Monday July 15, 2016 – Mormon Tabernacle Choir European Tour Journal ~
Today we left Frankfurt, and said our final Adieu to Germany. Parting is sweet sorrow. A piece of my heart will always be in Deutschland, and I will miss singing “Gott sei mit euch…” . I hope we can return someday.
But, we have other cities and countries to visit, new friends to make, and more songs to sing. There are two concerts remaining on this tour, and today is a concert day (hooray!). It also means today is a long day.
This is an especially exciting day for Mr. Mo, because as a young man he served a full-time mission to Belgium [French speaking] for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has been over 30 years, and today he finally returns! For the past 28 years, I’ve been hearing this man regale our family with fond memories about Brussels and Northern France – so, I was excited to get to return with him! ♥
Our performance in Brussels, Belgium is at the renowned BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts.
In 1922, the Société du Palais des Beaux-Arts was formed in Brussels. Approval was given for them to build a large Arts Centre, which was named the Palais des Beaux-Arts (French). It was quickly dubbed the “bozar” which is a homophone of “Beaux-arts“. In 2002 the city officially adopted the nickname, and branded the center as “BOZAR“.
Tensions Running High
Our first view of Brussels included trucks filled with armed soldiers. There was a large military presence in the streets, which was a somber reminder of the tragic terrorist attack here less than 3 months ago. The mood on our bus was subdued. One of the military trucks pulled in front of our bus and two of our cute young single ladies were sitting in the front seats. A little flirting ensued between them and two of the soldiers, causing smiles and laughs on both sides of the glass. It was a fun moment! When the truck turned the corner and the soldiers faded from view the two girls sighed and called out dramatically “nooo, don’t leave us!” to which a seasoned choir member jokingly replied, “Oh well, You’ll always have Brussels!”. Our whole bus laughed, lightening our mood.
We learned that today was a national holiday, which increased military presence.
But, there was plenty of tension in this city even before the airport attack. Brussels is divided into two main groups – the Flemish and the French. These two groups are very proud of their separate heritage, but forced to share the same country – which creates a rocky relationship. Tolerance ebbs and flows. For example, today happened to be a Flemish holiday, and only half of the city [the Flemish] were celebrating.
A Utah Connection
We are performing in the beautiful Henry Le Boeuf Hall at the Bozar, home to the National Orchestra of Belgium. It is also the site for the annual Queen Elisabeth Competition which has launched the careers of many legendary performers since its inception in 1936, including renowned violinist and conductor Joseph Silverstein who was the music director of the Utah Symphony from 1983 – 1998.
Singing Through The Window
Similar to our Vienna Concert, we are much too large of a group to fit on the stage, so we are overflowing into the balcony – and this time there are two balcony levels above the stage! The first level is an enclosed box seat looking down onto the stage. This is where I am assigned. Here was my view before the rehearsal began:
Here is a photo that a news reporter captured of some of the balcony sopranos during the concert. Can you see me in the “window”?
There were two rows of seats in our window box, but no lighting. So, in most photos of our performance the second row sopranos remain unseen. However, here is a photo that – although shadowy – shows all of us.
The men were situated in the same manner on the other side. My short legs were completely wedged like sardines into my box seat. I had to turn sideways in order to fit and be able to stand and sit, so I am still not sure how those men in the window box opposite me managed! But, like true performers, we rolled with it!
A Formal Affair
I was assigned to the second dining time, so I changed into my performance attire (ladies wore the Fusica dress tonight, and men in their tuxedos), and checked on my bells.
I explored the Bozar for a little while. I found a small theater, the hallways, some art exhibits and I posed with a large photo of the front of the building – which would actually be all I would see of it.
Dinner at the Bozar was a formal plated event – being served to us by waiters instead of a buffet (wow – this hardly ever happens on a MoTab tour). Our group was too large for the dining area, so we had to be divided into two seatings – like a cruise ship. As different as this dinner was – with it’s tiny gourmet plated portions – it was a very satisfying meal, and it was incredibly delicious! Oh, my!
What I Didn’t See
All of the performers were required to stay inside the Bozar the entire day, but our guests were able to walk to the beautiful golden Grand Place [a UNESCO World Heritage Site], eat some local cuisine, visit the stunning Cathedral of St. Micheal and St. Gudula, shop for chocolate, and of course see the world famous statue of a little boy taking a pee – aka the Manneken Pis. 🙂
And he didn’t forget the Chocolate Factory, or the Belgian Waffle…
Three Young Friends
From my ‘window seat’ during our concert tonight I could see three young black men – between ages 17-20 – sitting together in a balcony near me. I enjoyed watching their reactions out of the corner of my eye all night. They were entranced by the music. During the first liturgical half of our concert, they were leaning forward expectantly in their chairs as if to absorb every sound. During the second half, they got really excited! The Battle of Jericho made them whoop and cheer enthusiastically. During the folk-tune Cindy they clapped along. When we sang our hymns, they closed their eyes and turned the palms of their hands up in a worshipful pose – reminiscent of a revival meeting. They were really feeling the music.
It was heart warming to me that these young men chose to dress up and come with their friends to a Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert. I wondered what their story was that brought them here. They were so filled with energy and enthusiasm for our music. At the end of the night they had big smiles on their faces, and they waved to us as they left. I wish I had been able to talk with them.
“For The Love of Music”
This was our fifth concert in Europe, and our fifth opportunity to touch hearts, heal silent wounds, and fill a gorgeous music hall with glorious praise. We received loud and long applause, and several standing ovations. We finished the evening by singing “God Be With You ‘Til We Meet Again” – [in English this time] and there were many tears of gratitude. A photo journalist in the audience posted a sweet message online regarding our performance which I wanted to include here.
“When God’s sending his angels voices, you feel his love and spirit. You’re in heaven during a night. After 18 years, the Best Choir in the World is back in town and gave it [their] all. Thank you so much for coming [to] entertain us and for the sacrifice you all did to come on tour just for the Love of Music.” – Muriel De Vos, photo reporter
Yes Muriel, we did come on tour for the Love of Music, and also for the opportunity to share God’s Love with you! The words of a hymn “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven,” is very true for us.
When area representatives learned the performers would have no time to shop for chocolate, they were horrified and took action. We were each presented with a little gift bag containing 1 piece each of Dark, Milk, & White Belgian Chocolates. What a thoughtful [and delicious] gesture!
I loved seeing Mr. Mo waiting patiently for me chatting with our cute bus driver. As we sped away toward Amsterdam, our final glimpse of Brussels was a beautiful cathedral shining in the night sky.
God be with you dear Brussels, until we meet again. May the Lord bless and keep you. I pray that tonight’s music – and the love of God – will help to create unity, and heal your wounded hearts. – MoSop
This is part of a 3-week series sharing my experience during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European Tour from June 28-July 16, 2016. Due to security concerns, tour participants were not allowed to share anything on social media until we returned.
Check back each day for a new installment!