european tour


by Karla Linkner, President of the DCB

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On June 21, 2001 the Dexter Community Band embarked on their first European Tour to the Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia and Italy. The conductor, and tour organizer, William W. Gourley, had taken numerous groups to Europe, however, this was his first trip with an adult band. The tour was a "dream come true", stated Phyllis Risdon one of the founding members of the Dexter Community Band and lead trumpet in the ensemble.
Members of the 42 piece band making the trip to Europe were; Raynette Kempf, Sara Kottke, Nancy Martin and Glennis Stout on flute; Shirley Robertson and Sally Vukasovich on oboe and English horn; Chris Schwartz on the E clarinet; Sarah Bidigare, Lorne Kennedy, Karla Linkner, Warren Mayer, Anne Ormand and Milford Wolpoff on the B clarinet; Erica Arnold and Diane Tandy on the alto clarinet; Jeri Stosick and Pat Wier on the bass clarinet; Tom Jameson on the bassoon; Laura Kaufman and Narda Wishka on saxophone; Debby Adler on the tenor saxophone; Dee DeButts on baritone sax; Pat Bidigare, Philip Rhodes, Phyllis Risdon, Richard Savitski and Bill Schwartz on comet/trumpet; Kathy Beam, Jane Bishop, Luanne Booth and Dick Pitcher on French horn; Bill DeVoe, Mike Savitski, Martin Scott and Don Widmark on trombone; Bruce Collins and Lori Risdon on euphonium; Sharon Scott and Eric Starnal on tuba; Bill Adams along with Dolly Collins, Sandra Jameson, and Chris Schwartz on percussion; and John Stosick as the intrepid announcer of the Dexter Community Band.

Family and friends accompanying the band were; Shirley Gourley, Dan Kempf, Susan Trecroci, Jim Colando, Grace Kennedy, Herb Linkner, Linda Mayer, Rachael Caspari, Ben and Sarah Wolpoff, J.R Stosick, Michelle and Sarah Stosick, Al Wier, Donna DeButts, Tom Risdon, Joel Beam, Howard Booth, Judy Pitcher, Bonnie Adams, Hazel Carleson, Dr. Mike Smith and Clara Smith, and Melissa and Lance Aldrich.
The group individually funded their trip with help from the following donors: Dexter Rotary Club, Chelsea Milling Company, Colorbok, Dr. Raymond Howe P DDs MS, Hilliard-Lyons Investment Company, Ronald A Meyer Electric Incorporated, Dexter Band Boosters, Fendt Builders Supply Incorporated, and Catherine McClung.

The group's first stop was London, England. Here the band members were able to utilize an eight- hour layover to travel by underground (subway) to Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard. The Dexter Community Band musicians enjoyed the wonderful official guard band. Many members also saw the Tower of London and Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, the London Eye (the largest Ferris wheel in the world), Westminster Abbey and the Thames River and had a quick visit to the large and prestigious Harrods’s department store.

After this whirlwind tour of London, the band continued their journey, flying to Prague in the Czech Republic. There they stayed in the New Town, a section of Prague that was built in the 1400s The large Old Town section of the city was built in the 12th century or earlier. The band stayed at the Hotel Kampa, which was originally a 16th century armory and had vaulted stone ceilings. It had just the right European flavor and was a great way to begin experiencing Europe. It was also and interesting place for the bands first practice in Europe. The band's practice music radiated out of the vaulted halls and into the surrounding streets and parks.

The following morning Saturday, 23 June, the band had a walking tour of Prague lead by a local tour guide. The tour began at the Hradcany Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral situated high on a hill overlooking the rest of Prague. This area was impressive with its many old stone buildings, cobble stone walks, and the uniformed palace guards. Descending a long steep succession of streets, the tour crossed the Vltava River and entered the Old Town where the tour passed the House of Artists, the Old Town Hall, People's House, the large Astronomical Clock, and the many shops and ended in the Staromestsk6 Namesti Trg (the Old Town Square). The Czech names with their unusual letter combinations, letters with diacritical marks, and words without vowels can be a bit hard for Americans to read and pronounce. This main square in the center of town is so large that it held over 750,000 people during the Czech freedom rallies against Communism. The band was to perform their first concert here. Unfortunately, the band's percussion equipment was not able to cross the Czech border due to a lack of specific papers.

Thus the band members continued to explore the many attractions of Prague. The streets of Prague were laid out in the middle ages so to make it difficult for invaders to follow them. They are a maze of mostly small alleys that twist and turn in every direction, making it easy to get lost. Walking down the narrow streets and observing the many richly decorated buildings was a pleasure. A number of the band members went on a special tour of the former Prague Ghetto and Old Jewish Cemetery. Here space was such a premium that the gravestones were stacked horizontally like books on a bookshelf
That evening the band dined in a popular traditional Prague restaurant called the" U FleckU". The menu was traditional Czech foods and the Czech beverage Becherovka accompanied by a Czech band. A great time was had by all!

Sunday, 24 June, the group had to themselves for more sightseeing and shopping. Of particular interest were the many unique churches. The Old Bridge Tower at the end of the Charles Bridge proved a unique find. High up on its uppermost floors was a museum of old brass instruments which were the precursors of the trumpets. These were originally used to signal the approach of an enemy or warn of fire. Gradually, their signals became more intricate and the instruments more refined and they started to be used to play music from the towers. Thus the rudimentary start of town bands. It would be nice if the Dexter Community Band could someday playa concert from this large tower.
Prague is especially famous for its amber jewelry, fine crystal, wooden toys, and puppets. That evening a number of band members went to operas performed with puppets. One such opera attended, featured over fifty different puppets playing the characters of the opera Don Giovanni. The puppets performing in the three hour opera ranged in size from six inches to over ten feet tall. The remainder of the group went for a dinner cruise on the Vltava River.

The following day, Monday, June 25th, the band traveled across the farmlands of Bohemia to the small Czech town of Telc. This town was basically one large ovular main square with the Renaissance Telc Castle at one end. All of the houses and shops of the square abutted one another and had a portico that wrapped around the whole long square. This kept the houses and shops cool in summer and dry during rain. Here the group wandered the streets admiring the painted buildings, enjoying ice cream cones and a leisurely lunch before motoring to Vienna by coach.

While the band's hotel in Vienna was at a mineral spa a good distance from the city center, a straBenbahn (streetcar line) started in front of the hotel. The Vienna streets cars are fast and clean and a pleasure to ride. They run through fields, along rivers, and down the center of streets and connect all points of the city. If you miss one streetcar, the next car usually comes along within five minutes. In the center of the city, the streetcar lines connect to the equally fast and efficient U-bahn (subway system).
The morning of Tuesday, Jun 26th started with a bus tour of Vienna follow by a walking tour of the city center. On these, the band saw the Belvedere Palace with its very formal gardens, the Hofburg Palace which contains the Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner stallions, and the Staatsoper (State Opera House. For those with mountain legs, they could climb the 369 steps that spiraled endlessly to the top of the Stephansdom (Cathedral).

A real treat was the morning practice of the Lipizzaner stallions at the Spanische Reitschule (Spanish Riding School). In the formal riding ring in the Hofburg Palace, you could watch the horsemen exercise and train the regal, large muscled stallions both from the saddle and then from the ground with long reins as they walked besid~d behind the stallions.

The afternoon found the musicians at the famous SchloB Schonbrunn (Schonbrunn Palace) for a 3:30 p.m. concert by the Dexter Community Band. The concert of" All American" music drew a mixed nationality crowd. Many of the concertgoers stood on the famous steps to the front ballroom entrance of the palace to enjoy the concert.

After the concert, the group was treated to a tour of the palace that formerly was the home of Austrian royalty. The palace was started in 1744 and completed in 1749 by Maria Theresia. The palace has 1441 rooms and halls. 390 of these rooms were actually used by the royal Court for living and receiving guests. 139 kitchens in the palace cooked for the up to 1000 members of the royal court. Despite its size and grandeur, the palace was only a summer retreat for royalty.
The castle gardens were so large that it would not be possible to walk all of the garden paths in one day. During World War ll, the palace and grounds suffered heavy damage, but repairs completed in 1952 have restored the palace and its gardens to their original grandeur.
It was interesting that, in Vienna, rather than being pelted with rock concert fliers, street vendors hawked tickets to classical concerts, operas, and chamber music. These were performed in the dozens of music halls, concert halls, and palaces throughout the city. Many band member attended performances of ' 'La Traviata" or "The Magic Flute".

It was a real experience to sit in the loge seats of the Staat soper for the performance of "The Magic Flute". The loges have individual small anterooms with a couch and then the loge seat room itself with six red velvet padded individual chairs. The rear most chairs have very long legs to raise them one foot above the front row chairs. The opera started with a fifty foots dragon that moved over the audience and spouted gray smoke through its nostrils. The opera singers' voices were outstanding. The highest notes of the lead soprano would surely have broken a wine glass if one was there. "La Traviata" was performed in an equally elegant hall and with impressive cast. Still other band members attended a concert in Schonbrunn Palace with singers and musicians in period costumes.

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