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Going Underground

15 November, 2015

Emma reports on Stile’s return to one of our favourite destinations:

“I got more than a few raised eyebrows when I told people I was taking my five week old baby to Switzerland so I could work, but I explained this was really an unmissable trip – after all, it’s not every day you are invited to perform on a boat on an underground lake!

“This September saw our sixth trip to Sion in the beautiful Valais region of Switzerland, this time with two concerts on the itinerary. After a long day’s travel with the standard delayed flight to Geneva and a train journey that is rather more pleasant in daylight, we arrived at the hotel Elite, which in previous years had fallen somewhat short of its moniker. However it had had something of a facelift since last year and we all slept really well in our lovely rooms!

“The next day was the day of the concert on the Lac souterrain de Saint-Léonard. We had very little idea what to expect, except that it would be cold (it’s not usual for the promoters to insist that we take huge flasks of tea an coffee to rehearsal with us!). The reality was more stunning than the pictures had led us to anticipate. The cave is around 300 metres long and was formed in an area of various different rock types, and made accessible by an earthquake in 1946 when much of the water that had filled it drained away. There are huge trout swimming in the water, which made the occasional contribution to our musical offerings! We were rowed out to the boat on which we would perform and rehearsed as much as we could, though we were limited by not being able to do our usual thing of someone going out to listen to the acoustic without getting rather wet.


“The audience, on four boats floating next to us, seemed to love the concert (despite the late start and one of our sopranos having to hitch a lift over to us on an audience boat after leaving her music at the hotel…) and it was definitely one of the most memorable Stile concerts for all of us!

“The next day we didn’t rehearse until 7pm as the Compline concert was not until 10.30. Lie-ins were had by all, and were necessary to nurse the delicate heads and stomachs caused by an overload of raclette and very moreish local wine. Many of the group hired a couple of cars and drove over to see a lake, calling in at a spa on their way back to Sion. Mike, Isobel and I walked up the hill on the edge of Sion to find the stunning view overlooking the airport (voted most picturesque landing in the world by pilots!)


“The concert that night was in the usual church on top of one of the two hills in the town and the candles placed around church and the late hour made for a very atmospheric concert.


“Another lovely trip to Sion, this time made even more special by the underground lake (oh and before you ask, Isobel was perfectly well behaved on the flight!).”