• 2013 Ensemble Tour to Germany, Austria, Slovakia

Results and more... Day 13 - July 13, 2013

That extra hour or so was very nice to have this morning, especially after all the excitement and energy that was exerted from yesterday afternoon and evening. The kids came down dressed in jeans and polos and were ready for the day.  With a bigger appetite than the day before, they loaded up their breakfast plates with lots of goodies and then we loaded up on the bus for our days adventures. 

  We drove about an hour out of Bratislava to Cerveny Kamen, or Red Stone Castle.  We had a very informative tour guide with us on the bus, telling us some interesting things about Slovakia, Bratislava in particular.  Some of the things we found out was that there are about 700 castles and chateaus in Slovakia, about 3,000 caves and that they are famous for their wooden churches.  The High Tatras  are the highest peaks in Slovakia and they share those mountains with Poland. He also informed us that Slovakia is a very young country and that it has always been under someone else's rule until recently. It wasn't until 1993 that Slovakia formed its own republic. Our guide jokingly told us that the reason Slovakia became its own country was because they wanted to have twice as many gold medals in ice hockey than Czechoslovakia!  Apparently ice hockey is a big deal over here!!   Our destination was Red Stone Castle.Červený_Kameň_Castle  The castle was originally built in the 13th century but then demolished and rebuilt in the 16th century. The reason why castles were so large and extravagant was only for the purpose of showing off to the guests, it didn't necessarily mean their families were that large!!  The kids had a great time going through another beautiful castle.  

Following the visit to the castle, we planned to visit a porcelain factory, because apparently Slovakia is known  for its porcelain, but unfortunately it was closed on Saturdays.  That didn't phase the kids at all and instead they milled around a huge flea market that was set up outside the castle on the grounds. That was probably more interesting, and as Bob pointed out, all the items that were being sold really gave the kids an inside look as to what and how Slovakian people live. Many had items dating back to World War II, old war jackets and medals/badges of honor. There were also lots of little trinkets and figurines that they liked looking through. Many of the kids bought old records, pottery, and needle point pictures. I think they preferred having some time to explore the market!   Following the market, we went to a very fancy restaurant just a few miles from the castle and enjoyed a delicious lunch.  The kids presented their mentee/mentor gifts and they also gave the chaperones their gifts. It was a very sweet ritual and a nice time to spend with our choir family as the trip neared an end. 

Following lunch, we drove back to Bratislava to give our final tour performance, an outdoor informal festival concert. The kids were great, dancing and smiling away.  They had a glisten in their eyes that was hard to miss, for they knew that this would be one of the last times this particular group would sing together. They poured it on, and the audience loved them. 

 Following the little concert, all the choirs and orchestras that participated in the festival gathered together to hear the results of the competitions.  The crowd and participants were anxiously waiting for the results. It came time to announce the children's choral section.  We won gold!!  Next came the gospel category, and again, we won gold in that category too.  Finally it was the contemporary section, and again, we won that one too, sweeping all three!  Then, to our surprise, the final announcement was made, which was that we won overall, Grand Prix in the choral competition! The kids couldn't believe it! All their hard work throughout the year as well as the improvements they made over these last 2 weeks on tour really paid off!  It was a huge sea of tears of joy, screams, and hugs all around. Bob and Sue were quite thrilled as well! Even though the festival wasn't as large in numbers as others they have participated/competed in, there were very good choirs they were competing against, and they came out on top, in all three categories!  

Pictures and movies to come!  

Following the excitement of the news, we went to a Chinese restaurant around the corner, and the kids enjoyed a non traditional heavy meat and rice meal, and loved the buffet the owners made especially for us.  We sang "Johnson Boys " and the owners were thrilled.  Following dinner, Dominika took us to the "best" ice cream place in Bratislava and all the kids had their last round of ice cream for this tour!  Parents, don't be too surprised if they don't come home with too many souvenirs, they sure enjoyed all the ice cream stops along the way over the last two weeks!!

After ice cream, we went back to the hotel to have our closing circle. Very emotional things were shared, bringing this already close group even closer. Hugs, tears, and memories and stories were shared by all, and just an overall great appreciation towards each other, and all the hard work that everyone put into the successes of this tour was the main idea that was shared over and over.

We ended our night packing our bags, and getting ready for bed. What an amazing two weeks spent together, memories made to last a lifetime. There is nothing more special than what these 42 young musicians and 7 chaperones experienced and accomplished together over the last two weeks.  Sad to go home for sure.


  • 2013 Ensemble Tour to Germany, Austria, Slovakia