Last week 31 intrepid musicians boarded the coach to Belgium for Beachborough’s inaugural Music Tour. After a smooth crossing (thankfully) we arrived in Bruges, which was to be our base for the tour. After settling into the Youth Hostel, making our own beds (some more successfully than others), we rehearsed our concert pieces and the excitement mounted for our forthcoming performances. The next day we moved ourselves to Ghent where we spent a happy morning drifting down the River Leie, learning about the picturesque medieval harbour. We then climbed thousands of steep steps into the Castle of the Counts, where we enjoyed the torture chamber and learnt how gruesome our ancestors had been! Our first concert took place in St Baaf’s Cathedral, famous for the painting of the Mystic Lamb by Jan Van Eyck, which we were lucky enough to see. After lugging all of our instruments from the coach, including Mr Smith carrying a full size keyboard, we were very excited to see a poster with our photo and the school name, advertising our concert. We set up in the beautiful crypt and awaited our audience – Mr Smith and a few senior children went out into the cobbled streets to help boost the numbers. We were delighted to see some familiar faces from Beachborough arrive, as well a good number of locals who had come to listen. The first concert was an outstanding success, the acoustics were superb and the children were inspired by the sound they were producing. The temperature added an edge to the performance as the cold made it challenging to keep the instruments in tune. Although the children were tired, that evening they managed to rouse themselves to a game of bowling at the local alley before they finally collapsed into bed. Thursday morning was spent walking through the beautiful, ancient city of Bruges to Choco Story, a chocolate museum. We learnt all you would ever want to know about chocolate! Leaving Bruges we then headed to Ypres, where we were amused to see Hans, the owner of a local chocolate shop, hanging out of his shop door with a sign welcoming Beachborough School. How did he know we were coming?! Yet more chocolate was bought and we moved over the square to the In Flanders Field museum, which is housed in the old cloth halls. This was a state of the art museum which, using their chipped wrist bands, enabled the children to discover life during the First World War, through the eyes of someone their age. The children were clearly moved by this experience and it prepared them for their evening performance at the Menin Gate. Our second concert took place in the Chapel of the Holy Family in the Technical Institute. This was a complete contrast to the previous venue as it was modern and warm! We were given a friendly welcome and to our surprise we were even photographed by the local Belgium Newspaper. Once again the children rose to the occasion and performed beautifully, making us all feel very proud of them. After a quick meal at a local restaurant we then headed to the Menin Gate. This is a phenomenal arch that stands on the road from Ypres to Menin. As well as being architecturally spectacular it has the names of 54, 400men who died in the First World War and were never found. Every night a ceremony takes place to remember them and the unnamed soldiers that died and we were honoured to be able to provide the music for the wreath laying, attended by 1500 people. The brass ensemble provided the accompaniment for the choir to sing ‘Abide with Me’, which they did with reverence and empathy, bringing tears to many an eye. It was an extremely moving occasion and one which we will remember forever. The final day, the sun shone and we all enjoyed a final trip into Bruges, where souvenirs were bought and we learnt about diamonds. After a quick packed lunch back at the hostel we wended our way home, happy, exhausted but proud of our achievements. Thank you to all of the parents that came over to Belgium to support our concerts, your friendly faces were a welcome sight!