Aegean Odyssey is currently sailing her ‘Ancient Greece and Dalmatian Coast’ cruise and on board we have Brandenburg Artistic Director Bob Porter. Bob is leading our guests forward in building a choir at sea, a choir quite unlike any other. Our ‘Sing At Sea’ sailings are always very popular and the only difference with this cruise is that we are going to be bringing it to you LIVE, by way of short diary entries from Bob himself. A daily dose of vitamin sea mixed with the wonderful sounds of music. 

Day 1 – 9th May – Nauplia

Day 1 (yesterday) was a long day, starting at 3.00 am in Hammersmith (thank you Alison) and culminating in the first get-together for the Voyages to Antiquity on-board choir.
Pre- booked Brandenburg team plus volunteers from the existing passengers means we have a choir of 70 – in a reasonable balance!
We worked on a couple of rounds, including a nice little jazzy one from Nav.
Now moored just off Nauplia.
Passengers enjoyed a trip ashore this morning while I (with the help of the fabulous Tristan Mitchard) prepared music for today’s first full rehearsal – in about 30 minutes.
We will tackle four-part stuff today to see what the general level is – I have no idea yet.
So watch this space for reports of progress…………….

Day 2 – 10th May – Katakalon

Today we are moored at Katakalon.
So last night we ventured into proper four part harmony! We spent most of the session working on Mozart Ave Verum Corpus.
Familiar territory for many of the singers so we were off to a good start.
The space in which to rehearse was designed as a large saloon with carpets, padded chairs, sofas and a low ceiling, so dreadful acoustic for a choir – BUT in spite of that we actually sounded OK!
Kicked off a spiritual arrangement as well which I reckon we can finish learning at tonight’s rehearsal.
There is, as anticipated, quite a wide range of ability and experience so tricky to strike the right balance between expanding the repertoire and consolidation.
What there is in abundance however is ENTHUSIASM bolstered with massive goodwill.
Experienced singers have been paired up with some less so and the teamwork element is cutting in nicely.
I think that we will actually knock this into a pretty decent shape by the end.

Rehearsals in the Observation Lounge

Day 3 – 11th May – Itea

Beautiful sunshine with the ship docked in Itea – gateway to Delphi and Olympia.
The gang have gone off to visit these amazing places while I stay on board working away on material for later in the cruise, score study (Stravinsky today for Thaxted) and forward planning for the Autumn.
We have Ave Verum solidly in our rep now and last night we were able to work on subtleties of phrasing and inflexion – pretty impressive.
We also almost completed learning a nice little arrangement of a Spiritual – also in four parts. That will be finished off tonight so progress is definitely being made.
The large choir can only just fit in an hour a day between tours, quizzes, lectures and all kinds of activities.
The Brandenburg cohort however, are made of sterner stuff so they will have an extra rehearsal tonight before dinner. There will be around 20 of us and they want to be stretched – so the pressure will be on!

Day 4 – 12th May – Corfu

Great session last night. We added a third piece to our repertoire – a jazzy number called “Momma Teach Me The Blues”. The Observation Lounge was really rocking.
One extra alto joined – Aneeko, the pianist from the professional trio. More of that tomorrow.
We also kicked off a small group of more experienced singers who want to sing more and tackle more challenging things.
We ran through As Torrents in Summer (Elgar) and Weep O Mine Eyes (Bennett)
This is starting to get really interesting!
Bit of a slow start this morning due to the over-generosity of the wine waiters last night, but then we went off to the beautiful Corfu Old Town.
Let’s see what tonight’s session holds.

Day 5 – 13th May – Kotor Bay

Sailed round Kotor Bay – sensationally beautiful and now proceeding to Dubrovnik.
Last night’s rehearsal was a big step forward.
Some days, some of the folk arrive at the rehearsal straight off the bus from a walking tour and the energy level can (understandably) be down a bit.
Yesterday the tours around Corfu were in the morning, so most people arrived at the Observation Lounge in good spirits after an afternoon of recharging their batteries.
Lots of energy and concentration, so big progress.
Straight after tonight’s rehearsal I will be jumping ship for 24 hours so there may be radio silence, but I will be jumping back on ship just before the rehearsal call time – if I don’t make it in time, the wonderful Tristan will deputise.

Learning the words…

Day 6 – 14th May – Dubrovnik

Not quite radio silence but just a quick check in from a sleepy village down the coast a bit from Dubrovnik – to get away from the crowds.
Excellent rehearsal last night with new members still joining the choir as we go along.
Rehearsal was moved back to the Ambassador Lounge – far from ideal acoustic with too many soft chairs and carpets and a lot of vibration and air-con noise so the most important factor was sustaining the confidence of the two choirs – there are quite a number of folk doing this for the first time who therefore can’t read music and they need supporting as we go along.
So we have a “buddy” system. The less- experienced singers all stand next to an experienced one who can (nicely) help along the way.
Small choir talked Locus Iste last night – all in place in 20 minutes and with a bit of tidying up will be great.
Richard (the brilliant Cruise Director) is printing copies of Bach-Gounod Ave Maria for tonight’s rehearsal right now.
It is well within the group’s ability and is always a winner.

More rehearsals taking place aboard Aegean Odyssey

Day 7 – 15th May – Split

Yup, really making progress now.
One of the most rewarding parts of this project is to see the people who were hesitant about joining in through lack of experience, gradually picking things up and committing more and more as they gain confidence. One or two have dropped out which is a shame as we have clearly proven that everyone can contribute – even if we all have different rates of learning.
The feel of the group has changed, as we now realise that we only have two more rehearsals before we dare to present (informally) our work to the other passengers.
Levels of concentration and focus are rising.
We sang through Ave Maria (Bach- Gounod) last night. Not easy, especially for the high soprano parts, but I reckon it has a 50/50 chance of making the cut.
Off to Split this morning although all rather overcast just now.
I remember from two years ago that we had a delightful lunch in a tiny square in Split.
Counting down now to Wednesday’s performance!

Day 8 – 16th May – Trieste

Now it starts to get serious. We make our presentation tonight at 9.30 to the rest of the passengers – or at least as many as bother to turn up!
So all of a sudden everyone’s level of engagement goes up.
Last night’s rehearsal was very serious as all the singers pushed themselves a little harder.
Today we are sailing to Trieste all morning and our rehearsal is at midday but there are a number of groups going off into any room that has a piano to do bits of note-checking at various times beforehand.
We have also arranged for the professional trio to join us for some of the numbers – in particular a version of Ave Maria which they have been playing all it will be an exciting assimilation.
It’s showtime!

Day 9 – 17th May – Live Performance Time!

All the hard work paid off!
We had a brilliant show and the Ambassador Lounge was packed for it.
Nine items in the presentation – all proper four-part harmonies.
What a buzz and so many happy people.
Followed this morning by sailing into Venice with a glass of bubbles at 6.30am!
Below is the overview of the concert, this was given to all guests that arrived to enjoy the show, and a collection of images from the live and final performance.

Brandenburg Choral Festival of London

Welcome to tonight’s presentation!

The musical aspect of this cruise is a wonderful part of the partnership between the Brandenburg Festival and Voyages to Antiquity.
The main point of the singing this week is simply the joy of coming together and making music on a daily basis.
However, we have worked jolly hard and an important part of music is the moment of performance.
With an audience in front of us we will all try just that little bit harder, so we thank you for joining us and really hope you enjoy it.

Aegean Odyssey – Brandenburg Concert

9.30pm Wednesday 16th May

Vivaldi – Gloria
Steal Away
Ave Maria – Bach/Gounod

As Torrents in Summer – Elgar
Weep O Mine Eyes- Bennett
Locus Iste – Bruckner

[special extra item]

Ave Verum Corpus – Mozart
Hey Momma Teach Me the Blues

A huge thank you to everyone that got involved.