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Tales from Vienna Woods  ......   by Joe Palmer.



This is a personal retrospective on WMVC May 2016 trip to Vienna, the Austrian State Capital.

We were a motley troupe of travelling troubadours, numbering 44 in all, to include our enthusiastic Musical Director, Cian O'Carroll, and virtuoso Accompanist, Cecilia Kehoe. (We were later to serenade her birthday aboard our coach in Vienna with a presentation and flowers from our industrious Chairman, Pat O'Reilly)

Our mission - to represent Waterford and Ireland at the 30th Annual Franz Schubert International Choir Competition in the European Capital of Culture , repeatedly voted world's 1st city to live in.

We did so proudly, passionately and successfully. Here, with apologies to one and all, is a summary of those adventurous, music-filled days.

Thursday May 5th

Tour Marshal Brian Kavanagh shepherded the Tramore contingent onto the bus at The Ritz for a punctual 7am departure. John Walsh checked for passports and then it was onwards to The Munster for the Waterford city pick-up.

Tour Coordinator-in-Chief, Jack Stephenson, greeted the arriving party at Dublin Airport, checked us through to the gate {with an impromptu recital there to entertain our fellow travellers} then Aer Lingus EI0664 delivered us to Vienna International for a 3.15pm touch-down with the sun shining warmly.

We eventually located our coach and driver at the Airport outbuildings then were quickely whisked through the city suburbs to the HB1 Design & Budget Hotel in Linzer Strasse. 'Functional' is probably the most appropriate single-word description but at least it was convenient too.

We re-grouped at the adjacent Restaurant Bar Velobis for a first sample of the local brew and by 8pm were tucking in to a 3-course meal that just filled the culinary gap.

This was followed by an introductory and lively seisiun led robustly by Declan Foley and Tony Kavanagh on accordion and guitar respectively. We were joined by some members of a Norwegian choir, no doubt attracted by the din from their rooms at our shared hostelry. One sensed neither the Irish nor Norwegian Musical Directors was entirely enamoured at this impromtu vocal hooley with such a packed and important performance programme scheduled for the following day.

And so - eventually - to bed.

Friday, May 6th

The dapper -looking WMVC 3 -piece 'suits & shoes' appeared before 8.30am for a generous continental-style buffett breakfast and promptly at 10am our coach collected us for the first of three scheduled Friday performances, this at the 13th centuary Minoritenkirche in the inner-city area.There we joined with visiting choirs from Finland, Norway and the Philippines for a Friendship Concert with each musical group singing a selection from their respective repertoires.  We quickly realised we were in elite company. Our contribution was warmly received and we left greatly encouraged for a 12.30pm transfer to the palatial Wiener Konzerthaus opened originally in 1913 as the city's premier concert venue.

There was time for a snack and a stroll before we re-grouped for an acoustic trial and stage walk-on before our competitive performance in the Franz Schubert event and our piece de resistance, 'Die Nacht'. We noted the smiles of approval emanating from the adjudicators tables as we trooped off stage but it was the generous and immediate praise of our own MD that swelled the WMVC hearts with pride. We had delivered at the very apex of our musical ability, we were told by a delighted Cian. [Might have been helped by that unscheduled practice session the night before?].

 Then back again to Hotel HB1 before a quick turn-around to meet and greet our Ambassador to Austria, Mary Whelan, Invited by WMVC as VIP guest for the 8pm Gala Concert in the intimate surroundings of the Schubertkirche where the great composer played and conducted during the mid-19th century. Her Excellency was gracious, appreciative and proud of our concert performance, not least of our cultural contribution through the Irish trilogy of Mo Ghile Mear, Ar Eireann Ni Neosfainn Ce Hi and that rousing Waterford maritime anthem, Come the Sails.


Needless to add, there was an additional impromptu late-nite musical event on the return to base camp when we again filled the Restaurant Bar Velobis to capacity in the company of our newly acquired Norwegian friends. Master of ceremonies, Gillie Kavanagh, was in his usual fantastic form with a succession of Noble Calls that left the Scandinavians in awe and wonder at the depth and range of talent within our group, not least from our nonagenarian Honorary Life Member, Jim Doyle.
A great night was had by all. No further details available.

Saturday, May 7th

If there were a few sore heads queueing for 8.30 am breakfast buffet this morning, they were as likely to have been Nordic as Gaelic, as the lively buzz of conversation reviewed the hectic programme of the previous 24 hours. There was a mix of disappointment and relief with confirmation that our presence would not be required for the afternoon Awards Cermony. Our Silver Diploma Grade 8 was welcome, sufficient and appropriate recognition of our competitive cultural contribution.

At 10am, we were all aboard for the 4-hour coach tour of the Vienna hinderland. This proved to be a most enjoyable, informative and memorable trip bringing us through the Vienna Woodlands, past the royal hunting lodge at Mayerling and other historic landmarks evoking the centuries-long era of the Hapsburg Empire, and all accompanied by a really interesting commentary from our well-informed and personable courier. We even gate-crashed a 'royal' wedding at the early medieval [1133AD] Cistercian Holy Cross Monastery of Heiligenkreuz just 15 kms west of the capital before returning to Linzer Strasse to prepare for the unforgettable 8pm heuriger buffet in the quaint wine-celler of Fuhrgassi-Huber, a short and leafy drive through the city suburbs.

This was a gathering of all the visiting choirs where we were wined and dined by our most efficient and professional Sing 'n Joy event hosts, Interkultur.

We noted the apparent desire of many of our choir co-performers to share the company of the Irish contingent on this evening. Clearly our reputation for music, song, enjoyment and entertainment -aka the craic- had proven infectious and magnetic. Or perhaps too, Oliver Cleary's legendary status as a solo performer had preceded our visit. Ole Ollie, Ole!

The revelry continued into the small hours and even later for some with still untapped reserves of energy long after the return transfer to Hotel HB1. And the Norwegians finally rallied to the concept of the Noble Call.

A diplomatic breakthrough for sure !

Sunday, May 8th

The mood was somewhat subdued as we breakfasted together on our morning of departure but the sun continued to shine.We packed and departed early for our pre-booked city coach tour which took us along Ringstrasse and the city's tree-lined avenues, shading a succession of magnificent public buildings, many dating from the halcyon days of the royal Hapsburgs. We saw their summer and winter city palaces between which they decamped seasonally in the company of a 600-strong staff. We walked the gardens of the imposing palace at Volksgarten built specially as an entertainment and performance venue.We passed the Museumsquartier and Parliament Building, crossed and re-crossed the Blue Danube and its sister Danube Canal, noting en route the imposing Rathaus, State Opera House, Schoennbrunn Gardens and the headquarters of the UN. And we alighted centre-city to facilitate a final walk-about for some to the splendorous St Stephen's Cathedral before regrouping for the airport transfer and a 2.30pm check-in. Vienna truly is a magnificent city -- we all agreed.

Aer Lingus EI0665 took off on schedule at 3.55pm and we were back on Irish soil by 5.50pm, with our Waterford/Tramore-bound coach awaiting conveniently in the nearby bus park to whisk us down the M7.

Auf Weidersehen Vienna. It's home boys, home !

The Travelling Troubadours

Brendan Brady, Bill Curtin, Louis Flynn, Tim Galvin, Michael Lane, Pat O'Reilly, Gerry Maher, Dermot Murray. John Southerland, Cormac Aherne, Donal O'Connell, Michael Bohill, Pat Delahunty, Oliver Cleary, Jack Stephenson, Declan Foley, John Kelly, Gerry Goggin, Sean O'Dwyer, Paddy Harte, Peter Minchin, Des & Donal Hodge, Kevin Kiersey, Quentin Roche, Enda McGovern, Fionnan O'Drischoll, Des McGuire, Joe Palmer, John Quirke, Harry Sheridan, John Walsh, Brian Kavanagh, Michael Burke, Jim Doyle, Ray Jacques, Gillie Kavanagh, Tony Kavanagh, Des Kelly, Declan O'Gorman, Senan Power, JC Power, Cian O'Carroll, Cecilia Kehoe.

PS  I would like to add a very special 'thank you' on behalf of one and all to our Honorary Treasurer, Paddy Harte, for all his quiet work behind the scenes in documenting and managing our travel fund, both in advance and while on tour.