Westminster School's Musical Tour of Europe

School / Group
Westminster School

Our Sam has just returned from Europe, where he was accompanying Westminster School from Adelaide, South Australia on their school music tour. Here’s his trip diary:

I accompanied Westminster School on a mammoth two and a half week music tour of Europe this July, taking in Liverpool, London, Eindhoven, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich and Salzburg. The group from Adelaide, South Australia, toured with 3 ensembles - a big band, a choir and a rock band.


I picked up a very jet-lagged group from Manchester Airport early in the morning, but there was no time to rest as we embarked on a packed 18 day itinerary

We were blessed with a very comfortable and spacious coach from AVA Coaches, so we had no trouble getting all of the bags and instruments on board before departing. This had to be done very quickly, as the British ‘summer’ had provided us with driving rain and a temperature of 10 degrees, which I was informed was exactly the same as winter down-under - how depressing!

Our first stop was the Beatles Story on Albert Dock, a very enjoyable experience for any fan of the Fab Four. The main tour takes you through the life of the band from their origins to their final album. The highlight is undoubtedly walking through an actual yellow submarine although, if pushed for time, you may want to skip the 4D experience - you’re likely to get wet!

Continuing the Beatles themed day, Westminster’s rock band had the pleasure of playing the world famous Cavern Club, where they drew a good crowd of tourists and locals. And they can now say they’ve played the same venue as the Beatles

While in Liverpool, we also found time for a tour of Anfield. As a Manchester United fan, I reluctantly went along. I will admit that the club museum was interesting, but they were sadly unable to give me an answer when I asked about the whereabouts of their Premier League trophies.

Accommodation for Liverpool was provided by the YHA, a five minute drive from the centre of the city and within walking distance of the Albert Dock. Rooms were of a good standard, but what really impressed was the excellent customer service and varied dinner buffet – which was very welcome after such a busy day!

Abbotsholme School

The next day brought better weather and another excellent concert - this time with a very different feel. 

Abbotsholme School near Uttoxeter gave the Westminster Choir and Big Band chance to show off their skills to a UK audience for the first time

Playing in a gorgeous, compact school hall with wonderful acoustics, the choir and band really got the crowd on side with an energetic performance which ended with a standing ovation and an open invite to return to perform again!


Following another short trip southwards and a very comfortable night in the Copthorne in Slough, we visited Windsor Castle and were fortunate enough to be in attendance for the changing of the guard. 

The group were all very impressed by the musical portion of the ceremony. Unfortunately, for the second time in the tour, we were victims of the British summer. Thankfully, the itinerary was flexible, allowing us to make a few changes and head down to London early.


The UK’s capital was to be our base for the next five days. We stayed in the YHA Thameside - a hostel very similar to the one in Liverpool. Again, the staff were very impressive from start to finish, ensuring a quick and efficient check-in process, good meals and a helpful 24-hour reception. The hostel also had a lovely communal room with a large TV, which allowed us to relax in front of the European Championships after long days exploring London.

Our time in London was pretty non-stop. We took in two shows (Aladdin and Mama Mia), rode the London Eye, visited the London Dungeon and the Tate Modern, shopped in Selfridges and on Oxford Street, and experienced the Tower of London

All of this simply reinforced for us that London is a place that can offer everything, no matter what kind of trip you’re looking for. The arts, history, culture, sport - London has it all!

As great as all the sightseeing was, the highlight of our time in the city was undoubtedly the two fantastic concerts that had been arranged for us. The first took place in Regent’s Park on a warm Sunday afternoon.

The bandstand there is the ideal setting for an outdoor concert. It’s a stone’s throw away from a lake and at the bottom of a small natural amphitheatre, which is busy with people who are very open to hearing some music on a warm afternoon. 

The park staff were great and the whole operation ran like clockwork. The coach was able to pull up 100m from the bandstand, chairs were delivered as we arrived, advertising provided by Halsbury had all been displayed around the park and, best of all, there was an ice-cream stand where non-musicians such as myself could grab a lolly to enjoy during the concert. The band played so well that afternoon that they ended up playing half an hour longer than originally planned – a great success!

The second London gig took place at the Victoria Gardens next to Embankment Station on a lovely outdoor stage. The audience were big fans of the Westminster rock band, who received loud cries of “encore” upon finishing their set and even prompted a conga line around the gardens for their final song! 

For the band members, this was a valuable exercise in keeping a crowd, as all of their concerts up to that point had had a somewhat captive audience, whereas they were now playing to people on their lunch break. The band needed to give them a reason to stay and they certainly rose to the challenge!


For the continental leg of the tour, we travelled with Hamiltons Coaches, who provided a brand new 61 seat coach with ample luggage room and friendly driver, which is always a plus. To my dismay, the DVD player worked perfectly, so I was made to sit through films such as The Sound of Music and Pitch Perfect on our longer travel days! 

We had an early start on our travel day across the Channel but, despite the recently heightened checks at the Port of Dover, we managed to make an early ferry and arrived at the lovely Campanile Eindhoven in the Netherlands ahead of schedule. 

This hotel was slightly different to the hostels we had been using for the UK leg. It was quite a novelty to be served our dinner by waitresses, instead of at a buffet. However, despite the long travel day, there was to be no let-up in the itinerary as the group aimed to fit in as much into their 18 days as humanly possible. 

We were up early again for another concert, this time at the International School in Eindhoven (a primary school). This was another good learning curve for the bands, as they had to perform three short concerts in quick succession to the different age groups

Due to the young age of the audience, the band had to maintain high levels of energy throughout and employ lots of different techniques to keep them engaged; this included small prize give-aways and competitions between the trumpeters. The famous Victoria Gardens conga-line also made a reappearance in all three shows!


What was intended to be an opportunity to recharge our batteries in Amsterdam after over a week on tour turned out to be more tiring than most concert days! We managed to squeeze a canal cruise, 3 hour bike tour, a visit to Anne Frank House and 2 hours of shopping into one day. 

We were quite impressed with Amsterdam on the whole; its reputation can be off-putting for some, but there is a lot that's suitable for school groups to see and experience. My one recommendation: look out for bicycles!

From this point on we would be staying in A&O hostels in Amsterdam, Berlin and Munich. All three were of identical standards, to the point where my room in Munich was a carbon copy of my room in Berlin! 

A&O is a German company, so we experienced very efficient service throughout and the rooms were all clean and functional - most appeared to have been newly renovated with very nice bathrooms. 

Breakfast and dinner were served buffet-style in all three establishments with a wide range of salads and side dishes to accompany the dish of the day. Those children with specific dietary requirements were catered for consistently well by A&O, who provided varied meals for gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian guests. 


I had been keen to show off my favourite city in the world to the group since the very beginning of the trip. For me, Berlin has it all - great food and drink, an incredibly interesting and varied history, an easy-to-use public transport system and welcoming locals. 

The fact that Berlin was split for so long during the Cold War also means that you’re in effect getting three cities for the price of one: the capitalist former West Berlin, the communist former East Berlin, and the newly unified Berlin somewhere in between.

We spent our first evening in Germany’s capital atop the Bundestag (former Reichstag), a building dripping with history. The dome on top of the Bundestag really is a must for any visitor to Berlin. It’s free to climb and allows for views of all the major sights in the city, as well as a glimpse inside the German parliament chamber itself. 

After a short guided tour and a few photo opportunities, we made our way back to the hostel for some much needed rest in anticipation of the two Berlin concerts to come.

Westminster’s first concert in Berlin took place on the roof of the East Side Blick Café, sandwiched between the East Side Gallery (the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall) and the river Spree on a very hot afternoon, by my standards at least. 

As with the previous concerts, the band were very well received by the locals and tourists alike, although the blazing sunshine left the performers very drained for their nuclear bunker and museum tour at the Story of Berlin - an interesting insight into the city’s past found in the middle of a shopping centre on Kurfürstendamm. 

The next few days were spent seeing the various sights in an around Berlin, including a very informative and fun walking tour with John from Insider Berlin and a sobering visit to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Before moving on to Munich there was time to play at the Josef-Schmidt Musikschule in Berlin-Köpenick, arguably the band’s best musical performance in a school hall with fantastic acoustics. The audience composed mainly of locals were really involved in the performance and we left the following morning for Munich tired, but happy.  


With no concerts planned for the day in Munich, we were free to explore the city. Most of the morning was spent admiring the wide selection of food and drink at the Viktualienmarkt and seeking out ‘authentic’ Bavarian souvenirs, such as Lederhosen and presents for parents from the Hofbrauhaus and Hard Rock Café. 

The afternoon was geared towards the petrolheads in the group with a quick drop in to the BMW World: a showcase for all things BMW and Mini - a ‘must-see’ for any car fan visiting Munich. 


The first stop in Salzburg was Hellbrunn Castle and the trick fountains. Our guide and controller of the water jets was intent on making sure everyone left soaking wet, especially the teachers. 

The final night of the tour was celebrated in style with a formal dinner, presentations and a Mozart concert in the Festung Hohensalzburg – the iconic castle that has stood guard over the city since the 11th century. 

Interested in arranging a school music tour to inspire your students?

Whether you want to take your students on a long tour encompassing a number of countries, or a shorter visit to just one, we'll ensure your tailor-made trip is packed full of exciting musical experiences.

Contact us today for further information and advice on what's possible for your ensemble.