Music and Performing Arts Captains reflect on the European Music Tour
6 February 2024

Whether it was the beautifully ornate Baroque architecture, or the deep ceded historical character of each town, or the sound of music bouncing around a cathedral built before Australia was even called Australia, the charm and personality of Europe is a marvel that our talented senior musicians had the privilege of experiencing over the summer break.

We began our journey in Paris, after a full 24 hours of flying. Upon landing, we were introduced to our tour guide, the wonderful Alex, who somehow felt like a friend that we had made years ago. 

Our Parisian accommodation was voted the ‘best breakfast’, with the first taste of Europe being freshly baked baguettes and croissants. We got to sight-seeing as quickly as possible, exploring music history with tangible evidence of how instruments evolved over time at the Musée de la Musique. We also had the amazing opportunity to climb the Eiffel Tower, and the views of Paris were so overwhelmingly breathtaking. Our first performance as a group saw us setting up in a retirement home, where we shared our love of music to French retirees, who clapped along with us and even shared a dance with some lucky individuals. Champs Elysée’s shopping strip was a beautiful backdrop as we made our way to our 2nd performance at the stunning La Madeleine Cathedral. Never had we experienced a space that seemed to move and perform with us – it was a very special moment. 

After getting equipped with the basics of French, learning how to use the metro, and exploring the wonders of Paris, it was time to make our way to Ypres, in Belgium. Travelling to Ypres, we saw areas of land where world wars took place. It was a surreal and confronting feeling; learning about the war in the classroom feels nothing like standing on the same frontlines where thousands sacrificed their lives. It was highly emotional for us to have the chance to perform ‘In Flanders Fields’ in this area, with highlights being our participation in the Menin Gate remembrance service, and our impromptu performance at the Saint George’s Memorial Church.

We began our journey in Amsterdam with an introduction to the city life around ‘Centraal Station’. Our first performance was in the English Reformed Church, which was a hospitable and kind audience. I think I speak for all of us when I say Amsterdam was where most of the Euro allowance was spent; there was a shop there for everyone! We got to explore the city on a guided bike tour, which introduced us to the amazing sights and landmarks around the city. Our tour in the Netherlands ended with a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, and a beautiful classical guitarist concert.

After a long-haul bus ride to Prague, with a snowy stopover in Leipzig for the night, we were greeted with Czech Republic’s rich history at the most beautiful Prague Castle. Our first night finished with a jazz concert in the mirror chapel – a very fun performance. We explored the old town, and performed in the new town, totally immersing ourselves in the culture and beauty of the city.

A stunning town called Český Krumlov was conveniently on our way to Austria. We all marvelled at the bright snow against a colourful building backdrop, with the setting sun peeking through old structures. Snow angels, snow men and snowball fights were commonplace, but just taking in the scenery was a refreshing break from our long bus drive.

The Austrian Alps illuminated for us as we approached Salzburg, a hub of old music culture and beautiful scenery. We met Mozart (officially, best friends) and took selfies with his statue, as well as toured through his house. Perhaps the most special moments on the trip took place in acoustically beautiful surroundings, where we decided to share some of Mozart’s compositions to the public. Salzburg was full of sound – a church organ in musical conversation with our choir, its presence strong through every fibre of our bodies; a bell marking our arrival in the town, with a harmonic series so clear it seemed like a full orchestra welcoming us; the cheers and laughter of our new Austrian school friends, clapping and dancing to our music. A highlight for us all.

Our final destination was the wonderful Vienna. We had a lovely stop at the St Florian’s Monastery on route, where we were all impressed by the ornate architecture, spanning thousands of years. A riveting scavenger hunt took place around the city centre, exploring landmarks, recreating moments in history and learning more about the capital city. The Haus der Musik had us practicing our conducting skills, as well as immersing ourselves in the works of famous composers and the Vienna Philharmonic, which was utterly inspiring.  Our final performance at St. Peter’s Church was bittersweet; not only was it our last concert as a group, but it was also our last performance with Mr Andrew Leach, who led the tour rehearsals and co-ordination, and who had made a huge and lasting impact on each of us as budding musicians. We will all miss sharing the stage with you; thank-you for all the opportunities to become fully emersed in our art over the years. 

Another 24hr flight, tired, homesick and sad to be leaving Alex and Europe behind – arriving back in Melbourne and seeing our families whom we all missed was the best medicine. On behalf of the whole Europe team, we would like to thank our families for giving us the chance to be musically and personally inspired; performing, exploring and learning in Europe was an experience that we will all hold on to forever.

As Music Captains, we are blessed to share these memories with our community and are always so proud to perform alongside all of you talented young musicians – we loved every moment on and off the stage. We cannot thank you enough. Hopefully, we will be back in Europe, whether it is to perform, or just experience the breathtaking personality of the continent again!

– Ruby Streit and Kamil Rawdanowicz
Music and Performing Arts Captains