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category:school choir tours

The Balkans with Dragana

Say Zdravo to Dragana! Dragana is part of our world wide network of concert representatives and looks after all of our arrangements in the Balkans, including: Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Kosovo. Dragana also enjoys couriering tours in this region so you may have spotted her on the road!

What did you do with your quieter-than-usual summer? 

This summer was of course very quite as none of my touring groups were able to travel. Whilst I spent most of my time at home in Athens I did manage to visit friends and the nearby beach of Shinias. I also went to my favourite place, old Panteliemon at the slopes of Mount Olympus not far from the beach of Panteleimonas where we have our summer house. My son Savvas lives on the island of Tinos, so I spent some time visiting him too. 

What do you do when you're not organising concerts for ACFEA? 

In addition to my work for ACFEA, I’m the manager of our family business, Golden Way Tours where I also work with incoming tourists.

What is one thing you never travel without?

I always take a good book with me, my phone and my iPad.

Where’s your favourite destination?

How to choose just one?! In Montenegro, it’s Kotor, Bosnia - Trebinje, Croatia – Zadar and Dubrovnik, Slovenia -Ljubljana. I like them all equally! 

What’s your favourite thing to eat on tour? 

I always make sure I eat a good breakfast to set me up for the day ahead!

What’s your best travel advice? 

Always smile and solve any problems that might occur with patience 

What’s your favourite thing about working for ACFEA

I love meeting so many fabulous and enthusiastic music lovers from different countries. As well as enjoying their singing and playing, I love getting to know them and to learn all about the culture of their country too.

Published: 10 November 2020

Portugal with Saraswati

Portgual with Saraswati

Say Olá to Saraswati! Saraswati is part of our world wide network of concert representatives and looks after all of our arrangements in Portugal including Madeira and the Azores. 

What have you been up to this summer? 

Taking and enforced holiday! That said, I have just finished harvesting our figs and I'm about to deal with our olive crop!

What do you do when you’re not organising concerts for your next group to Portugal

Whilst I'm not working for ACFEA, I direct and manage the running of the Coral Sinfónico de Portugal 

What is your favourite region of Portugal

The more striking north, the historic central region, the ever sunny south :  all picturesque in their own distinctive way, and populated by pathologicaly friendly people! Take your pick!

What’s your top travel advice? 

Take a Sudoku and a Kindle!

Name the one thing you never travel without? 

Pencil and rubber!

What is your most memorable performance you’ve organised? 

Oh gosh!  So many.  Last year, I really enjoyed the Tiffin Boys' Choir performance in the beautiful Igreja de Lapa in Porto where they could adjourn to the fabulous Portrait Room to do their secular repertoire, plus their informal concert in the Livraria Lello, also in Porto.

 

Published: 1 October 2020

Andalusia with Paloma

Paloma_in_spain

Say Hola to Paloma! Paloma is part of our world wide network of concert representatives and arranges all of our performance opportunities in Spain. Paloma also often couriers tours in Spain & Portugal so you may recognise her from one of your tours.

What have you been up to this summer? 

I managed to go back to Spain to see my family for the first time since Christmas, after spending lockdown in London. I thought it was going to be a quiet summer, but I ended up visiting areas of Spain I had never been to, such as Cabo de Gata, a natural park on the Andalusian coast, and the islands of Ibiza and Formentera, which were unusually quiet due to the lack of international tourism. 

Music has also been a very important part of my summer. Luckily, at this time of the year, most festivals in Spain are outdoors and they have taken place with reduced audiences. At the end of July I went to the last concert of the Festival de Música y Danza de Granada. On 2nd September I attended a chamber music concert in Madrid, which was part of a summer series organised the Fundación Olivar de Castillejo (photo below). Both performances were sold out, the audience were wearing masks at all times and there was no interval in order to maintain social distancing and avoid big crowds. 

What do you do when you’re not organising concerts for your next group to Spain?

When I'm not organising concerts I normally do research to explore new areas, find new venues and create new contacts. Outside work I enjoy playing the piano, reading, cooking, going to concerts and travelling, of course!

What is your favourite region of Spain?

It's hard to choose just one region, but I think I would probably say Andalusia. The mix of cultures that have lived there over time make its heritage particularly rich; this can be seen not just in its architecture, but also in the music and the gastronomy. Apart from its culture, the landscape in this area is very varied, with a coastline bathed by the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, the famous olive trees in Jaén and the mountains of Sierra Nevada to name a few examples. 

Outdoor chamber concert in Granada with audience

What is your favourite venue?

Another question that I'm going to find hard to answer! We have used so many special venues in Spain with such good audiences but Burgos and Salamanca Cathedrals are definitely at the top, not just because of their beauty and history, but also because of how welcoming they always are with our groups. It's very rewarding seeing the long queues before the concerts and seeing the reaction of the musicians when we tell them they are there to see them!

What’s your best travel advice?

Don't stick to the things you already know, try to make the most of being away from home! Learn as much as you can about the country you are visiting beforehand, try the local food, learn some basic words... And never be afraid of asking - our wonderful couriers will always be happy to help you make the most of your trip! 

What is the one thing you never travel without?

This might sound too obvious, but I can't travel without my phone. Everything that I need is there, from maps to contact numbers and tour info. 

What’s your favourite thing about working for ACFEA?

I feel very lucky to have a job I love. We are a very close team and everyone is always willing to share their knowledge and expertise, but without any doubts, my favourite thing is travelling with our groups to see everything happening after months of work to put everything together. I love meeting new people and showing them around my country, sharing with them the moments before and after the concerts. Seeing the excitement after a performance and exchanging impressions with the audience are priceless moments and I always find it hard to say goodbye once a tour is over.

Published: 7 September 2020

East Germany with Sue

Sue Peter in Germany

Say Hallo to Sue! Sue is part of our world wide network of concert representatives and arranges all of our performance opportunities in Germany.

What have you been up to this summer?

Like most people, I have been rediscovering old skills and developing new ones, especially baking, tending my garden, painting with acrylics & a spatula and learning to make sourdough pizza. But of course, I have been visiting different parts of Germany to prepare for the Really Big Chorus’ arrival in December, to Landshut, the former capital of Bavaria, and soon to revisit Dresden and Meissen.

Are you a member of a choir?

I sing in two choirs, like most choirs we tried to continue rehearsals over zoom but without any proper singing. In recent months, we’ve been rehearsing in an underground car park, socially distanced, with miners’ lamps on our heads to read the music. We’re rehearsing for two concerts this Christmas, Gluhwine in the gardens and a ‘bring your own chair’ courtyard concert.

What do you do when you’re not organising concerts for your next group to Germany?

I’m always thinking about concerts in new venues, in new places! In the moments that I’m not, I love reading poetry and visiting historic graveyards. At the moment I’m rereading the poems and ballads of Algernon Charles Swinburne. I also love languages and I’m currently learning Catalan as my son lives in Barcelona. It’s a lovely language, a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese and French which I’m enjoying very much.

What is your favourite region of Germany? 

Well, I love East Germany and I was the first to pioneer this region for concert tours when the wall came down 30 years ago. My especial favourites are Leipzig and Erfurt.

What is your favourite venue?

My favourite venue in Germany has to be the classic Thomaskirche in Leipzig where JS Bach himself was the Music Director between 1723-1750. Outside you’ll find a statue dedicated to the maestro himself and inside you’ll find his gravestone.

What’s your best travel advice?

Thorough preparation! To quote Benjamin Franklin: ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’

What is the one thing you never travel without?

You may find this odd, but nearly all of our inspection tours are carried out in the deepest of German winters, so I never go anywhere without a bobble hat! Spending the entire day in freezing cold churches and organ lofts makes a bobble hat absolutely essential!

What’s your favourite thing about working for ACFEA?

I’ve worked continuously for the company for around 27 years and it’s been lovely! It doesn’t feel like working for a company, it’s like working with a family of friends.

Published: 31 August 2020