European Grand Prix for Choral Singing

After our Sunday morning stroll in (mostly deserted) Maribor, Mimi, Pete, Marlon and I ran into the Glee Club right outside Union Hall, where they were due for their soundcheck.
After hugs were exchanged and manic shrieks faded away, we went into the holding room with them for last-minute instructions from Ma’am Malou, prayers and a huddle. I really have to give it to Ma’am, she was the picture of calm and purpose—exactly what a big group needed at a time like this.

It felt so strange to know what they were all feeling, but not actually be part of it—to be outside the circle looking in.

Then it was time for their 15-minute rehearsal, the only time choirs actually get to step inside the hall they compete in. Since the full repertoire is 25 minutes, the soundcheck was just about enough time to check the acoustics against a portion of each piece, and also if everyone can hear each other. I’ve been in halls where the audience enjoys a fantastic sound but you can’t hear yourself at all, let alone the people next to you, and it’s always a freaky feeling.

To me, they sounded amazing. Sparkling, fresh, warm, pino, with heart. And it’s not just because I used to sing in this choir, okay. I think I’ve heard enough choirs to know.

Lunch followed at a park nearby. We got a chance to catch up with darling Leo, who was also with the Glee Club when we competed in the European Grand Prix in 2001. I can’t believe he now has two Grand Prix competitions under his belt.

Then, back to Union Hall to claim our tickets and wait for the competition to begin. The event had been sold out for weeks. Slovenes love their choral music!

We got the nosebleed seats in the very last row, but asked to be moved. In hindsight, we should have just stayed here so we could see what the judges were writing down!

The organizers very kindly moved us to the upper left of the hall, where we unfurled our handy-dandy Philippine flag and got ready to cheer for our Glee Club. Can you say groupies?

Then the competition began.

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Maribor on my mind

It’s not an exaggeration to say we traveled from one end of Slovenia to the other during our four days there. After landing in Ljubljana, we rode a train northeast to Maribor for the Glee Club’s competition, after which we took a bus to Koper on the southeast coast, right next to Italy and Croatia.

map via Wikipedia

The train ride from Ljubljana to Maribor took about two hours. Slovenia is not very big and there’s not a lot of distance to cover, but the train runs about as fast as those shopping mall kiddie trains. But that’s nothing to take issue with, because the route shows off Slovenia’s idyllic green landscape to stunning advantage.

Slovenia is a ridiculously gorgeous country. Marlon and I were tired after our early departure, but didn’t dare nap. Not with the constant stream of gorgeousness outside: farmhouses, streams, cattle grazing freely…

… hills covered in green, meadows carpeted in flowers, trees in bloom.

After months of gray in Amsterdam, I could finally believe it was spring.

A stroll around Maribor, after the jump!

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