Tuesday 31st July saw the choir embarking on its sixth tour, this time to the Netherlands and Belgium. We spent the first five days in the Netherlands, staying in the small town of Soest, famous for its inland sand dunes – so beautiful to see the evening sun setting across the dunes. On Wednesday we visited the local historic town of Amersfoort and performed a lunchtime concert in the beautiful Sint Joriskerk in Amersfoort, we gained some Dutch and Australian followers to our Facebook page after this concert which was wonderful. There was then time for some shopping and a photo opportunity outside the church at the geographical centre of the Netherlands before heading off to a wonderful outdoor swimming pool and a chance for everyone to relax and enjoy themselves.
Thursday was spent at Efteling Theme Park – a first for RYC – plenty of roller coasters were ridden, ice creams and Dutch twisted potatoes on a stick were eaten – delicious – we all had an amazing day. On Friday we headed off to Amsterdam. We started the day with a relaxing canal boat cruise, wonderful to view all the houses and bridges from the water and of course do a spot of singing on the boat. ‘The Banana Boat Song’ became one of our top tour street performance songs this year but not quite topping ‘Simi Yadech”. We dodged many of the thousands of bikes in Amsterdam on our short walk to the English Reformed Church, where we gave a great concert to a large appreciative audience – a short clip of our performance can be seen on YouTube. After the concert we traveled across Amsterdam to Anne Frank’s House. We were incredibly grateful to our wonderful coach driver who drove us across, the original plan was to walk but with temperatures in the mid 30s we were all incredibly grateful for a blast of cool air conditioning.
Anne Frank’s House was a very touching and memorable experience for everyone, at the end of our visit we sang ‘Al Shlosha D’Varim, in hebrew outside, a fitting end to a great day in this beautiful city. We are very grateful to Marc Randall at Mortgage House for providing our orange tour T-shirts.
On Saturday we said goodbye to our hosts at Soest and headed to Bruges. More ice cream, more singing, lots of chocolate, Belgian waffles, beautiful architecture – including one of the most stunningly beautiful McDonalds buildings and gorgeous weather – we couldn’t have asked for more. On the Saturday evening Victoria Burbidge gave a very thought provoking talk about the five young Romsey men whose names are commemorated on the Menin Gate, a very sobering thought that these 5 young men were of very similar ages to the older young men in our choir.
On Sunday, after a bit more chocolate shopping (or a lot more in the case of some choir members), we left Bruges for the Tyne Cot Cemetery. We were all moved by the rows of graves, an emotional experience for everyone. From Tyne Cot we headed to Ypres in preparation for our performance at the Menin Gate ceremony that evening. Our final tour evening meal was at ‘The Best Burger Bar in Belgium’ – quite a claim but we all agreed that they were delicious burgers. After our meal we headed to the Menin Gate, thanks to lots of prior research from Victoria we found the names of the five Romsey men as well as the name of a relative from a member of the choir. The whole service was incredibly moving, we sang Ola Gjeilo’s ‘Ubi Caritas’ and James Erb’s 8 part arrangement of ‘Shenandoah’, there wasn’t a dry eye amongst the choir at the finish. We had so many people talking to us at the end of the service and contacting us either via our website or on Facebook, a very emotive experience for everyone. We then went back to the coach and headed for the ferry; everyone agreed that this had been a very special tour.