LAST month 40 Peebles High School students from across five year groups embarked on an unforgettable music exchange with Ursulinengymnasium Werl in north-west Germany.

After a pleasant ferry crossing to Zeebrugge and coach journey through five countries (Scotland, England, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany), we received a warm welcome from our German friends.

Tired from our long journey, we settled in with our host families, a week of challenging but rewarding rehearsals and concert ahead.

The next day proved to be both musically and culturally informative.

After getting our choir, orchestra and band rehearsals off to a good start, both the Scots and the Germans visited the county town of Soest, where we were given a fascinating tour and learned about the town’s history, right up to the present day, after which we had some free time to explore and spend time with our hosts.

Following a day of rehearsals in Werl on Tuesday, an active Wednesday ensued with the Scots making trips to the massive ‘Musik Produktiv’ shop in Ibbenbüren for some musical retail therapy and the typically Westphalian city of Münster.

At ‘Musik Produktiv’, many of us decided to buy kazoos which ended up playing an important part in one of the songs sung by the choir. After arriving in Münster, we were treated to a short history lesson from Herr Becker who gave us an insight into what is a very beautiful city and how it came to be the way that it is today followed by free time to explore and to visit the town museum.

Our hard work at rehearsals all day Thursday and Friday certainly paid off and on Friday evening we put on a magnificent performance with songs including Vois sur ton Chemin from the French film Les Choristes, Thank You for the Music, the themes of Star Wars and Jurassic Park, and performances from our jazz band, choir, ceilidh band and staff band.

To top it all was a performance of Runrig’s Loch Lomond, with a captivated audience demanding an encore.

Many of us however were dreading the morning after the concert, which would see our departure.

Lots of tears (both Scottish and German) fell and we cannot wait to welcome our friends back to Peebles in June next year.

We wished that Mr Wilson had been able to join us, but we were able send him a video message to convey our warmest wishes.

This exchange would not have been possible without the exceptional hard work and determination of our teachers and their colleagues in Werl, who put in an effort of which we cannot speak highly enough.

James Culshaw, S5