HARMONY 303 IN CATALONIA
The fun started from the moment we gathered together at the departure gate at Bristol airport and gave our unsuspecting -subsequently bemused -fellow passengers a rollicking ‘Doo Ron Ron’ to send them and us skywards to Barcelona on a song. This was the Harmony 303 choir on tour starting as we meant to go on- singing for joy for three days in Catalonia.
Our first proper performance the next day was in Barcelona’s Cathedral (no, not the Gaudi) where we stood right up at the high altar, gazing down the length of this beautiful traditional space, and after an introduction in Catalan, Spanish and English from Caroline our musical director, launched into a lively spiritual. And it was at that moment that I realised just how amazing the acoustics were- the echo seemed to make our voices wrap themselves around us and enhance the clarity of each word. I thought we were sounding pretty good, but was nevertheless surprised when we were applauded because it was difficult to gauge how many of the visitors to the cathedral were pausing to listen. Well, clearly they were, and I think this gave us confidence in this potentially daunting setting, and thus encouraged, we sang through our repertoire of sacred and spiritual songs. Some songs, like ‘Alleluia,’ were so absolutely right for this unforgettable venue, and took on a life of their own, and when we reached our final song- ‘New Jerusalem’ – we gave it our all. Our voices soared and reverberated up to the heights in a way that just can’t happen in Norton Village Hall. For me, the whole trip was made worthwhile just for that one moment.
But that was just the start, and the next day found us in our coach winding up and up and up a mountain to reach the Montserrat Monastery where we had been granted permission to sing the three songs in our repertoire which complied with the monastery’s exacting rules regarding spiritual or sacred content. Our singing was incorporated into a small service, so it felt like a privilege to be there. The setting was again inspirational, and our songs were so right within it.
Our final official performance was in the Poble Espanol- back in Barcelona; this is a sort of re-creation of ‘old’ Spain- squares and buildings reminiscent of a century ago. We stood on a sunny terrace, with an amazing city vista below us, and people just wandered in and out of the space, some stopping to listen, others more intent on the selfies the view offered as a backdrop. This was a much more relaxed sing, which suited the setting- ‘Doo Ron Ron’ was reprised, we sang a sea shanty, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ and finished- appropriately- with‘Adios Hermanos’ at the end of which some Spanish ladies embraced Caroline- they had obviously loved it! And all this- hilariously- to the cacophonous background screeching of a flock of parakeets determined to out-sing us.
On our last night we gave an informal performance in the bar of our hotel to an audience of fellow guests- mostly elderly Spaniards – who at first applauded politely rather than enthusiastically- we were, after all, just the warm up act before the disco. But as we sang on, feet started tapping, heads nodded, lots joined in with ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ We were winning them over, and when we sang a rousing ‘Happy Birthday’ for one of their number, they loved us! But the last note of our final song clearly signalled ‘Disco Time’ and they rose from their seats as one, surged on to the dance floor, and as the beat music started, began synchronised line dancing. This was serious business; unsmiling and intent, they twirled and clapped and shuffled in military formation, on and on and on, inexorably. So what could we do but join them? I shall cherish forever the sight of some of our number dancing alongside the Spanish line dancers in their own inimical way….
Our Catalonia tour was excellent, the happiest mix of singing, sight-seeing, eating, drinking, laughing, talking. Severally and together we did dozens of different things- we walked a mountain path with vertiginous drops, wandered Las Ramblas, took a tour bus, explored galleries; we watched street dancers and dozens of men women and children form a towering human column, we shopped, rode a funicular, had a silly moment with a chocolate fountain, wondered at Gaudi’s breathtaking monument, plunged into the ocean (well, just one of us). We got to know choir members from all sections, we shared, we looked out for each other. We had a very jolly last evening in the hotel bar where we demonstrated our appreciation of our wonderful musical director. We were looked after so well by all those involved in the organisation of this very successful venture, thus huge thanks to Dave our leader, and to Margaret and the team with us on the trip, and to Ros at this end. We had the loveliest time.