FFHS band set to tour Europe

Members of the Fort Frances High School band will be heading to merry ol’ England tomorrow to begin a 13-day tour that also will take them through France.
The band has four concerts scheduled—two outside London, one in Paris, and one in Cannes—but Fort High teacher John Dutton said they often have found additional venues in which to perform in the past.
“In Germany four years ago, we did a lot of performances that weren’t scheduled,” he noted, including in a hotel and at an outdoor singing concert.
The band is quite versatile, with many members able to sing as well as play their instruments, which makes it easier to find places to perform.
Dutton said past groups have played in seniors’ homes, churches, courtyards, and American high schools in Europe. One year, the Fort High band played in Olympia, Greece, where the mayor of the city gave them a medal for their performance.
“We’ve had wonderful audiences,” Dutton recalled. “It’s been really successful.”
Still, it can be a challenge moving from venue to venue. “For the most part, we get an hour before we start to get a feeling for the acoustics,” he noted.
Despite the short rehearsal time, Dutton said he’s confident in his students. “The kids are prepared. They’ve had 18 months of practice,” he remarked.
There are 63 students going on the trip, along with 15 chaperones. Dutton noted it is a small group compared to past years (for instance, 99 students went on the trip to Germany four years ago).
The elimination of OAC likely accounts for the smaller group, as well as the average age of the students. “This is the youngest band I’ve ever taken,” Dutton said. “A number of them have never been on an airplane.”
The Fort High band typically travels every two years, alternating between destinations in Canada and Europe.
The group will be spending three nights in London, four in Paris, four in Nice, and two days travelling.
Besides concerts, they have a schedule packed with sightseeing. They will hit the major sights in London, including the Tower of London and Picadilly Circus.
In Paris, the group will see the Eiffel Tower, visit the palace of Versailles, and take a cruise on the Seine. While in the south of France, they will visit Monaco, Eze, Antibes, and Cannes.
“We’re hoping to get some warmer weather,” Dutton noted.
This is the first time the band has travelled to Europe since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. and Dutton has had to make a few changes in the way the instruments are shipped.
On their last trip to Germany, the group brought along a piano and four timpani. This time, they won’t be able to bring a piano unless it weighs less than 100 pounds—and can bring no timpani at all.
“We’re making some changes in the percussion section,” Dutton noted.
Meanwhile, as the date of departure approaches, the students come up with more and more questions.
“They’re all pretty excited right now,” Dutton said.

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