In October I continued my travels around Europe following two of my passions: Barbershop singing and pro-EU support. Here is my story of a long weekend in Cascais, Portugal, followed by a few days at home in Spain and then a long weekend in London for the previously postponed National Rejoin March.
To Lisbon for a Harmony College
This was a new venture for the Spanish Association of Barbershop Singers (SABS) to work with a similar musical organisation, Vox Laci, in Portugal. The objective was to share a Harmony College education and training event and bring singers from both countries together to learn from each other and make new friends. Music knows no borders. We would share costs and income with Portugal, and SABS would share the costs of bringing a top Barbershop Harmony Council coach from the USA to Europe with our sister organisations in Germany and Ireland. As SABS finance manager, I was asked to be involved in the planning and running of the event. It was held in the beautiful Hotel Seminario Torre D’Aguilha near Cascais.
Music knows no borders
We also planned to bring our four boys from Barcelona, the world-class Hanfris Quartet, to be part of the coaching team. SABS has supported them for 12 years while they graduated from our national contests, through the European contest, to reach the world contest in the USA twice. They also treated us to an exclusive concert in the Seminario Church on Saturday evening. You can watch some of the concert here.
Apart from the singing and education periods in the weekend programme, everyone learned a new a cappella arrangement of the song ‘A Whole New World’ from ‘Aladdin’ and performed it as the closing session of the weekend. Thanks to the lowering of covid restrictions on travel, we had the opportunity to reinvigorate our support for the chorus Bella Acapella, based in the Algarve. We also have a new Octet, Arco Iris (‘Rainbow’ in English), whose members are of six different nationalities. The weekend highlighted the importance of education and training in all group activities to improve their competitive success. It also displayed the value of networking and bringing people of different EU nations together to enjoy a common interest. Music, singing and all performing arts know no borders.
And then to London
On 7 September I flew to London to take part in the National Rejoin (the EU) March. On the following afternoon our Queen died, and the march was postponed. Six weeks later I returned to the Leonard Hotel near Marble Arch. It’s such a friendly hotel, with an international staff. Most of them are studying for degrees in subjects ranging from a MSc in engineering management to bachelor’s degrees in project management and tourism. (Yet my grandchildren are prevented from travelling to Europe to study due to our withdrawal from Erasmus+.) On Saturday morning I was ready to march with my ‘Bremain in Spain’ group of friends. We met at the statue of Achilles in Hyde Park. Well, what a surprise, there was a group from Kent there! At last, I got to meet the chief editor of Kent Bylines, Charlotte Mbali, and Chris Hammond in person. But Magdalena Williams, my companion on my freedom of movement journey from Budapest to southern Spain a year ago, was not there. She had already told me she had to take her dear dog Bonnie, who had travelled with us, to the vet to say a final goodbye. You can see a video of the NRM here.
At Parliament Square
Our ‘Bremain in Spain’ group weaved its way forward during the March, as Sue, our leader, was one of the speakers when we got to Parliament Square. We had our large group flags and Spanish flags proudly displayed. And a Welsh flag? That was our Lisa from the Canary Islands and our representative on the European Movement committee. (You can still be a patriot of your homeland as well as being pro-EU.) At Parliament Square I got to shout my regards to Mike Galsworthy (I’ve been following him since he formed Scientists4EU. Now he is also CEO of the Bylines organisation) and Maddy (Madeleina Kay), who is an ambassador for the younger generation. The speeches were amazing, and it was so good to see Terry Reintke MEP and, as a surprise, Guy Verhofstadt, MEP and former Belgian PM, who said we will be welcome to rejoin.
The Jersey Boys
Magdalena phoned as I entered my hotel. She was very upset and needed her spirits lifting. We agreed to meet in Leicester Square for lunch in Chinatown on Sunday. Dim Sums later, we wondered if there were any shows with matinees on, and went to a nearby ticket booth. The Jersey Boys Broadway musical caught my eye. But it started in 30 minutes! Halfway through booking, those show tickets were pulled. We ran through Trafalgar Square, passed the queue to the booking office – “If you want to sell those tickets for half price …” We were in, and what a fabulous, slick show. By the end of the show the whole audience was standing, clapping, singing. Spirits were lifted. There was time to pop across the road to The Shades for a drink. The barman (from Kosovo) told me the cast often came here for a drink after the show. A while later, he brought across the lady who plays the part of Mary Delgado. Her uncle is a Barbershopper and a member of the Isle of Wight Barbershop Club! It’s a small, small world. From Lisbon to London, music knows no borders. Maybe expanding the connections of musical and other cultural activities across Europe is a small but sustainable step to rejoining the EU.