Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Eric Conway: Morgan Choir in Salzburg Salt Mine & Lutheran Church Concert

Dr. Eric Conway writes:

Day 8 - Salzburg Salt mines and Lutheran Church Concert

Today will be our last full day in Salzburg. We have thoroughly enjoyed our limited time in Austria. Fortunately, we have spent most of our time on this tour in Salzburg. Everywhere we look we can see a beautiful view among the Alps' mountain range. The Baroque architecture looks like something out of a fairytale. The  Austrian people have been very warm and receptive to us.

Typically, travelers are admonished not to drink water in foreign countries - for fear of getting sick due to not knowing what possible microbes might be lurking. Well in Austria, we had a change our traveling paradigm. The water in Austria is among the best in the world and very pure and safe to drink. During the tour, we drank from public fountains, captured water from the lakes, even took water from the tap of tour hotel bathrooms to drink - something we would never do at home! No one got sick. We even enjoyed the taste of the water!

Today, we traveled to a salt mine about forty-five minutes from the hotel on the Austro-German border. Again, Salzburg is named after mineral - salt! The city has enjoyed wealth over the centuries due to their salt production and trade. A salt mine tour may not sound very appealing or attractive, but our tour today was one that no one on the tour will ever forget! We traveled about one-half mile into a mountain to view the mine and to learn about the history of salt, why there is so much salt in the mountain, and the process of acquiring salt from the mine. If you believe in the concept that billions of years ago, when continents were formed, the water receded and much of the salt from the oceans remained in certain areas, often under rocks or in other words mountains. When salt was discovered on the mountain, this meant an evergreen trading investment for the region. 

At the beginning of the tour, we had to wear protective clothing to avoid getting salt residue on our clothing. We were told to wear warm clothes since we were walking through caves in a mountain. You can imagine that it was very cool - around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. We took a train, reminiscent of an amusement park ride to the center of the mine before getting off on foot. Videos were presented in English, telling the history of salt and the mine. At one point to get to another level in the mine, the group had to go down a huge slide or walk down many steps - of course the group chose the former. In the middle to the mine, we were all ushered onto a ferry to cross a salt lake in the mine. Again, this was like a Disney park attraction. At a certain point we crossed the border to Germany and back to Austria. Originally, the mine was totally in Austrian territory, however, due to changes in political divisions, this changed over the centuries. At the end of the tour, we returned to Austria! Again, I believe that no one will ever forget this salt mine tour. We were so engaged in this salt mine tour, it was like going back in time. See many links to many videos and photos from the tour below.

After a group lunch minutes from the mine, we drove back to the hotel for a few hours of rest before our evening concert.

Tonight’s concert was in a Lutheran church, which was a stark contrast to the cathedral concerts sung earlier in the tour. Prior to the concert we visited Marable Gardens - the gardens of the Mirabelle Palace. The gardens are famous because this is where the song Do-Re-Mi was sung in The Sound of Music. The gardens were very picturesque.

The concert was well attended. This concert was a fundraiser for organization that I do not believe we have in the states: a non-profit supporting the children of mentally-ill parents. The church was packed! Due to the smaller venue size, the sound of this concert was even more suited for voices. We performed mostly without any micing. I announced the concert  in German. After the concert, the church hosted a reception for the choir and for the cause. I was told by a language teacher in the audience that although my German had a heavy American accent, the audience thoroughly appreciated me making the effort to communicate in their language. Any slips in pronunciation were all forgiven. 

We also noticed that this audience seemed to be very high-Austrian society. Many commented that they certainly knew good music and were aware of related concert-etiquette, but after hearing our music, they felt relaxed and comfortable accepting the spirit of the music and began to move their bodies and clap their hands. Many believed that they heard a high-quality choral group who communicated their music exceptionally well. Most attendees stayed behind to talk directly with the choir and give plaudits. 

We returned to our hotel to prepare to leave in the morning for transport to Germany!

See many links and photos attached detailing the day!


Asians working together to load luggage

Boarding train

Choir members going down slide

Going down slide

On the Lake on the Mine

Departing Mine

Entering Restuarant

Beginning of Lutheran Concert

We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. - Aristotle
Eric Conway, D.M.A.
Fine and Performing Arts Department, Chair
Morgan State University

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