We are actually staying in the suburb of Adler in the Olympic Village, very near the Black Sea, and surrounded by holiday entertainment. The weather is very warm and humid, a bit like Durban in February. The boys have had some much needed down time and have enjoyed swimming, exploring, relaxing and making use of the bikes and mopeds for hire.
I have never seen a town with so many trees. Driving through the actual town of Sochi you can literally not see the houses for the trees. I suppose that Sochi can be compared to Monaco with its harbor of luxury boats, the steep hills with mansions and the beautiful buildings.
The boys sang the best that I have heard them so far for their Evaluation. The three music directors (from Singapore, Estonia and Spain) were very warm and generous in their suggestions for improving the performance and also techniques that the choir could use to improve further through the years. It is what the World Choir Games are about, and how privileged the boys are to have input from world class musicians, who simply love music and give of their experience to improve choral music throughout the world.
The other purpose of attending the Games is to hear other choirs and this morning we heard some wonderful Russian Choirs, as well as St Stithians who gave an exceptional performance.
The atmosphere on the streets is just so joyful and the whole beautiful town is literally alive with music. The boys are preparing hard ahead of their competition performance tomorrow evening at 9.30pm, and then they have a Friendship Concert on Saturday at 7pm which is outdoors and they will share the stage with other choirs through the evening.
The Opening Ceremony last night was just spectacular. A choir of 1000 voices, a full orchestra, and the Bolshoi Ice Dome filled with 12 000 choristers from 238 choirs from 79 countries. It was the experience of a life time and the lads went ballistic when the South African flag was paraded on stage. I am still checking my facts, but I cannot find one single American or British choir at the games. Huh? All I can see happening is thousand of choristers, of such diverse backgrounds and cultures, making music in an exuberant, supportive, appreciative environment.
The evening was a showcase of Russian music and dance and one was just so struck by the cultural contribution that this vast, diverse country, with a most glorious yet violent and harsh history, has made to the world. And despite everything, particularly through the hardships of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Romanovs and the Revolution, they are a proud, fervently religious, disciplined, hard-working and cultured people whom I have not found any reason not to admire, and from whom we, as South Africans, could learn a lesson or two.