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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Two tour managers from ACFEA, Becky Shaftoe and Dan Porterfield, recently attended the School Travel Forum AGM in Birmingham. John de Vial, ABTA Director of Financial Protection and Financial Services, gave an excellent presentation on Brexit and the UK travel industry. ABTA is working hard with the UK government, and across Europe, to secure the best possible outcome for the travelling public as the UK departs the European Union. ABTA is lobbying to safeguard our transport links, including our air routes, and protect valuable consumer rights. Post-Brexit, it is important that travellers continue to enjoy visa-free travel and access reciprocal healthcare arrangements currently offered by the European Health Insurance Card.
Whilst there is still much uncertainty in the outcome of the Brexit negotiations, the UK government is advising passengers to have 6 months passport validity for travel to Schengen areas beyond 29 March 2019. As always, it is essential that passengers continue to take out adequate travel insurance in addition to carrying an EHIC.
ABTA has produced several reports on Brexit and the UK travel industry which may be accessed here:
When you accept a job as an ACFEA courier, you know that you are taking on a huge responsibility. Tour Managers work on their tours for months. They know every little detail about the group and about the destination and, when the tour is set for departure, they pass the responsibility onto the courier to ensure all runs smoothly. Eton College was the first UK school group I worked with as a courier, but I was not alone on the tour – I was accompanied by Pilar, an experienced courier who had couriered for many ACFEA tours.
Our courier role involves taking care of all of the details of the tour – all of which are tailor-made. Duties include getting in touch with hotels and restaurants beforehand to make sure all the arrangements are reconfirmed, checking that the coaches are going to be waiting for us at the right time and contacting the venues to confirm the group’s arrival and concert set-up arrangements.
Couriers also have to be quick to understand how groups are organised and adapt to their needs. With Eton College, we went through the itinerary with Tim, the group leader, at the end of every day and he would then pass on specific instructions to the students. All the boys were very collaborative and always willing to help when it came to loading or unloading the coaches and the instrument van. Due to the high temperatures of Spain during the summer, our interaction with Nik, the van driver, was extremely important - instruments are valuable and delicate so it was important for us to ensure they were not exposed to the sun. Nik was incredibly helpful at all times and thanks to his previous experience transporting instruments for professional orchestras we were confident he knew what to do.
The highlight of the tour is, of course, the concerts which were truly outstanding! From my personal point of view, it was a privilege to act as an interpreter for the conductor and express the group’s gratitude to the audience in my native language. After every concert members of the audience interacted with the performers, thanking them for being there. For some it was the first time they had ever seen an orchestra performing live. But it wasn’t only an emotional experience for the locals attending - one of the matrons who came on the tour couldn’t stop crying when the soloist performed Sibelius Violin Concerto. She explained to me that she had watched him grow up and now she had to say goodbye to him, after six years. Witnessing how involved the staff are with the wellbeing and development of the children had a huge impact on me.
After ten days of hard work and little sleep, I can only say what was an incredibly rewarding experience it was - I made lots of new friends and I cannot wait for my next tour to begin!
Michael Portillo attends London Oratory concert in Seville and Choir releases rew CD on Sony Classics label
The London Oratory School’s Schola Cantorum had an immensely successful tour to Granada and Seville during their February 2017 half term, singing to full houses. At one of their four concerts, at Iglesia de la Anunciacion, Universidad de Sevilla, there were queues stretching back two blocks and with 350 people inside there was standing room only. A rather special guest, Michael Portillo attended and the Music Director, Charles Cole, was delighted to meet him after the concert.
The choir posted 3 minute videos each day of their tour on Facebook.
The Choir’s new CD “Sacred Treasures of England” was released in February 2017 on Aim Higher Recordings in conjunction with Sony Classics and sold extremely well at each concert venue. Have a listen here.
April 2016 saw ACFEA Tour Consultants bring New York's Nightingale-Bamford School Chamber Chorus to Spain for a concert tour which included the cities of Seville, Cordoba and Granada.
The tour saw twenty members of the choir participate in Mass followed by a concert in the Iglesia del Santo Angel, a 17th century Baroque Church in the centre of Seville. From here they moved on to Cordoba and were able to perform in Circulo de Amistad Liceo Artistico y Literario, a beautiful building which is registered as one of Spain's cultural and historical monuments. Their final concert was in the Church of our Lady of Sorrows in Granada and it was here where each member of the choir was presented with a souvenir gift from the parish priest and in turn the choir reciprocated with a gift and a donation to the church.
The tour also included plenty of sightseeing and a tour to the Alhambra Palace, as well as a flamenco lesson which added a taste of authentic Spanish culture!
Spain is a very popular destination with ACFEA touring groups, due to the Mediterranean sunshine, wonderful food, and the appreciative full audiences. Venues range from majestic cathedrals to state of the art concert halls, castle courtyards and well-appointed outdoor venues.
One of the many choirs who visited in 2015 was London Oratory School Schola Cantorum who were filmed for National Spanish television during their Mass participation in Toledo Cathedral.
Spain also offers the opportunity for a two-centre tour – perhaps catch the ferry to Morocco? Or cross the border to Portugal?