Guest blogger Aidan Briggs gives the inside view on Voce's tour to Busan Province
On 16 October a selection of Voce chamber choir’s finest singers embarked on a five-day tour of South Korea, with Suzi Digby at the helm.
We arrived for our first concert at the Busan Choral Festival in the vast and impressive Busan Cultural Centre to find that the concert had, thanks to travel delays between London and Seoul, just finished without us. We did, however, get to hear the phenomenal Philippine Madrigal Singers do their thing and immediately afterwards found out what 1500 singers shrieking applause sounds like. The diaspora was astounding; singers from China, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Russia and, er, Hackney, bustling about in technicolour traditional dress, dizzy with the excitement / music / sleep deprivation of it all.
Our journey through this carnage was led by Su-Gin, our eternally patient guide aboard the dedicated Voce Love Bus (pink frilly trim and built-in karaoke as standard). We were driven to our three concerts, given dressing rooms, had meals laid on and were generally treated like royalty. When not performing, we took in the sights of the superb Yen-Ong temple complex, indulged in some retail therapy at the world’s biggest department store (dinosaur garden on the roof. Really), and paid a visit to the hot springs for some heavenly relaxation.
The festival played host not only to Pimlico's favourite chamber choir, but to a prestigious competition with a five-figure cash prize. There were traditional and modern categories, schools, semi-professionals and professionals, many of them armed with dance moves. Judging them all was a panel of the world's finest choral minds, including our very own Suzi Digby.
The two concert halls where we performed were grand and impressive, and Rob Hatch stole the show with Ken Burton's special Voce commission Oh Can You Hear It. Our trip to a hospital in the outskirts to perform for the patients was probably our most memorable, both for the cheerful flag-waving of the patients and for the experience of singing Byrd in a sauna shortly beforehand. There was a parade across the beach, followed by a distinctly one-sided sing-off with a 45-person Taiwanese choir on the waterfront. The sun shone, flags waved, and that night we went moonlight bowling before teaching Su-Gin a few drinking games and hitting the Busan clubs.
As we set off for our return journey the next morning, wrecked but content, the consensus was that the tour had been a great success. Not bad for five days' work.
Thanks to Suzi Digby and our wonderful hosts at the Busan Choral Festival for a wonderful tour.
The Next Big Thing for Voce is our 10-year anniversary gala in November 2013 - watch this space!