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5 September, 2021

Back on the Road!

Jonathan has the lowdown on our first trip abroad for many a moon!

“About 20 months(!) since our last concert on foreign soil, we were delighted to assemble at the Eurostar terminal on Thursday to travel to the Oude Muziek Festival in Utrecht, to perform to a packed audience in the wonderful Domkerk there. Thoroughly swabbed and with reams of certificates and QR codes, we made our way to Netherlands for our ‘Songs of Longing and Exile’ programme, a collaboration with London-based Syrian oud player, Rihab Azar.

“After a civilised train journey through Belgium and France, we alighted in Utrecht and, resisting the urge to take a detour in one of the wonderful outdoor cafes for a refreshing pils, we went straight to our rehearsal room to reacquaint ourselves with the programme, which we last performed in March 2020 before finding our hotel and settling in.

“The next morning we had some time to explore the beautiful streets of Utrecht, with James, Helen, Kate, Becky and Amy bravely taking a canoe around the canals. Some of us only slightly damp for the afternoon rehearsal, we really enjoyed singing in the Domkerk, of which only half of the original building remains, but still with incredible proportions and a lovely acoustic.

“It was wonderful to sing to a full church and especially to see the expressions on the faces of the audience without masks! The programme comprises settings of Dowland lachrimae written for viols with newly-commissioned texts exploring modern refugee stories. In the light of the most recent events in Afghanistan, the texts are as relevant as ever and continue to be extremely moving.

“We then repaired to one of our favourite restaurants when in Utrecht, in a converted church where we were appropriately seated in the organ loft!

“The advance party left early for a flight back to Heathrow, but some of us stayed longer for a leisurely brunch by the side of the canal in the city centre before embarking back on the train journey to St Pancras, sustained by the wonderful cakes which old friends from Dartington were kind enough to send to us to celebrate our return to Utrecht.

“We hope to return to Utrecht in the coming years and look forward to our next concert in the Roman River Festival in Colchester, before we set off on the Eurostar once again to sing in Les Voix du Camp du Drap d’Or festival, celebrating 500 years since the famous meeting of Henry VIII and Charles I of France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold.”