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Article posted on: September 06, 2016

Emma’s just got back from Belgium, where she enjoyed a school concert tour with Harlington Upper School. Here’s how they got on:

Day 1

I met the group early at Harlington Upper School. The coach and van were already there to meet us, so we were able to start loading on our cases and all of the instruments straight away. 

The students said goodbye to their parents and off we went on the first leg of our journey to Dover. We had a brand new coach which was clean and comfortable and came equipped with a TV, DVD player and even charging points for our phones! The drivers were great – they were so knowledgeable and quickly became an important part of the group, adding to the success of the tour.

On our arrival in Dover we had time for a quick toilet break before boarding the ferry. The crossing was smooth and we were in Calais before we knew it!

For the rest of the journey, everyone was in high spirits and eager to get to our final destination. We were even able to fit in a showing of Footloose to make the journey pass a bit faster!

90 minutes later, we arrived at the hostel in Bruges. As I was the tour guide, I checked the group in and made sure everything was correct with our booking. The receptionist handed me the keys and pointed out where the rooms were located.

The coach was able to park at the side of the road just outside the hostel, so the students could get off safely and walk into the hostel lobby. As the van was a lot smaller, it was able to park in the secure on-site car park.

The hostel has 3 buildings - the main building and 2 other blocks of rooms. The girls were in one block and the boys were in the other. The lobby of the hostel had a bar with a good selection of Belgian beers and a seating area, as well as a Wi-Fi connection, which seemed to be top priority for most of the group!

Once everyone had settled into their rooms, it was time for our evening meal. This was taken in the canteen and consisted of chicken with vegetables and potatoes and a chocolate covered Belgian waffle – which was delicious!

Once everyone had left the canteen, the group had a practice run-through of their repertoire in preparation for their first concert the following day. The canteen was large and we had plenty of space to set up everything. I was really impressed by the skills of the group and it was a real pleasure to listen to them!

After the rehearsal, we sat down and had a drink at the hostel bar, before heading to bed fairly early after what had been a long day.

Day 2

On our first full day in Belgium, we were up bright and early for breakfast. This included cereals, bread, meat, cheese, and jam with fresh juice, tea, coffee and hot chocolate. 

We collected our packed lunches and headed towards the centre of Bruges for our first excursion of the day – a canal boat trip. 

 

The boat trip lasted for around 30 minutes and was a really good way to see this beautiful town and take in some of its history. Our guide was very entertaining!

After the boat trip, we were unfortunately soaked by a sudden shower of rain whilst walking to our next excursion – Choco Story. 

Choco-Story, as you can imagine was a big hit with the kids as we were each given a chocolate bar on arrival. The museum tells the story of the transformation of cocoa into chocolate and there are many rooms to explore – we were even able to see a chocolate demonstration. 

To conclude the visit, we were each given a big bag of Belgian chocolate buttons, but this wasn’t enough for some of the students, so they spent some time buying extra souvenirs in the shop. 

In the afternoon, the group had a concert arranged at Oostende Bandstand. However, the weather was being a bit temperamental and so the group decided that it would be better to arrange an indoor concert. I quickly called Halsbury HQ in Nottingham and, within 30 minutes, we had a new concert arranged at a residential home in Oostende. 

Now it was time to eat our packed lunches before changing into concert dress ready for the first concert! 

On arrival in Oostende, we were given a warm welcome by the staff and the group were able to set up in a large hall. After a quick sound check, the group had 10 minutes spare, so they were each offered a soft drink. 

 

The residents started piling in ready to see the performance and there was an audience of about 80. 

The group performed for around an hour and were even asked for an encore! To end what was a brilliant concert, the staff and residents all got involved with one final song.

Because they had played so well, the students were each given an ice cream. We then headed back to the hostel for a much-needed evening meal. 

 

After refuelling with a good meal, we headed into the centre of Bruges to have a chance to see the town and buy some more souvenirs. 

Day 3

With another busy day ahead, we all met for breakfast before heading to Bellewaerde Park – a theme park close to Ypres. The students spent the day in the park and some of the teachers and I had a go on the park’s biggest ride – The Boomerang, which was so much fun that we went back another 3 times!

After a fun day, we headed to Ypres for the next concert. The concert was held at the Cloth Hall in the centre of Ypres. It was an outdoor concert but chairs and electricity were provided. 

 

It took about 30 minutes to set up and then it was time for the concert to start. This was the group’s best performance so far and they managed to captivate a steady audience of passers-by. 

Some people stayed for 10 minutes but a few of them stayed throughout the performance. Again they were asked for an encore and there were people dancing and singing. 

 

After a great show, it was time to pack away and head to a nearby restaurant for some much needed food. 

To finish off the day, we headed to the Menin Gate to watch the Last Post ceremony. This is a ceremony which is held every day in memory of the soldiers who died in the Ypres Salient during the First World War. This was a very moving experience for us all.

Day 4

We had another early start as, after breakfast, we headed back to Calais ready for our return ferry crossing to Dover. 

We arrived back at school in good time, with everyone having had an amazing time. It was great to see the effect that performing abroad had on the students of Harlington Upper School and has left me feeling even more passionate about helping teachers to arrange memorable school concert tours.  

If you’re interested in inspiring your young musicians with a school music  tour, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

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