GWO in Europe 2010 – Day Two – Prague Posted on January 24th, 2010 by

Day Two

Taking the stage.

Months of planning come together today as the anticipation of the day ending with the first concert on tour continues to build. It’s Friday. This must be Prague. Following breakfast at the hotel, the members of the Gustavus Wind Orchestra begin the day with a tour of the Prague’s hilltop landmarks, the Castle Hradcany and St. Vitus Cathedral, a stroll across the Charles Bridge and free time to find lunch and a place to warm up. With temperatures lower than on Day One, the challenge of fighting the remnants of jet lag is replaced by the need to stay warm as we venture out into the city.

Even with two highly informed and entertaining guides, condensing the history and sites of a city that dates back 2500 years is difficult. The Hradcany Castle, with defensive walls dating back to the 10th Century, St. Vitus Cathedral with its combination of Neo-Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture and a construction history spanning 600 years, Romanesque towers and walls still standing from the 10th Century, stagger our ability to take in the breadth of history that surrounds us. We walk through history as we travel through buildings that date back to the 9th Century. Dates and names that are vaguely familiar come at us as quickly as we pass through the Castle and the Cathedral.

GWO Members at the Charles Bridge, Prague

GWO Members at the Charles Bridge, Prague

Prince Wenceslas (our “Good King”); Charles IV and Holy Roman Empire influenced many of the buildings we are visiting and once called Prague its capital city. Maria Theresa, the daughter of Charles VI and the start of the Seven Years War; Jan Hus, whose martyrdom in 1415 opened central Europe’s struggle for religious freedom and the reformation of Catholic Church and, a century later, the Protestant Reformation and the Thirty Years War. The names, dates and inter-connections across a continent, across the centuries, that are too difficult to connect continue to come at us and our heads are spinning as we descend the long walkway which leads us to the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square.

As this wealth of history and the beauty of the city begin to come together in our minds, we organize

GWO Concert, St. Simon & Juda Church, Prague

GWO Concert, St. Simon & Juda Church, Prague

our thoughts and focus on the first concert of the tour in the Church of St. Simon and Juda in the center of the city. The audience fills the lobby as we set and prepare for our concert. As the last notes

Honored Guests Professor Erazim & Dorothy Kohak

Honored Guests Professor Erazim & Dorothy Kohak

of our preparation and tuning fade, the 400+ audience quickly fills all available seats. Among the crowd is our friend and former Gustavus Professor Erazim Kohak and his wife Dorothy.  The lights dim as the Gustavus Wind Ensemble returns to the stage.

Months of preparation and countless hours of rehearsal, sectionals and private practice come together in this place, surrounded by the beauty and grandeur of the Neo-Baroque sanctuary which seems to have been waiting for this moment to brings our music to the people. From the brilliance of Jim Stephenson’s AMERICAN FANFARE (Listen to AMERICAN FANFARE) to the nuance of Howard Hanson’s SYMPHONY No. 1, the music rings out under the frescoes surrounding the altar and chancel.

Day two concludes as the members of the wind orchestra gather for a post-concert moment, strike and load the equipment and enjoy dinner. Anticipation turns to relief as the first concert is now in our memory and we can leave our gift of music to a city that has known great music for centuries. As we leave the city center, we try to make sense of this long day, of all that we have seen and learned, of the experience of performing that we can both take with us and leave with the audience, and we promise to return.

As we board the buses, we are once again overwhelmed by the beauty of this magnificent city and we hope that we have added to that beauty in some small way.



  1. Gerald Matykowski says:

    Thank you for these wonderful reports. We are so pleased to be able to follow the kids on this tour.

    We have a relative in Poland that is wondering if any of the concerts will be broadcast, either live or delayed.

    Thank you once again.

  2. jfienen says:

    Wonderful blog and the WO pieces was amazing. Thanks for all the work on updating and keeping us posted. It is exciting to just share in a small part I can imagine how wonderful it is to experience it all live> Stay warm and safe. Judy Fienen

  3. Louise Phillips says:

    My thoughts and prayers are with ALL students, leaders and chaperones. Andy’s grandmother Phillips