TRANSYLVANIA TOUR BY TOWERSEY MORRIS & BURP - August 2017

In 2014, Robyn Thorogood of Towersey Morris and Jim Turnbull met on the Taste Transylvania stand at Towersey Festival and the idea of a tour was first hatched. Nothing much happened until Towersey Morris performed in front of the Taste Transylvania stand at the 2016 Festival and were offered traditional hospitality - a shot of palinca, in this case home distilled elderflower brandy. By the time a second round had been consumed, a tour for August 2017 was being enthusiastically planned.

This enthusiasm was overheard by a member of BURP (Berkhamsted Ukulele Random Players) and not long afterwards they were performing in front of the Taste Transylvania stand and of course were offered traditional hospitality too.

Leaving a cold and wet England behind, both groups travelled to Romania on Thursday 10th August. A minor challenge on arrival was the weather - a heat wave with day time temperatures exceeding 35C and not below 20C at night.

The programme was hectic: Friday in Saschiz, Saturday in Sighisoara, Sunday in Mosna, Monday in Viscri and Tuesday back in Saschiz. The two groups worked together in 10 minute shifts, with the musicians giving the dancers’ time to recover from the heat after two or three dances. The week is captured in the following quotes.

"We didn't really know what to expect on our first visit to Transylvania, however, we were absolutely amazed and delighted at the wonderful local hospitality and culture.  All in all a special trip that will live long in the memory and be talked about in such positive and fond terms for years to come" said Kevin Prince of BURP.

Sue Parsons, also of BURP added “I am sure that none of us had anticipated the warmth of the welcome that awaited us in every town and village that we visited and were completely charmed by the care and hard work that had gone in to making each day of our adventure more magical than the one before. Rest assured I have spent all day extolling the virtues of Transylvania and will continue to do so ..... until the cows come home€¯”

“A particular highlight was the interaction with the audiences who would sing and clap along, and dance to the ukulele band. Probably the most surreal moment was teaching them The Time Warp - assisted by able volunteers from Towersey Morris - and then having the massed "Rocky Horror" dance troupe dance along to BURP's over-the-top interpretation of the song.”¯ Hamish Currie, BURP.

“Our Towersey Morris visit to Transylvania realised all my expectations and far more for all of us. The lasting memory I will have was the excellent sharing of cultures. Our offering of traditional Cotswold Morris dancing was more than matched by, for example, ancient sheep milking and cheese making in the hills and dinner in the forest hosted by the community and their Mayor and with The Chief of Police our Chef. Other highlights included performances with Romanian traditional Calusari dancers and the English BURP Ukulele Band. Overall all this and the hospitality of 'real' food and drink in heritage towns and villages made for a perfect tour. Robyn Thorogood of Towersey Morris

“Our visit to Mosna summed up the whole tour. Morris dancing, Ukelele playing and Romanian dance performed by children from the village. The warmth and welcome of the local people. Never have we had so many join us in our participation dance and never, for me, has it been more enjoyable or meaningful. This followed by feasting in the forest. A day to live in the memory for a long time. I have not danced in such beautiful places in all my time as a Morris Dancer. The Fortified Church in Visci has to be the most special, but also in the ruins of the citadel above Saschiz and the open woods above Mosna. The beauty of the whole trip was that it was a mutual sharing and celebration of culture and humanity.” Bill Moore, Squire, Towersey Morris

“Although we enthusiastically endorse the Thank you messages, you have received from BURP and Towersey Morris, we would like to add our personal gratitude to you both for your part in our splendid visit to Transylvania. Since this time last year when the first seeds of a BURP trip were sown, I'm sure we were not the only ones who might have had occasional misgivings about what we were undertaking. And following a band member around a series of gigs isn't normally a spouse's idea of a good time! Oh we of little faith! Whether performing or supporting, we found the places we visited fascinating, the people we met enchanting and your hospitality outstanding. Thank you so much for the time, trouble and expense you spent on making us feel so welcome and providing each day with a new and memorable experience. The intra-band social media has been working overtime as travellers gradually get back to normal but with so many happy memories created in such a few days. We look forward to seeing you again very soon at Towersey and we will continue to spread the word about  Saschiz, your enterprise there and Transylvania in general. Kind regards, Nick and Connie Cullum, BURP.

We had a quite unbelievable time in Romania, which we owe entirely to you. The trips to the shepherds, to the place whose name I've forgotten, but where we danced on the circle of grass with a tree in the middle, and especially to Mosna, were just marvellous. I haven't yet seen the photos of the Horse washing up and driving the tractor at the picnic (did I just write picnic? I don't think that gathering and that meal at that location can be dismissed as a picnic. It was fantastic). Everyone was just so kind to us. I'm really glad that you told us you'd never seen Romanians joining in as they did with us. It shows they were having fun too - which is great. It was a wonderful trip and I'm extremely grateful to you both for everything you did for us. Just thank you very very much for this year's trip”. Best regards, Paul Dolman, Towersey Morris

“Very belatedly I would like to thank you very much for the wonderful time I had in Transylvania. I had been concerned the visit would take me out of my comfort zone but I soon realised the contrary was true. It was an enriching, enjoyable and humbling experience, a real privilege to have been part of. A coming together of different cultures in such a positive way through the medium of dance. I need to say an enormous thank you for all the hard work in the organisation of it, which I know had gone on over many months, and continued on a day to day basis while we were there. Thank you for all the happy memories, John and I can share, and the kindness you showed to me”. Best wishes, Shirley Bush, with Towersey Morris

“We have just had a wonderful few days, far exceeding our expectations as organisers and every minute great fun for all who participated. The quotes from the performers sum up the week. We hope this will become an annual event that grows in a way that promotes cultural diversity” Jim Turnbull, organiser and sponsor.