Sunday, 11 October 2015


by Jack Ross

On the 17th July 2015, the Junior School Brass Band and PGS Brass donned our iconic, red tour hoodies, and departed on our sixth biannual brass trip.  This time, we had the pleasure of experiencing all the wonders and sunshine that Barcelona has to offer.

We embarked on what was anticipated to be a gruelling 24-hour coach journey (pushing 30 hours), which actually turned out to be quite enjoyable, as it reinforced our sense of team bonding by eliminating all sense of personal space. Although, we did count our blessings as the coach came with the luxury of having a working toilet (admittedly with no extractor fans).  

Arriving on the 18th at around 19:00, rather than the ETA of 14:00, we were about to tuck into a lavish buffet, but were immediately subjected to the questionable Spanish queuing etiquette, but in true British fashion we stoically held the line. Dinner ranged each night from traditional Spanish dishes, such as a paella and chorizo, to chicken and chips, with even shark appearing one evening!  Overall we were delighted with the Spanish cuisine, and I would definitely recommend it to all those who are considering visiting Spain.

We played three concerts at various venues, the first at a beach stand in Roca d’En Maig, where special commendations must be given to the first soloists of the tour to perform, Junior School Band members Kristian Fraser and Harvey Hill, for their excellent rendition of 12th Street Rag.

Our penultimate performance was situated fifteen minutes away from the hotel by foot, and in the packed town square of Placa De Josep Anselm Clave.  This had to be our best concert, as the acoustics were perfect, and there was an abundance of shade combined with a large number of excited onlookers; a recipe for a great show.  This was also my most memorable concert, however, not for any of the reasons above.  Primarily, this was because myself and another pupil missed the roll call, and were left stranded in a very quiet hotel, but after catching up/sprinting to the location, both bands performed outstandingly, and everyone left the concert in high spirits.

Our final concert was at the bandstand in El Poble Espanyol, where the Junior School Band braved the sun, putting the Senior Band to shame, as despite being given enormous sombreros, the midday sun was overbearing.  We (the Seniors) retreated to a sheltered bandstand and continue the performance away from the unrelenting sun.  The highlight of this concert was not the playing, although it was spectacular, but instead it was Mr and Mrs Gladstone shielding the 4th Trumpets from the sun with their gigantic sombreros!  The music and standard of playing from both bands throughout the trip was phenomenal, and I think every player can be proud of their contribution.

Throughout the trip we also had the opportunity to visit several vibrant, and colourful Spanish markets and quaint tourist shops, where as well as the obligatory traditional straw donkeys, castanets and Flamenco fans, everything and anything you could possibly want was for sale. Whether it was original or not was another question, although I am almost certain you can’t buy a genuine Rolex for five euros!

We also had the privilege of visiting two Catholic structures.  The first, Gaudi’s Basilica, was breath taking, despite the coach journey time (true to form) exceeding the original ten minutes by about an hour and a half!

To our amazement, we discovered that the Basilica is still being built, despite construction beginning over a century ago in 1882, but then we remembered it was being built by Spaniards (we could see the cranes, but not the builders…).  Truth be told, the Basilica has always been crowd-funded, meaning that building work can only continue if funds have been raised.  The time taken merely shows the sheer determination the Spaniards have to finish a project so close to their hearts. The Basilica can currently hold one thousand choristers, as well as eight thousand people in the congregation, it also has amazing statues and patterns, designed and hand drawn by Gaudi, which would not be out of place in the Tate Modern, demonstrating Gaudi’s immense skill and creativity.

The second Catholic building was the magnificent Monserrat Monastery, founded in 1025, which houses the thousand year old statue of local Patron Saint the ‘Black Virgin’. The statue is a wooden craving of Jesus’ mother Mary, holding a baby Jesus, which is mounted on a golden altar. Pupils also heard the amazing history of the Monastery, how it has always been a sanctuary to those in need, most notably scores of protestors, who were protected from police when they opposed fascist dictator General Franco’s verdict of imprisonment and subsequent death penalty sentence given to sixteen Basque terrorists.  As a consequence of this protest, Franco released the terrorists without charge.  This was a surprising move from the Monastery as previously they had been protected by Franco, after eight hundred of their monks and holy men had been slaughtered by the communist Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, but perhaps this shows the power that the building still has in this modern era.

Pupils agreed that one of the best parts of the trip had to be the Waterworld Waterpark, which provided a cool respite from the unrelenting heat, and where even Miss Heath conquered her fear of waterslides by going on the fastest slide, after being ‘misinformed’ by Mr Brown, and the Gladstones it was the slowest! The waterpark’s wave pool also provided another chance for team building, with Junior School pupils using the Senior pupils as human stepping stones, to survive the ferocity of the waves!

After enjoying a marvellous trip, we began the trek back to school on the 23rd of July, this time actually arriving back early (EARLY) to Portsmouth, despite fears there would be large traffic jams caused by spectators attending the America’s Cup, but in true British fashion, rain stopped play.  

On behalf of all the pupils on the trip I would like to thank Mr Brown, and his team for organising another brilliant Brass Band tour!

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