So, my friends, for the last time on this part of the 'Epic Chants' Tour - notice I say "this part" ;) - I bid you a very warm welcome!
I hope that I haven't kept you waiting too long for this final instalment. As I'm sure you know we finished a week ago but I have needed a little time to come down to normality again and begin to settle into a regular routine, which I have found is not the easiest thing to do after living in a completely different world for fully three months!
And here we are... When last I wrote, we were in Switzerland and had just finished a short run of technically challenging shows. I am happy to say that things got a lot more straightforward after that. We stayed in Switzerland for a couple more days for concerts in Sursee and Basel - both, I think, first time visits (though I'm not certain about Basel; it seemed very familiar in some ways, though I really don't recall having done a gig there before; it might simply have been the fact that we, as a group, and I, individually, have used the airport there a few times).
This was a very pleasant couple of days for several reasons. It goes without saying at this stage, I think, that the concerts went well and the audiences left happy :) But this turned out to be a very sociable 48hrs as well. The (incredibly sensible) decision was taken by the Management to stay both nights in Basel. Sursee is only about 70km away and it was felt that, overall, it was a better bet to commute to that gig (less than an hour, and it's not unusual to spend that long getting to a gig through city traffic in some places!) rather than get up the morning after for such a short hop but have to check out of one hotel and then check in to another. Good call!
That meant we had two nights in the hotel in Basel and, accordingly, a free morning after the first of these. The hotel had a nice little outdoor seating area and, although it wasn't the best weather, we took that over, made ourselves at home and had a little party - and it's ALWAYS wonderful to kick back and chill out with the others and just get to know them as people and not simply colleagues.
Basel show day was lovely for me personally as I made a new friend :) A good friend had told me some time before that they had a friend in the area who would like to come to the concert and would I mind meeting up and spending a bit of time with them. Naturally, I was delighted to agree and so I ended up having a very pleasant lunch with this guy and his girlfriend, getting to know them a bit better and having the chance to dust off my rather embarrassingly rusty French. They came to the gig in the evening, of course and, well, let's just say I gained a friend and Gregorian chalked up two more fans ;)
And then it was “Auf Wiedersehen” and “Au revoir” to Switzerland and back into Germany for the home stretch! Mannheim was great – a really beautiful city centre, if you ever get the chance to visit, and a good venue – and Saarbrücken didn’t disappoint (this is another city I like, with the river Saar running right though the centre – the clue’s in the name here, as it literally translates as “Saar-bridges” – and so close to the French border that France pretty much starts before the city ends and you’re just as likely to hear French being spoken as German.
Our final off-day followed and I took the opportunity to make a little detour in order to catch up with some friends (which was rather lovely) and then it was show day in Braunschweig (Brunswick, in English). This was the first of three cities in this final five days that we had never visited before and, I have to say, that I’d like to come back! Another beautiful Old Town and stunning cathedral, not to mention a warm welcome, great concert and enthusiastic audience…
On to Dortmund, somewhere we have visited regularly ever since my very first tour in 2005 (indeed, there were only a handful of dates in Germany on that tour and so, for me, it holds quite a few memories) and then another new place – Wetzlar.
I must admit that, until this tour, I had never heard of Wetzlar. But I am so glad that I have now. I know that I have waxed lyrical about all the beautiful places we have been but the centre of Wetzlar really was something special. Some gorgeous scenery on the River Lahn, a more than slightly impressive Dom (cathedral) for a relatively small place and, quite simply, one of the prettiest Old Towns that I have come across – narrow, cobbled streets, lovely old half-timbered (Fachwerk) buildings everywhere you look and all the shops and businesses sympathetically integrated into this historical picture book settling without really dragging it too obviously into the present day. Very nice indeed! And, boy, did the crowd make some noise ;)
Bremen was next, another of our regular stops but no less welcome for all that, and another nice day for me. This was, I think, the city closest to where I have lived in Germany for the last four years and, as a result, there were quite a few familiar faces around, which is always a great thing :) It was a hard day though – the second and final occasion on this tour where we did two shows in a day but they went off, and went down, amazingly well.
And then – drum roll please! – the last day, the last concert, the end of the road: Münster. Again, this was a first visit for us and we were made to feel so very welcome by a superb crowd. The last show, especially of a long tour, is always a little…different. People, especially the crew (who work harder than anybody) let their hair down a bit and, without in any way compromising the show or the audience experience, a few little jokes tend to creep in ;)
We weren’t disappointed and the show culminated with everyone – crew and management alike – gate-crashing the final number (Sky and Sand) and joining in our little dance at the end up on the walkway at the back of the stage…before covering us in streamers by firing off a load of the unused streamer-cannons at us! One or two of the guys got so completely tangled up that they had difficulty waddling off stage afterwards :)
And so we came to the end of this first Epic Chants experience – and it has been epic: 82 days (including rehearsal), 52 concerts, 12 countries, thousands of kilometres, and tens of thousands of very happy fans…
What now? Well, for me personally, some R&R, some time with family and friends, and perhaps a bit of travelling. And for Gregorian? I’m afraid you’ll just have to watch this space but I can promise you this: plans are already well under way and you’ll be hearing more from us before the end of 2013; quite possibly a lot more ;)
Thank you all for sharing this journey with me. It has been an honour and a pleasure to have you along. Till the next time…