The penultimate leg of our month-long tour was quite possibly the most special and memorable part of our trip. Our 5 days in Italy were well spent soaking up (and contributing to) the unbeatable Mediterranean culture, delicious food and warm climate. We were given the wonderful opportunity to travel by coach to several picturesque villages outside Rome (Ninfa, Norma, Cave and Palestrina), where we were warmly greeted by enthusiastic locals and acquaintances of Bella Woods. The generous hospitality shown to us over the course of those 5 days warmed the cockles of my heart.
Our first performance on Roman soil was given at the Baldini Hall, Piazza Campitelli. I was struck by the unapologetic, rapturous applause from the audience, who despite being few in number (“A third of the audience are in the front row!” – Warren), filled the room with multiple exclamations of “Brava!” at the conclusion of the concert.
[Poster for our concert at Baldini Hall]
On our third day in Rome, The Choir of St James’ gave a concert at the beautifully ornate, Baroque Church of Saint Ignatius. Here, we presented a slightly different program interweaving movements of Palestrina’s Missa Ut re mi fa sol into a mix of other works including Pater Noster by our own talented Owen Elsley and Rutter’s Hymn to the Creator of Light (two crowd favourites).
Singing Palestrina’s music was something the Choir liked to do a lot of in Italy, especially in the town of Palestrina! Sicut cervus became a bit of a signature piece and certainly a poignant encore at our concert in the town of Palestrina (where we were fortunate enough to be given a free guided tour of Palestrina’s house). We also enjoyed singing Sicut cervus with the Sistine Chapel Choir when we were invited to sit in on their rehearsal one afternoon in Rome. Some members of The Choir of St James’ even managed to tick “singing at St Peter’s” off the old bucket list with a secret rendition of Sicut cervus at 8:30am on our final day in Rome.
Exhausted, sunburnt and well fed with our bellies full of pasta and Chianti, we all convened to the balcony of our beautiful villa in Cave on our last night in Italy. We all reflected on the many amazing musical and culturally rich experiences we had shared over delicious cheese, bread and more Chianti.
[Saint Ignatius Church]
As I continue to reflect on this incredible trip, I feel increasingly grateful for the opportunity to have shared beautiful choral music with not only my incredibly talented and disciplined peers, but also with people who live on the other side of the world. Having heard each audience’s appreciation for The Choir of St James’ and the ways in which our performances touched them spiritually and emotionally affirms to me the significance of the Choir’s first European tour. This echoes the passion for singing in an ensemble shared by its members and it especially acknowledges Warren’s unwavering hard work, musicianship and leadership.