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Ravensburg tour 2006

Ravensburg is the 'City of Gates and Towers'

The first group enjoy a meal at the Ochsen

Click here for Ave Maria by Elgar

St Bartholomew’s Choir Tour 

- Ravensburg Germany

- October 19th to 24th 2006


The Choir visited Ravensburg in Germany in October 2006. A Concert and Mass were performed to sizeable audiences. Strong links have been made already and we look forward to making future plans to guest a choir from Ravensburg, here in our parish family of St Bart’s. A collaborative account can be read below with contributions from a number of choir members. Enjoy!!


You are listening to the Choir singing Elgar's Ave Maria, sung at Our Lady's Church in Ravensburg.


The first party of the Choir set off from Loyola Hall by Coach, to Liverpool Airport on Thursday morning. Fr Luke had been to Mass on our behalf, duly praying for a safe and successful journey to Germany.  Our outbound flight to Basel was hassle-free and on time…..we even met Fr Peter Fleetwood in the airport, booked on the same flight!!. We all managed to make a dash from the Airport to the German rail station to pick up our connection on part two of our journey (130 mile rail trip, three hours journey onto Ravensburg)


 Our first panic however, concerned  the four young soloists…with no conversational German skills …..but  able to sing “Darling I have fallen off the balcony” in the native tongue … not much use to a Swiss taxi driver who could not speak English!! They ended up in the Swiss rail station with no sign of any other choristers !!! A phone call sorted the problem out, and a short taxi ride later, we boarded the train, with 2 minutes to spare. Phew!!


The journey was fantastic, past some stunning towns and hamlets. At one point the train followed the River Rhine, where a beautiful village had been built on the river's edge. It was a gloriously sunny day.

Fr. Luke met up with a German passenger and they both started conversing in French, chatting away throughout the journey. It turned out that Luke’s friend Conrad, lived in Ravensburg.


The journey was delayed, in parts due to other rail traffic and works on rail lines, and our onward train was due very quickly once we had alighted at Schaffhausen. With real fervour and effort, we picked up the pace to make our connection. Fr Luke performed the 100 meters in 10.2 seconds, and he and Conrad got onto the train, the doors closed, and we were all left standing on the platform, mouths agape. Oh dear……still we managed to make up the rest of the distance by coach and train and arrived at Ravensburg at 9.15pm….. A beautiful town, with plenty of interesting sights, fountains and cafes. 

Meersburg - a picturesque lakeside town

The Hotel Ocshen staff were magnificent and so welcoming. We all sat down for an evening meal ..but not Fr Luke…he was still travelling and had experienced longer delays than us.!!! 9.45pm he arrived into the Hotel with Conrad, uttering the immortal words “ I am selling my story to the Sunday newspapers” .

With some relief and lots of laughter our first day ended on a very happy note!

Friday was a pretty free day for most of the party, we went sightseeing to Meersburg ( a pretty town), took a ferry to Konstanz, visited the Minster,  enjoyed a lovely lunch together and arrived back via Friedrichshafen (home of the Zeppelin). Friday evening we met up at Liebfrauen (the Church of Our Lady) our venue in Ravensburg,  for a Concert on Saturday evening and Mass on Sunday morning.  We rehearsed with Peter  Kwater who had spent most of the day with the Organist and Soloists in rehearsals. We all also met up with Udo the organist from Our Lady’s Church. He was so warm, friendly and accommodating ,and his  English was impeccable!!l. After rehearsals and an evening meal together, at a local restaurant, we finished day two on a high!!


Our Lady's church hosted the concert

 Meanwhile back in the UK another party was getting ready to leave via a route from Manchester to London, then onto Stansted airport, to pick up an early morning flight to Friedrichshafen on Saturday. However……….….all was not well and the delays and problems they encountered getting from Rainhill to Stansted  would make marvellous material for an episode of any current soap opera!!

Just ask the Mimnaghs!!

Saturday morning we all visited the regular market in Ravensburg……which was full of fresh produce. The smells and aromas were incredible and we all enjoyed a leisurely stroll. Mid-morning we all met up in the church for a considerable rehearsal, and right on queue …. the rest of the party arrived led by Chris Mimnagh with a series of one-liners that Ken Dodd would have been proud of!! It was a great feeling for us all to be together.  Rehearsals over, we all enjoyed a long lunch at the Hotel Ocshen. The camaraderie of the group was infectious and the laughter could be heard in all the hotel rooms!!




A last minute rehearsal in the parish rooms

Saturday evening arrived quickly,  and it was time for the Concert. This was it….the pinnacle of what we had all been working so hard for.  There was a nervous tension in the air. Everyone was decked in their Choir finery and following a good poster campaign in the town ( Udo had placed striking posters in every shop in Ravensburg, weeks before we arrived…. for maximum publicity!!) 200 people gathered into the Church. Some of them, friends of Dave Seddon, from the nearby town of Weingarten, arrived in droves, with their children and families!!!!

The Concert was a roaring success, and those who witnessed it gave the Choir a standing ovation, something quite rare from German audiences, by all accounts!!  Udo was presented with a Glass vase (from the World of Glass) as a gift from the Choir. We returned to the hotel triumphant, and toasted the concert’s  success, though some saw it as an opportunity to visit the Land of Nod!!

Our young soloists were fantastic!
Julian, Andrew, Laura and Emilie

Sunday morning we were all up bright and early. Mass was a wonderful experience and we sang “The Coronation Mass “ by Mozart ( to celebrate the 250th Anniversary of his birth!!). Fr Luke was the con-celebrant, and read the Gospel in English, which was a nice touch.  The German parish priest was complimentary about our visit and contribution to the liturgy. Some of the choristers were able to sing the hymns in German ( only the clever ones …..that is. The rest of us just hummed along to the tune !!)



The Alps were beautiful in the sunshine

After Mass we had lots of photographs taken as a group, and Udo joined in the Photo opportunity. Mid-day saw the Choir gather at a local Café ( Zoe’s), ready to take the train to Friedrichshafen for the afternoon. Friedrichsahfen lies just at the side of Lake Constance and was completely bombed flat during World War 2. As a result, with no real historical buildings it is by-passed  and doesn’t receive many tourists. However on very rare occasions the shops are allowed to open on a Sunday. This was one of those occasions and a whole festival atmosphere greeted our party as we arrived. There were street entertainers, musicians, bands, fencers, artists and magicians. It was a brilliant sight to behold, The weather was superb, sunny 23C, and the sight of the Swiss Alps in the sunshine was amazing!!! Another good lunch followed by some browsing in the shops, an impromptu game of knock-about football with all the able males in the party..and we boarded the train back to Ravensburg.

Peter and Udo discuss musical issues

Sunday evening we had arranged to get together for a meal and an impromptu “sing- a- long” with an Oratorio Choir from Weingarten, Udo’s premier piece-de-resistance ...a 7 piece ensemble group, and of course, ourselves the internationally acclaimed “ Bretherton Singers” completed the trio. The food and wine flowed and then we came to the serious part of the evening…….the singing!!!


Peter Kwater was masterful and majestic, in his conducting of  the combined Choirs and we sang a number of pieces together, some  “in the round”, some German traditional song. Next came the performances from individual choirs. Peter played his “Joker" early on and we sang the Kyrie from the Mozart Coronation Mass accompanied by two of our soloists who, while remaining reverent to the music, turned their parts into a mini-opera…very funny indeed. It was enjoyed by all who sang, listened and watched the spectacle.


 Udo’s ensemble entertained us with a number of Madrigals and their blend of sound was fantastic. Then as the evening wore on there were a number of other  solo performances from each of the Choirs. Jane Mimnagh gave  a brilliant performance of “ Lilly “ from blazing Saddles ( or Blazing Salads as we re-named it)  a la Marlene Dietrich…she stole the show!! Andrew Dickinson conducted St Barts’ Choir whilst Peter Kwater accompanied on the piano to ”Londonderry Air“ and the pleats of laughter from the reaction to Andrews’ conducting was priceless!!!!  Other notable performances included Eve Suffield’s version of Summertime, Emily’s version of OOM Pah Pah, ( from “Oliver ”) with new words constructed by Chris Mimnagh, and Andrew's version of “ You’ll never walk alone” for all the Evertonians present, were expertly performed.   The evening truly was a great experience…even the French manageress of the restaurant came and delivered a unique version of “Plaisir d’amour”. Fabulous!!!!

Karin had made Sharon a birthday cake

Monday morning we all travelled to the station at Ravensburg to say “so long, farewell” , to half of the party. Goodbyes complete, we headed off to Aulendorf Water Centre (a thermal spa) by train.  After a great swim and some relaxing coffee and chat we all headed off from Aulendorf completely refreshed, onto Weingarten to see the Basilica. Lunch followed; we met up with Fr. Luke, visited the Basilica, which is a magnificent sight, and then onto Dave’s friends Klauss and Karin to meet in their home for coffee and cakes, as an unofficial celebration of Sharon Smallwood's birthday….. a good time was had by all in the Meurter household, Klauss and Karin and their children Florian (7 months) Simon (6) and Sarah (8)  were fabulous hosts, and after champagne, homemade cakes, coffee, and the obligatory “ Happy Birthday” we were off on our travels back to Ravensburg.!!

We bid a fond farewell to Ravensburg

Monday evening, our last night in the hotel, was not subdued and the laughter picked up a pace, when we were joined by Udo. After being presented with framed Choir photographs, we continued to “imbibe” until  midnight (-ish), joined also by Wolfgang, the Hotel manager, who had been tremendously helpful to all the guests during their stay.


Tuesday morning we were joined for breakfast by Udo, who saw us off at the train station in Ravensburg. A German passenger was waiting at the station with his dog “ Pascha”, who was celebrating his 7th Birthday.  As a treat, his owner Paul was taking him on the train.  We all obliged by singing “Happy birthday”  to Pascha . That luxury over, we boarded the train on our return journey home.  A smooth journey awaited us from Ravensburg to Basel airport… for getting off one stop too early at Uberlingen… A quick re-connection by bus, aided by fantastic scenery and completed by a rendition of the Beatle’s Classic playing on the German Radio of “ Eight days a week” really made the journey.

Quite fitting really, in terms of what we had accomplished in such a short period of time.!!!


Finally, words conveyed by Udo, after our Concert, which sums up beautifully our German tour:


 “ Tonight you have sung into the people's hearts and part of your hearts will now be here with us, in Ravensburg”.

The Muller family with Dave

The choir will never forget the warm welcome they received from Karin and Klaus who had worked so hard to prepare for our visit. Not only did they help organise everything, but they also opened their lovely home to us!