Sunday, January 20, 2013

Frozen feet, warm hearts.....

Where to begin to tell you of a day that still seems unbelievable?

"Our Lady's" famous spires dominate the Prague skyline
Altar at Our Lady Before Tyn
This morning we awoke to more great food, free wi-fi (I suppose I should have mentioned that last night as the people I travel with were “reconnected with the world” and quite happy texting, messaging, Face-booking and all) and headed out at 8:10 a.m. to prepare for Mass at the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.  “Our Lady” is the church that towers (actually “twin towers” over the main square of old town Prague.  It’s an impressive place indeed, and the choir sang several selections before, during, and after Mass.  They really captivated the parishioners in spite of the temperature within the church that hung right around 39 degrees (Fahrenheit).  I kid you not.  I would look at the choir singing and see smoke pouring forth from their mouths – remember how fun it was to blow “smoke circles” when you were little?  You should see what “smoke music” looks like!  It SOUNDS great… looks FUNNY.

Balcony from which the Choir performed at Our Lady.
God bless these troopers, however.  There they were, choir robes covering every stitch of anything warm they could find, yet singing like angels.  I’m still in awe.

Bless the alumni troopers too – we/they had to SIT in that cold and pretend to know what was going on.  At least the kids got to sing!   

A word more about this church.  Tyn Church’s two spires of this powerful looking, Gothic church (with a Baroque interior) can be observed from all over Prague.  Founded in 1385 legend has it that Tyn Church gave Walt Disney the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle. True or not, it is certainly an awe-inspiring sight both during the day, and even more so at night brightly lit against a dark sky like it was tonight.

The Mirror Chapel
Anyway, after we were fully, but happily frozen, we went on a walk about the Old Town Square and headed down toward the Charles Bridge and the area of the Klementium where our late afternoon concert would be held. The Choir put their robes and other things in a warm (!) storage room in the lower level and enjoyed a few minutes of “warm up”time.  Then, off they were to lunch, more exploration and sightseeing.

Rear balcony/organ at Mirror Chapel

Hats off to the Chamber Choir!
We returned to the concert site for rehearsal and the concert began at 5:00 p.m.  Almost unbelievably, the Mirror Hall in which we sang was full of people we’d never seen before – and what an audience they were!  Among the crowd, a grad from Pierre HS who plays semi-pro ball here in Prague and heard we were in town; a Dutch couple who just happened to stop in, but became so enthralled they stayed till the very last minute before dashing off to their flight home.  And last but not least, our guide Liz’ husband and two small daughters who flew in from London to see mom for the day!

The Mirror Chapel is devoted to the Annunciation of Our Lady and was built in 1720.  The room uses marble and gilded stucco decoration with a unique use of mirrors and paintings, both on the walls and overhead.  The chapel is the only historical space of the Klementinum (historic library, chapel and astronomical tower) open to the general public because as they write, “it provides an inimitable atmosphere allowing for an extraordinary cultural experience.  My friends, the way the choir performed in this Chapel was extraordinary indeed.  Their full-house audience showed appreciation through sustained applause and lingered for quite awhile visiting about the performance of this “American group.”

The Augustana Choir performs in the Mirror Chapel of the Klementinum, Prague, Czech Republic 
With two wonderful experiences under the belt in one day, the timing was perfect for a celebratory dinner at a restaurant near the Republika Square – about half way between our hotel and the Old Town Square.  The restaurant was in the lower level of home of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, an ornate building marked by impressive use of art nouveau.   We had a great time (thank you, John Quello!) and other guests really enjoyed the group’s performance of “A Viking King” and the Norwegian National Anthem – performed especially for our alumni friends – at their request!   (Best part of this though is that some people came to ask about tomorrow’s concert as they were so taken with these two tunes that they want to hear more!   
They obviously do not speak English.  Nor Norse! 

In sum, what could have been a really awful day – if we’d let the weather get in our way – turned out to be on the best yet.   

Cheers from Prague!   And parents, you've raised some really great kids.  

Congratulations, and THANKS - it's a pleasure to be with them!