Thursday, August 6, 2015

Trip of a Lifetime- Day 11

the Ruiz family as we wait to sing
 Our day was to begin at 11am. We would be singing in the Adult Mixed Choir category.  We were told that 1) we could change at the venue and 2) that a guide would arrive in time to escort us to the venue. All we knew was the name of the venue.  Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia. No address was given.

The guide kinda didn't make it. But we made it (Google maps are a life saver). Only to find out that the "changing area" had been given to another choirs as their space. We changed in the bathrooms where the water leaked.

A change in the program...........

As it turned out the changing room really never existed. Other choirs had been told to come in uniform. The space was actually used as a staging area for choirs as the entrance to the stage was from that room.

the changing room that became a staging room
Fourteen choirs were not going to fit in that room. So we and other choirs waited and staged outside. In the heat. Without water.  (Until Nancy went to the shop down the street and bought a case of bottled water. Bless her!)

At least there was shade

Ty and his gangsta hat

trying to stay less heated
We had been given a 10 minute "sound check" but there simply was no place to warm up or rehearse. Some of our male singers finished dressing in the open foyer of the venue. But notice the lack of chairs in the foyer. It was air conditioned in there but no place to sit.
Foyer of the venue
The venue itself was not acoustically built for music. It was small and had what we called "dead air" meaning that sound did not reverberate at all. This makes hearing your fellow singers difficult.

Cenacolo di Sant'Apollonia

The ceiling at the venue
It was a beautiful place but not built for choral singing. Certainly not for an international competition. (IMHO)

But sing we did. We thought we had done ok for the first category. We had to stick around for the second category which was to be Sacred Music. So back out to the loggia.

Air conditioning in the loggia! Don't leave home without your fan!
Then we got a bit of news. Gary had gone in to check the program. He doesn't really know why he did but he noticed that the printed program and the program that the official had were different. The next category to be sung was NOT Sacred Music but Folk Music.

There had been a change in the program......

They just didn't tell us.

If Gary hadn't noticed the change we would have been disqualified!

To say that Gary was upset would have been a major understatement. But he got us lined up and began a relaxation exercise with us.

We went in and sang our hearts out. We were all pretty upset as the mindset for each segment of our program is different. But we did well.

Then it was back to the hotel, a shower, redress and come back for the Sacred Music category at 5 pm.

By then we were tired, discouraged (by the changes in program), still a bit pissed off (we were really feeling like the red-headed step-child). We lost some of our focus and we thought we had really blown the Sacred Music. Thinking that we had disappointed Gary was the worst feeling in the world.

But we were on the program for the 7pm concert at Santa Trinita.

Back to the hotel and a shower. Then back in uniform (it's still wet- yuck!) and a cab to Santa Trinita. We have no idea where this place is in the city and have to trust the cab drivers!

Santa Trinita

Santa Trinita Piazza
The church was beautiful, acoustically perfect and HOT! We sat outside at the base of the statute and caught whatever breeze was blowing by.

When it came our turn to sing Gary had us do "O, Magnum Mysterium". We thought we had really blown it in the Sacred Music competition and we wanted to show the other choirs (and the judges who were present) that we knew our stuff.

Then Gary surprised us. He directed the first part of the piece and then clasped his hands together. That was our signal to hold hands and close our eyes. Gary climbed the stairs we were on while we sang and stopped behind us. He put his hand on my shoulder and sang with us. We were angels that night. We were one voice. It was magical.

 For me, I never, ever want to forget that feeling. Utter joy. Just as Morton Lauridsen (the composer) had envisioned.

Melodie, John and I walked back to the hotel. We got lost and found the Ponte Vecchio.

A perfect end to the day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Trip of a Lifetime -Day 10 addendum

The Duomo
 I forgot something very important about Day 10. We left the restaurant and walked to our hotel and because it had cooled off a bit we decided to see the Piazza del Duomo. The Duomo is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore and it is spectacular! It was being cleaned which is why there is scaffolding in the picture. We walked by it every day and every day I was in awe of the massive beauty of the place.

Street band
We stopped for some espresso and gelato and found a crowd around a wonderful street band playing American pop hits. It was very late but our fellow tenor, Lark who is somewhere in his eighties was out enjoying the music with his best friend Ruth. I just hope I have half his energy when (and if ) I reach his age.

It was a perfect cap to the day and lifted my spirits.

Trip of a Lifetime- Day 10 Competition

We FINALLY got some information from the Florence International Choral Festival (aka FICF). We still weren't sure WHERE we would sing but now we knew that we were in the program!.

We left Genoa earlier than we had originally planned. Seems that Jose the bus driver had to make it from Florence to Rome for his next assignment and he only had so many hours to make it. So, we quickly learned the catch phrase for the rest of our trip----"There is a change in the program!"

There wasn't a lot of picture taking on this part of the bus trip. Many of us were pulling out our music and working on the little things that make us better.

After two days of not signing, Gary spots a church steeple and had Jose pull into a small town where we found the church, walked in and started a rehearsal.

Town square somewhere between Genoa and Florence
Unknown church in unknown town

Melodie admiring the unknown church in the unknown town
 We thought we were in trouble when the priest came in the door. He apparently had been told that a lot of strange people had entered his church and were singing. He tried to get Gary's attention while we were singing. Gary was far too engrossed in the music to see the poor man off to his right.

After about a minute (we kept singing) the priest walked off and started preparing for an upcoming mass. He finally came back out, got Gary's attention and pointed to his watch. Gary got the hint and we made for the exit. Mass was about to start.

We were all glad that we got some rehearsal in as we were to sing at the opening ceremony that day. We were looking forward to that ceremony. Each choir at the festival was to sing one song which sounded like fun to us.

When we got to the hotel we were told to change into our uniforms and a guide from the festival would come and escort us, on foot, to the venue. We were told it was close by. Well, it sorta was.

Mind you, the Duomo of Florence was less than a block away from our hotel.

The Piazza della Signoria is a few more blocks away in the opposite direction. Our venue was the Palazza Vecchio that was located in the Piazza. In the heat, it was a bit of a hike. We were drenched an thirsty by the time we got there. Also, half of us had lost sight of our guide when we got to the Piazza. We started looking for anyone wearing the red lanyard with the badge of the festival.

Neptune Fountain at Piazza della Signoria in front of the Plazza Vecchio

We finally found a door where there was such a person who motioned us into the building. Which was FULL of tourists. And none of them in our choir uniforms. I am beginning to get a bit anxious when I spot a black tuxedo near the stairs. The third section (that had lost sight of the group I was with) had come in another door and were equally lost.

Finally, a festival volunteer comes down the stairs and waves us up. We count noses and we are all there. We enter a large room full of frescos with a roped off area that has chairs. Other choirs are sitting down and so we go to do the same. It is then that we find out that we are suppose to be in the waiting area as we are to sing second on the program.

The waiting area is a hallway with no chairs (no water either), the Estonian choir, us and tourists getting from one area of the museum (that's what it was) to another. It was crowded and very, very hot. The program started at least a half hour late but by that time, I wasn't checking the time. I was trying not to melt completely. The nylon lining of our uniforms was now a skin-tight body suit.

We finally get on stage to sing. We sound pretty good from my vantage point but the room was not made for music. But that is ok because this is just the warm up for  tomorrow's competition.

We exit the stage and head to some empty seats. Lo and Behold, there are backpacks and music and lots of other personal items on the chairs. The organizers had not anticipated that all the choirs would come to the opening ceremony and had not put out enough chairs. We were told to put the personal items on the floor and sit anyway. Not being stupid, we declined to do so.

We scattered to whatever available seats we could find only to be told that "you can't sit there" by other festival officials. The choir before us and all those after us kept their seats. We stood.

It was a very unwelcoming feeling especially after the magic of France.

We trudged by to the hotel, stripped off our uniforms, jumped in a cool shower, dressed and WALKED to dinner. And that was fun. It was our whole group in one room being a tad loud and enjoying each other after a VERY tough day.

And in our room was another singing group from the festival. I believe this group of women was also from Estonia but I could very well be wrong. I am sure that they were annoyed with us as our group was over 40 people and they were about 10-12.

So when it got towards the end of the meal, we, like we do, began singing some of our songs.  We started off with Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho. Yup, it's loud and fast and fun to sing. The women's group applauded and we begged them to sing one of their songs. We didn't know their language but eventually they got the point and sang back to us.

Their voices were heaven.

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

Table 4

Table 5

Right behind John (that the only guy at our table. He has a beard....) is one table of the Estonian group. The other table you can just see at the far left of the picture. (above Noah's head). Singing to each other was such a treat.
And then it was trudging back to the hotel for a much needed and well earned bit of shut-eye. The next day was the reason that we had traveled so far and worked so hard. We all wanted to make Gary proud of us.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Trip of a Lifetime- Day 8 and 9

 And it was goodbye to Marseille. We didn't get a chance to actually visit the city. Two concerts and on to Italy. 

We left early like 8 or 9 am and people were a little cranky. It was still hot (although it was really nice to sleep in air conditioned rooms!) And it looked like a long ride to Genoa.
Apartment buildings EVERYWHERE

views from the bus

The Toulon Hippodrome

The Mediterranean Coast

One of these is Monaco but I don't know which one!
 THere was beautiful scenery on this part of the trip. The Mediterranean was on our right and we caught glimpses as we traveled by the towns and citys at its edge. That was when we weren't going through tunnels! We saw Cannes and Monaco and all the posh cities. I just can't tell you which was which.

 When we get to Genoa (at least the outskirts) we were greeted by a goat. Ah, the hills are alive and it's really frightening.........(Sorry, couldn't resist)

 And we got off the bus in central Genoa and entered a fairyland hotel. The Hotel Bristol was a welcome site. It quaint lobby and its grand staircase.
Waiting to get our luggage from the bus

Steiner and Melody waiting for a room key

Kit, Mike, Nancy and Erica in the lobby waiting for their room assignments
And here is the grand staircase. I never went to the top or took a picture looking down but I was mesmerized by the view from the lobby. WOW!

Jessica was just as mesmerized by the staircase!
We had gotten the schedule for the competition in Florence and many people (including me) reviewed music and even sang on the way to Genoa. Then Gary said-no rehearsals. Six days in a row was enough. We all decided to have sectional rehearsals and fix any tiny things that might be bugging us. The tenors decided to do that on the next day.

So off to see the city!


Mary and Gary at the fountain in the square

A municipal building on the square

More architecture

Dana in another piazza.
 Our exploration was spurred by the desire to find the restaurant that the front desk had told us was good. But Italy doesn't like street signs much and we weren't sure of our directions in the first place. And, just so you know if you every go there---the map doesn't get you anywhere.

We saw narrow streets full of people and an incredible church. Getting lost is a wonderful way to find out about a city.

But the kid and I ended up back at the hotel for dinner. And it was grand.

The next day was scheduled for an optional bus trip to Cinque Terra which is part of the Italian Riviera. The kid and I decided to pass on another bus trip and, instead went shopping.
Just be forewarned. Shopping for close in my current size is difficult, if not impossible, in the central part of an Italian city. I was trying to find an upper body undergarment that would allow me to where the white blouse that I had packed. The only other such item that I had matched our choir uniform (black) and I was not about to make a new fashion statement.

The gate to Old Genoa (the commune)
 We kept wandering until we found the gate to Old Genoa. We met a couple from Canada who were trying to make sense of the map. Their comment was that we would get totally lost if we went into the old city.

So, of course, that is where we went.

The murder hole

 I took a few pictures of the wall and turned around to see ELVIS! In GENOA!
Sitting outside a tavern at the entrance to the old city. Had to take his picture!

 One thing I noticed in Genoa were the flowers on the balconies. In France there were lots of balconies but few plants or flowers on them. Italy seemed to have more.
A Nail shop in old Genoa
 There were stores in every nook and cranny. From nail shops to butcher shops. Vegetable shops and fish markets. You name it, there was a shop in the old city. Small and intimate, it was not a touristy place. Probably because the streets were so tiny and people actually lived in the apartments.

Narrow streets
 One the way back to the hotel, we found a treasure. This was a museum/church. It was open for worship but also for visiting and taking in all the frescos and statues and paintings. The art was astounding.

And we found private gardens tucked in the most unusual places.

 Then it was home to the Hotel Bristol and a good nights sleep before we headed to Florence and the international choral competition that awaited us.