time in South Korea for me and many of the group. So we were delighted to find Seoul a friendly and welcoming city. From a tourist’s point of view, one need only glance at a map and a friendly local would be at your side offering directions. As performers we were treated like celebrities by many of the audience! On our day off, whilst some visited a local theme park, others of us headed for Gwangjang market. We meandered through stall after stall of beautiful fabrics, from the most exquisite embroidered silks used for the National costumes, to printed cottons and even gortex for raincoats!  We sampled local fried corncakes and sat down on heated benches to steaming hot bowls of dumpling soup.

In the evening the whole group were booked in for dinner at a local restaurant: Korean again but this time beautifully presented “haute cuisine”. I for one was grateful for the chance to sample food I was unlikely to order from a menu but ended up rather liking, like water kimchee, a raw beef salad and cold cinnamon tea!

Our last concert of the tour, in the LG Arts Centre, had a real buzz about it. It was packed to the rafters and their uproarious applause and being mobbed in the foyer afterwards for photos and autographs are something we are unlikely to forget in a hurry!

I think my colleagues will agree that this has been an extremely special tour and we can’t wait to revisit all the venues as soon as they’ll have us back!

Emilia

Tenor George Pooley talks Sydney…

And finally to Sydney, the final destination on the Australian leg of the trip, for Tuesday’s concert in the Opera House. It’s difficult to think of a more iconic concert venue anywhere, and in one of the great cities of the world too.

Sydney has so much to offer to anyone visiting, whether it’s climbing the Harbour Bridge, power-boating in the bay, hopping on the ferry to one of the many beaches, or simply enjoying a stroll in the Botanical Gardens and enjoying the bustle and shopping in the downtown area. All of the above have been ticked off by most of us over the two days. An added bonus (for some, at least) has been West Indies and Australian Cricket Teams staying in the same hotel. No doubt they were similarly excited by our presence!

On arrival, we were given a cultural welcome in the Botanical Gardens and a short talk about Australia’s indigenous history, which included some pretty tasty didgeridoo playing but, alas, no boomerang throwing due to spatial confines. After that, whilst some were involved in a short concert and presentation, several of us took the ferry over to Manly to test out the surf on the beach and to enjoy some great seafood at the Manly Fish Café. The return ferry, after dark, provided some spectacular views of the Sydney skyline.

Singing in The Concert Hall of the Opera House in front of a large audience the following day was a real highlight (there have been quite a few of those over the last week or so) and the reception afterwards was indicative of the great hospitality and generosity that has been shown to us since we arrived down under.  We’re all sad to be leaving Oz, but with any luck we’ll be back soon.

George

Alto Ian Aitkenhead on International Women’s Day, Tasmanian Devils and Australian rugby union…

Saturday morning saw us bid a fond farewell to Canberra (a slightly groggy farewell from some of the group thanks to the ingenuity of whoever thought to put a microbrewery pub on the ground floor of the Llewellyn Hall…), and hello (or g’day) to sunny Brisbane.

We arrived in the early afternoon, and were soon exploring the South Bank, where we discovered a man-made lagoon with an inviting beach – it would have been wrong not to take advantage of that, and we were soon immersed in the warm depths of the lagoon. In many ways, the South Bank at Brisbane looks quite similar to its London equivalent…but I don’t think there would be a lot of use for an outdoor, unheated (except by the sun) pool back home.

The sun and the “sea” having duly been worshipped, the group split up for the evening. Harry and Marie-Sophie led a party to Eagle Street for cocktails and fine seafood dining…but I opted for more manly pursuits. An intrepid sextet (including, contrary to many people’s preconceptions, all three countertenors) hopped on a (free) bus to the 52,500-seater Suncorp Stadium, where the Queensland Reds were taking on the New South Wales Waratahs in Australia’s oldest rugby union derby game. Beer in hand, we watched what, if I’m perfectly honest, was an underwhelming and mistake-ridden game (particularly from the home side), and our newly-beloved Reds fell to a comprehensive 23-5 defeat. Great stadium, though, and Eddie was particularly enamoured of the efficient and clean transportation system. He insisted I mention that.

Early to bed…and a 6am alarm call for me this morning. Anyone who’s followed The Sixteen over the last few years knows about my penchant for running and walking great distances for charity (sometimes dressed in ridiculous costumes…). On our South Bank wander yesterday I noticed that this morning, to celebrate International Women’s Day, there was a 5km race, raising money for breast cancer charities. Never one to shirk from a challenge (and thinking that 5km should be manageable, even though I had done no training), I decided to enter, figuring that, since the race started at 7am, conditions should still be relatively cool. How wrong I was! The blazing sun made for a very sweaty race, and I was grateful to make it round in one piece…(if you’re moved by this feat of endurance, do please consider supporting Breast Cancer Care and donating on https://www.justgiving.com/Ian-Aitkenhead/)

A long shower and a large breakfast later, it was time for a morning cruise up the Brisbane river to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to see Tasmanian Devils and wombats, to feed kangaroos and (the best bit) to cuddle koalas!

This blog has become rather longer than I was expecting, but I’ve really enjoyed Brisbane, and done so many exciting and fun things. Talking of which, it’s time to change into my tails and sing the concert…bye for now!

Ian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunshine, rainbow ice cream and bouncy balls!

Sunshine, rainbow ice cream and bouncy balls – alto Eddie McMullan gives us an update  on his tour experience so far….

It was with heavy hearts that we left Perth on Wednesday morning. It had simply been the most wonderful start to the tour with its beaches, 30 degree heat and a great first   concert. I think we’ll all agree though that Melbourne has not been a let-down! Half an hour after arriving and checking in, we found ourselves in the middle of a food and wine festival. A long table right by the water with the city in the background was the scene for barbecued steak sandwiches, cheese boards and local beers and wines.
Yesterday a number of us had a great time exploring the Sea Life centre, a little retail therapy and yet more delicious local food.

The Elisabeth Murdoch Concert Hall was last night’s venue and what a special place it was. Two out of two concerts now with a full house and wonderful audiences. What more could we ask?

I’m sitting writing this with a beautiful view from the 21st floor apartment I’ve shared with Ian for the last 2 nights (we altos stick together) and we’re just about to leave for Canberra. Thank you Melbourne for a lovely time – sunshine, rainbow ice cream, bouncy balls on the waterfront and a memorable concert.

Eddie

Second stop: Melbourne

Boy, did we love Perth. In fact I think we might just set up office here. Our concert last night at the wonderful St Mary’s Cathedral seemed to go down well with the audience, particularly the cheerful cicada who chirruped appreciatively throughout – the perils of performance in a hot climate. Here are a couple of photos, before and after the concert. Thank you Chris, from the Perth Festival, for looking after us so well!

Jetted off to Melbourne today and we’re already loving it here. A nice drink down by the river and a moonlit stroll across the bridge (see photo of Sixteen sopranos Milly and Emma).

Back to work tomorrow with our second performance of The Queen of Heaven.

Marie-Sophie