For many years we’ve taken singers from Somerset to far flung destinations to sing with people of many Nations. This autumn we took a group of singers from several choirs scattered along the A303 ‘trunk road to the tropics’ off to the Czech capital Prague to sing with our old friends the Labyrint choir who had visited Somerset earlier this year on a barnstorming tour. Largely of barns.
Harmony 303 are mainly women. They’d be the first to admit that. About 30 of them. But with an enthusiastic 4 man bass section. Fronted by the energetic and enthusiastic Caroline Rigby they sing songs from around the world and a few from Somerset. Which these days is included in that.
|In the Hotel Arlington|
We stayed at the Hotel Arlington in the Liben district of Prague, right next to the O2 arena and the Harfa U.S style shopping mall. A friendly, affordable and cosy hotel run by the delightful Veronika and her hard working staff, the Arlington is just 5 stops on the metro (yellow line) to the City centre.
We had a supply of local helpers on hand to guide the group around Prague including 2 Ondrejs, a Gabbi, a Bara and a Dana. Gently strolling around the Old Town Square area, across Charles Bridge and up to the Castle the group got to know the city and after a while could cope with the transport system themselves.
|Martin Lauer on the bass with his band|
Dana, an experienced Prague guide, told them the history of the city, Gabbi, a former resident of Somerset and who has married a Somerset bloke, made them feel like they’d never left Martock and Ondra took them to what he considered the best restaurant in Prague. It turned out to be KFC, but ‘horses for courses’ – which isn’t the best expression when considering restaurants these days….
|Reeling and rocking at the saturday night fish fry|
The Sensational Martin Lauer Band, well, Martin and a few mates he’d forced to turn up and play with him, entertained the group on the first night in Prague at the Hastalsky Dedek bar, with their easy listening jazz ballads with the occasional unexpected treat when their beardy ttrumpet player got out his ukelele and played a bit of Ivan Mladek. Not a double entendre in Czech terms.The band played on into injury time and the Harmonistas got up and danced.
Sunday night and it was off for the big concert at the Mother Teresa Community Centre in the edge of town suburb of Haje. Some excellent publicity and promotion from Labyrint had led to a large turnout to see the choirs perform. Labyrint are a classically trained close harmony group led by the classically trained Lenka Charvatova, a kind of cross between the Red Army Choir and the Swingle Singers, and of course everything they put their vocal chords to turns to gold, especially outstanding being a falling descant version of Michelle. And everybody loves a bit of Beatles.
Harmony 303 won over the audience from their opening sentence as they introduced themselves in near perfect Czech to the people. Applause followed song followed humourous double act between Caroline and Czech interpreter Petr, followed song followed applause followed more of the same as the audience took the Somerset singers to their hearts and cheered loudly. A small Czech girl was delegated to present Caroline with a lovely flower ( which proceeded to survive the metro and plane journey back) and the two choirs celebrated their evenings work with a meal together in a nearby restaurant.
It was only a short break but another milestone in cultural links between Somerset and the Czech Republic.