July 10, 2016

Dear families and friends,

This morning finds us on the road to Neuschwanstein Castle.  You know.  The one that they made to look like Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland!!!

We are still reeling after yesterday’s final performance at the Fürstenfeld Abbey.  The abbey and the surrounding grounds are beyond beautiful.  It sits up against a hill on sprawling, exquisitely manicured lawns and gardens.  The weather was beautiful yesterday, with bright blue skies dotted with fluffy clouds, perfectly framing the abbey and its lush surroundings.  We have seen and performed in stunning locations on the tour, but this, our final destination, wins the prize.  There is a hushed silence over the grounds, fitting for this restored monastery with history dating back to the 1100’s.  The property was renovated in the early 1970’s, and is now a cultural center for the town of Fürstenfeldbruck.  The church is elaborately decorated in the Baroque style, and is impossible to adequately describe, with beautifully decorated frescos and elaborate carvings everywhere you look. The kids counted over 400 cherubic angels (with time on our hands as we sat quietly waiting for our part in the concert), and those were just the ones they could see from their limited vantage point!

As per usual, the acoustics were just as stunning as the visual effects. “Amazing Grace” was powerful in this space, with this “Wondrous Love” especially poignant on the birthday of the, Samuel Lancaster.  “Pie Jesu” soared, perfectly in tune, pure and powerful in its simplicity.  I cried, more than once, and for all the right reasons.

Yesterday morning, before we left for the performance, we had some time to play at our hotel.  We gathered the kids into rooms and snapped photos of them popping out all over.  European hotels are quite unlike those in America.  You can actually open the large windows, with no screens, or guards, or bars to protect you.  Shocking.  Last night, as we were getting ready for bed, I heard the some whistling.  Quite wonderful.  Strong and perfectly in tune.  I assumed it was coming from the neighborhood, as we were always hearing beautiful bird songs in the morning, or music of all sorts in the evening.  Then I realized they were whistling “Rose,” a canon 43 years of Chorale alums know all too well.  And then I realized it was coming out the window of the boys next door, and into my window!

Grads extraordinaire Aaron and Samuel have written a song for our courier, Johan.  In any large city, the bus pulls over and we must exit quickly so that Stefan can move on to a proper parking space.  As we get off the bus or cross every street, Johan says, “Hop, hop, hop,” to hurry us along and keep us safe from the traffic.  Samuel and Aaron wrote out the words for each room to memorize last night before lights out, then taught it this morning right after breakfast, and we will sing it to Johan tonight at the dinner.  It goes like this:

Hop, hop, hop.  Dally, dally, dally.

Hop, hop, hop.  (stomp, stomp, stomp)


When it’s time to cross the street, Now you need to move your feet.

No, the traffic will not stop, We don’t want you to get hit, plop!

Repeat chorus

Well, the bus is parked illegally, Don’t try to get on regally.

We have to have some urgency, Just get in any seat.  Hurry!

Repeat chorus

And, of course, the song has harmony and choreography!  The best part was Samuel and Aaron singing it for me last night, complete with the harmony and choreography.  And wearing elf hats.  I have a video, and may or may not have promised not to put it on Facebook.

Saturday, 4:30pm

We are now back on the bus, following our castle excursion and a delightful lunch.  King Ludwig II of Bavaria lovingly built his Neuschwanstein Castle over a period of 17 years.  It sits atop a hill in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, and is arguably one of the most famous castles in the world.  Possibly due to the fact that it was Walt Disney’s inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle.  This is why our young charges knew of it!  We set them straight about which came first, as we navigated the Sunday traffic winding up to the castle.  Fortunately, there is a lot to look at along the way.  If you woke from a nap, you might have a moment of thinking you were still in Colorado.  The Alps and the Rocky Mountains are very similar, especially those ranges in the southwestern part of our state.  The kids noted that the little villages looked much like Vail.  We set them straight on that count, as well!  The one big difference is the lush greenery everywhere you look.  And the cows.  On every hillside.  The cleanest, fluffiest cows you’ve ever seen.  I’m pretty sure if we were not on a bus we would have heard the cowbells, and Heidi calling from a faraway hill.  Or maybe Maria singing as she led her little brood across the mountains.

Once on the castle grounds, it was a sea of tour buses and tourists.  We trekked up to the castle, a 20 minute or so walk, straight up hill.  I was feeling every year of my age, and every muscle in my legs, and then I heard the 12-year-old boys complaining bitterly about what a hard walk it was.  And I felt pretty good!!  The reward was sweet, however.  The castle has been lovingly cared for these hundreds of years.  Sadly, Ludwig only lived here for a few short months before he died.  He never even got a throne made!  Just as stunning as the furnishings, wall paintings, flooring and woodwork was the view out of every window.  You look one direction to the sprawling, bucolic pastures, and the other direction to the sharply rising Alps.  We all decided we could live there.  We would like the throne, however.  We had time for a last shopping extravaganza at one of the many gift shops, and attempted to spend every last Euro, saving just a few as souvenirs.  The walk back down was faster, but none the less painful!!

The drive back to Munich has been painful, as well.  It’s Sunday, and the first weekend of the summer season here.  Picture I-70 on a Sunday afternoon.  Ugh.  Tired from walking, and with full tummies, it is happy nappy time…when the quiet is sublime!!  We are headed back to Munich, where we will party hearty at our Farewell Dinner celebration.  A simple little affair for 234 – Festival Singers, our Companion Tour, the Colorado Symphony Chorus, and their companion tour.  It will be a rockin’ evening of fun, celebration and singing.

Tomorrow morning we are up and to the airport by 8:00, when we will begin our journey home to you.  This tour has been full of unforgettable experiences – incredible concert venues and extraordinary music; new friends, both German and within the choir; and sightseeing in some of the most iconic spots in Europe.  This troupe of Festival Singers has been adventurous, curious, strong, good natured, and downright delightful.  Most importantly, they sing like angels.  The entire staff has enjoyed getting to know them, as can only happen on a tour.  They have been professional and dedicated ambassadors for our state, country, and all of their families.  They have charmed audiences, fellow singers, and hotel, restaurant, and airplane staff.  The have held their own in any and all situations.  I have said it before, and will say it again – I am extremely proud of each and every one of them.  And I am thankful for my colleagues who so willingly and ably join me on these adventures.   We have been one amazing team of 52 players these past two weeks.  And everybody won.

I will be sending the kids home with my colleagues tomorrow, and know they are in most capable hands.  My husband will be flying into Germany just as the kids leave for Denver, and we will be spending two more weeks here, first with friends in Berlin, then on to Prague and back to Munich.  I am looking forward to this time, though I know there will be a small part of me missing the happy chatter always at my heels.  I will try hard to adjust J

Thank you for sharing these amazing young ladies and gentlemen with us.


Debbie DeSantis

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