Thursday (yesterday) saw OCYSO off on our longest road trip of the excursion — a jaunt by bus out to Bristol, one of Britain’s historic western seafaring ports, where the orchestra had a concert scheduled that night. It was another lovely, sunny day as we boarded the two buses and headed out through beautiful countryside to our first stop, the ancient and mysterious Paleolithic sacred site, Stonehenge. Dating back to 3000 years before the birth of Christ, Stonehenge remains an enigma — there are plenty of expert theories as to what it was built for and what ritual function it had, as well as HOW it was built (many of the monolithic stones came all the way from Wales — probably floated down the river and then rolled on timbers to the location — but again, no one knows for sure. It certainly is impressive, though, and the students thoroughly enjoyed it — we were able to spend an hour there, circling the monument (which is fenced off now, so no one can go right up to it).
From Stonehenge in the chalky fields of Wiltshire, it was another two hours through more lovely landscapes (especially as we came through the Mendip Hills) to breezy Bristol, where the orchestra unloaded right near the tall Gothic Bristol Cathedral, on its hill commanding the city. After a brief lunch break, Maestro Wachs led the orchestra through a detailed rehearsal (our first since arriving in England) to get the sound just right. And wow, did it sound spectacular – there is just something about a medieval Gothic cathedral that intensifies the sound and lets it gently linger (the kids were advised to sit silently and not move or reach for their music as the reverb echoed — just a moment to let the audience savor…).
A dinner break, then, to walk down to the city’s famed “floating docks” for dinner at the Bordeaux Quay restaurant — a tasty and well-presented concoction of shredded ham hock with spring veggies, which tasted better than it sounds. (With a veggie option for the vegetarians, as always…). Then it was off to get dressed for the concert. An enthusiastic and large crowd arrived, including the mayor of Bristol and other dignitaries, and the concert was a triumphant success!
I’d write more and post pix, but we’re off this morning (in a light rain, alas) to the Thames river cruise, the London Eye and our concert tonight in West Dulwich Cathedral, so more later if all goes well!