If This is Tuesday, it Must Be Latvia by guest Marcelle Cerny

We are excited to have Marcelle Cerny as our guest for today! Marcelle is one of the founding 4Mothers and we’ve missed reading her words!  Today she shares memories from her recent European trip with her family – and the pictures are something else!  

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Have you ever wanted to say, “I’m with the band?” Well, now I have: my family and I ran away to Europe this summer to follow a bunch of touring musicians.

This past July, our eldest son Daniel toured Russia, the Baltics and Poland as a member of the Toronto Children’s Chorus Chamber Tour Choir, a group of forty fine and talented young musical ambassadors from Canada, along with their inimitable musical director, Elise Bradley, and the choir’s fabulous musical staff. Not wanting to miss out, my husband, youngest son and I became “choir groupies”, part of a gaggle of parents and siblings of choristers who travelled along with the choir for all or part of their 17-day tour.

While Daniel visited Russia, spending time in Moscow and St. Petersburg,

Above: Views of Stockholm

Above: Views of Stockholm

The three of us made a brief stop in Stockholm, so that I could cross it off of my bucket list (it did not disappoint, by the way, but that’s another story):

Left: Moscow. Right: St Petersburg

Left: Moscow. Right: St Petersburg

before taking a voyage by ferry across the Baltic Sea, under skies that never entirely darkened,

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to meet up with him and the choir in Tallinn, Estonia. After that, our tour took on a specific rhythm: each morning, we joined the children for some sightseeing, leaving them in the afternoon to rehearse while we did our own touring. Every second evening or so, the choir performed, sometimes with a local children’s or youth choir, and the next day we’d all pack up and off to the next destination we’d go. This all had a bit of a Planes, Trains and Automobiles feel about it – by our count, we took four planes, three long-distance coaches, two trains, and at least one automobile over fourteen days – but as a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it was outstanding.

Clockwise from top left: Inside the city walls, Tallin; Tallin from above; Part of Vilnius Castle; House of the Blackheads, Riga; Inside the Riga Dome Cathedral.

Clockwise from top left: Inside the city walls, Tallin; Tallin from above; Part of Vilnius Castle; House of the Blackheads, Riga; Inside the Riga Dome Cathedral.

So what was the best part of being a choir groupie? In part, it was visiting these remarkable countries. History is all around you in these places: each of the historic city centres of Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw and Krakow are UNESCO World Heritage sites, protected locales deemed to be cultural significance to humanity. Those of us of a certain age remember how more recent history was written in the Baltics, as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia were the first countries to declare their independence from Soviet rule in the late 1980s. The choir’s tour guide recalled how, as a young mother, she joined the human chain of nearly two million people connecting Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius, as a protest against Soviet occupation. Some of this area’s history is also intensely personal to our family: when the choir visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland, my husband went too, to this place of horror where his grandfather’s parents and sister perished and which his grandfather, to our everlasting gratitude, survived. It was this stop on the tour that motivated us to go to Europe in the first place, so that the memory of it would be shared.

Of course, without the choir, there would be no need for choir groupies. The children’s tour repertoire included between 25 and 30 pieces, some sacred, some contemporary, all performed from memory. Their concerts in Vilnius and Krakow were the best concerts we heard them perform all year. Their venues included some of the most special and sacred spaces in Eastern Europe, including Holy Cross Church in Warsaw, the final resting place Frederick Chopin’s heart. In Krakow, they were conducted by Polish Maestro Krysztof Penderecki (who earned top billing on the Choir’s concert posters plastered around Krakow’s old town). As groupies, and as parents we couldn’t have been more proud, or more thrilled to watch them perform.

Clockwise from top left: Krakow's old town square; Here lies Chopin's Heart (Warsaw); Krakow in early evening; Krakow concert poster; Inside the Cloth Market, Krakow.

Clockwise from top left: Krakow’s old town square; Here lies Chopin’s Heart (Warsaw); Krakow in early evening; Krakow concert poster; Inside the Cloth Market, Krakow.

Some of the benefits of being a groupie were less obvious. On his first evening in Warsaw, we met up with Daniel at his hotel, hoping for some time to catch up with him. Very shortly after we got there, he looked at his phone, stood up, and started counting off on his fingers all the things he had to do in the ten minutes before dinner: unpack, start his hand-washing, and settle into his new room and for that reason, he said, he was very sorry, but we had to go. Want to experience temporary disorientation? Have your teenager insinuate that you’re a slacker with no regard for time and the reason he’s late for dinner. That would never happen at home.

The best part of all? The absolute best part of getting to visit with Daniel on his tour happened ten days after Daniel left Canada. It was when we finally got to Tallinn, and it was this:

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