Eric Conway, D.M.A.:
Today we left for Bar, Montenegro - yes Bar! Bar is shortened version of Antivari which comes from Bar's opposite position across the Adriatic Sea from Bari, Italy. This is a coastal town which like the rest of Montenegro is very beautiful, but happens to be on the shore. The natives here proudly proclaim that the sun shines in Bar 280 days out of the year!
We left our ski resort hotel at 10 a.m. after an incredible breakfast featuring crepes (pancakes with fruit or other toppings like chocolate). We left for Bar, Montenegro a 2 1/2 hour drive from Kosalin, Montenegro, where we had to drive back through Podgorica to get to the shore. The drive was in many ways more beautiful than the drive to Mojkavc because the landscape was even more green. We passed Skadar lake, the biggest lake in the Balkans. We travelled next to two islands, where the country built-up road right next to the mountain to get to the shore. We then traveled 4 kilometers through a mountain to end up 3 kilometers from the beautiful shore.
If the Bianca Ski resort was not beautiful enough, the Hotel Princess in Bar, a 4 star hotel, was next to the Adriatic Sea. The US Embassy in Montenegro used every contact that they had to make our stay as comfortable as possible. Every room had a balcony and view to of the ocean. Each double room was a suite where each choir member had their own bed and room. Yes, the Bianca resort was nice, but cannot compare to an ocean suite hotel with a beautiful view. The only thing that I was disappointed in was the beach. Once again, this beach did not have beautiful sand, but many rocks. We are told that there are beaches with beautiful sandy beaches, however, they all are very typically very crowded.
After a smooth check in, we went to a planned cultural exchange activity. One of the reasons for these tours is for cultural exchange. There is no better way to exchange culture than via music. The exchange occurred at the home of former King Nicholas I which is now often used for concerts. Both groups warmly received the culture of the other group. Musicians always appreciate other good musicians.
After the exchange, we went back to the hotel, just a few blocks aways to relax before the evening concert. The concert was in an old fortress (castle) at the highest peak in the town. Prior to leaving many took advantage of the pool on the premises. The Morgan State University Choir never saw a pool that they didn't like!
We left at 7:30 p.m. for our 9:00 p.m. concert. We drove up the mountain to the site of the fortress. We then unboarded the bus to have a very steep walk up the hill to the fortress. When we arrived, we knew that we were in a place with much history. The fortress was in the "old" section of Bar - obviously. We were pleasantly surprised at how nicely the castle had been turned into an arts venue. After a good soundcheck, where the choir members gave an impromptu open mic session those who arrived early, we changed to perform at 9.
This was a huge event for the Embassy and Bar. The castle was filled to capacity! I am told that at least fifty or so were outside the performing space to just listen to the choir, despite the limited sight lines. There was an electricity in the air. The temperature was perfect, despite the day being very warm at 88 degrees. Being on the coast, we felt a very comfortable breeze as we performed in robes. The evening was quiet and perfect for music making. We had an outstanding concert, certainly the most exciting for us with the environs.
After the rocky start to our time in Montenegro, we are beginning to enjoy this small country and are happy that we are here!