Choir Trip to Venice December 2006

Venice Choir TripAfter a Wednesday evening of frenetic music sorting we left at 0030 on Thurs in a Redwoods coach for Gatwick which we reached quite quickly and ahead of our check in time. The process was very easy and the plane arrived in Venice on time.

Venice Choir TripWe headed for the waterbus which leaves directly from the airport and so approached Venice in the best way possible, from the water. The weather was cold clear and sunny, so the views of the Dolomites and of the approaching city were excellent. Arriving at san Marco we crossed the square and soon found the hotel in a small Calle running parallel to St Mark’s Square.

During the afternoon we walked to San Stefano via an exhibition of old instruments including an Amati double bass from 1650. The acoustics of the building were good and the girl attendant was more than happy for us to sing. We stopped off in San Stefano where there was a Christmas market and several had a hot chocolate. We made it to the Accademia Bridge and then returned so we could see La Fenice opera house. After a short rest we went to a restaurant where we were well fed. This was the end of a very long day.

Year 10 – ‘we got lost and attacked by pigeons and started to count the bridges we went over’ (AW)

Friday 15th

Venice Choir TripIt was another really clear and sunny day and as we were free in the morning we went to the Scuola degli Schiavoni, in a part of Venice where historically the slavs had congregated, and here in this rather special place there are a lot of Carpaccio paintings which are unusual both in themselves and because they have not been moved for over 500 years. We walked by the lagoon and past the church of La Pieta which is where Vivaldi had worked for so long. After free time at lunchtime we went to St George’s Anglican Church for a practice at 2.30 and en rote met the statuesque drama men who were painted white and quite still until money is put in the hat. Their reaction surprised everyone.  At the church we were met by John-Henry Bowden, the chaplain in Venice. We had a good session and then did a concert at 5pm (after some had had a hot chocolate) which lasted until 6.30 (longer than intended). It was a small but appreciative audience, some of whom had heard us outside and had to come and listen.

The restaurant in the evening was also very good and had a Tunisian waiter so French could be the order of the day – helpful. An ATM has swallowed a card.

Year 10 – ‘we went over 22 bridges but it may have been more’ (AW)

Year 11 – ‘in the restaurant I danced to ‘From Paris to Berlin’ just like we did for after the gut entertainment. It was really funny as Annabel sang for me’ (RS)

Saturday 16th

Venice Choir TripIt was another really fine day and we walked to the Rialto which was about as close as San Marco. We saw the medieval clock on the very ancient church and then perused the market which was full of veg and what seemed like thousands of squid. In San Polo we sang in the square, soon gathering a crowd, to appreciative applause. The statue people were in evidence again today and many had their photos taken with them,  and after crossing the grand canal on a Traghetto more photos were taken with several gondoliers.

After some time at Rialto we went via the church of Miracoli back to the hotel for a period of rest before the Nine Lessons and carols in the evening. In the meantime AHB was met by Prof Di Scarpis and taken to meet Monsignor Camilotto in the Basilica to sort out the music for the service in St Mark’s on the next day. The choir went on to St George’s and rehearsed.  The Carol Service was excellent, good congregation and afterwards refreshments and an opportunity to talk to Ivor Coward the Consul, and Christine Marigonda, and Silvia Marri who had all done a lot for us. Afterwards we repaired to La Vigali to eat, and back to the hotel. Discovered that in some bars a T shirt can be acquired.

Year 10 – ‘wasn’t feeling good today but still had fun. The statue men were funny, scary, freaky. I was really annoyed I couldn’t sing in the carol service (no voice). It sounded great’.(AW)

Venice Choir Trip     Venice Choir Trip

Venice Choir Trip

Sunday 17th

Venice Choir TripNot so good a day today, but the coffee was good as usual. After a short practice before the service we contributed to the Prayer Book Communion service. The sermon was interesting – the idea that the service of lessons and carols is like pass the parcel – the ultimate prize being the final lesson – ‘In the beginning was the Word’. After more refreshments we made our war back to the restaurant and en route by chance met Tom’s parents who had come over.

Venice Choir TripIn the afternoon we walked to Santa Maria del Rosario (known as the Gesuati) which is also in Dorsoduro for a Recital at 4pm. This was to be the culmination of a retreat at the church and we could hear them singing as we arrived (a notice outside saying that we would be there). This was another extraordinary church with paintings by Tintoretto…..We were met by Dom Mario and welcomed. We sang very well and at the end there were a lot of very enthusiastic people (‘bravissimo’), so enthusiastic that they stayed while we collected coats etc, and in the end we sang another very traditional carol (Away in a manger) a capella by the door. Dom Mario was effusive in his thanks, and evidently other clergy arrived during the concert – so perhaps an extended series of concerts next time. The acoustics in the church were wonderful.

Back to the hotel for 30 minutes rest before going on the San Marco.  On the way back we passed lots of groups who were heading towards the christmas market in San Stefano – so many that the handbag sellers had to remove their stuff from the walkways.

We arrived early at St Mark’s as instructed so that we could avoid the procession in the previous service. We went into the organ loft where we were to sing during the mass, and this is high up in the Basilica close to the amazing gold mosaics that dominate the building – especially as now they were all lit with powerful lights for the service. Amazing, amazing view.

  • ‘as close to heaven as could be imagined’ says PDD.
  • ‘How long is the service, asks one pupil – AHB happy to stay there all night.
  • ‘The proximity to the mosaics, to see and be on the remarkable walkways high up in the cathedral, to be part of a service in this most historic of churches – just wonderful’

The organist of St Mark’s was impressed with the music and with the demeanour of everyone (‘bravo’) while his assistant asked if we were from a specialist music school.

Venice Choir Trip     Venice Choir Trip

Having absorbed the atmosphere for as long as we could we left reluctantly, and then saw some of the appreciative congregation.

Afterwards in different groups off to eat, - a day of enormous achievement.

Year 10 – St Mark’s was amazing. I took pictures after the service.’ (AW)

Year 11 –‘After a speck of shopping we sang in St Mark’s cathedral which was amazing. It sounded really good. We sang really well and it sounded fantastic from where I was’ (RS)

Monday 18th

Venice Choir TripAfter the swallowed bank card has been retrieved it’s off to the Doge’s palace this morning at 9.30 and there were very few people in the place (virtually none) which meant that not only could the large rooms be seen at their best – and they are awesome, but also the pupils were able to amuse themselves going over the Bridge of Sighs and pretending to be locked in the various dungeons.   An opportunity to explain the history of the city as well as some of the philosophical thinking (by the chaplain) as we encountered interesting images and paintings.

Venice Choir TripAfter the Doge’s Palace some went to look at the Noah’s Ark mosaics in the entrance to St Mark’s and then for a walk through the Basilica, but there were no lights on today to illuminate the domes inside.

After an hour or two to do the last shopping, and lunch, we met up to go to the school in the afternoon near Campo Apostoli.

This is an unusual place, an old palazzo so has lots of frescoes in all of the classrooms. We sang in one of the large hall areas and here the pupils (of middle school age) had learnt to play jingle bells on the recorder, so we sang and they played. The British Consul arrived, having been invited by Silvia Marri and so we did another piece and a repeat of jingle bells. The local press took a lot of photos. Afterwards we were treated to drinks and cake and there was some ad hoc singing with their pupils – indeed there was a very happy relationship between all the pupils (theirs and ours). The pupils at the school are from Venice itself or the islands in the lagoon. AHB was involved with an intense discussion with their music teacher, head teacher and the consul about the state of music teaching and choral training. There seems to be an intention to get a singing group going. Excellent.

Venice Choir TripAfter this the pupils went back to the hotel to kindly sort out the music before eating later, while AHB went to the Circolo Italo-Britannico Venezia to give a lecture about the Carol and its role in the English choral tradition. Evidently the desk available for him to put his notes on in a rather elegant establishment  had been used by Napoleon at the signing of a treaty in the late 18th century. Questions at the end revolved around the distinctive nature of English singing, and about our experience in St Mark’s and there were a lot of appreciative comments about what we had done – ‘absolutely beautiful’ was one such.

We all ate together in a restaurant near St Mark’s which was very pleasant.

Year 10 – ‘It’s too nice here to leave even if it is raining. I’ve really enjoyed this trip’ (AW)

Year 11 – ‘we went to the Doge’s Place which was amazing….and then a concert in a school who were really friendly….afterwards we found out some of their names and they gave us their email addresses. They also sang to us which was sweet’(RS)

Staff - ‘On the way back it was like the Pied Piper as our crocodile consisted of lots of Italian children as well’(DJH)

Venice Choir Trip     Venice Choir Trip     Venice Choir Trip

Venice Choir Trip     Venice Choir Trip

Tuesday 19th

Up and about early for breakfast at 6.30, a brisk walk for the waterbus at the Rialto (only one left passport but easily sorted), on to the bus and to the airport for straightforward check in. However although we were sitting in clear blue skies, the aircraft was delayed in leaving because of fog at Gatwick (which was to be a growing problem over the next few days). However not too late, Redwoods coach is there to meet us and arrive back at 5pm ish. All quite tired it seems, but we have left a lot of appreciative people in Venice and achieved a lot in terms of performance and music. 

Venice Choir Trip     Venice Choir Trip     Venice Choir Trip

Some comments about most memorable moments

‘I am going to spend some time with my chocolate’

‘”Evening Hymn” in St Mark’s – nailed’

‘Singing in St Mark’s Cathedral was amazing! Waking Mr B up with the Bri, Chels and Rosie’s toothbrush song was hilarious and giving the policemen roses and then later we thought they had got rid of them but they pulled back their coats and there they were – so sweet’

‘all the Italian children tried to join in with the doo doo wops in “Goodnight sweetheart”. They were in hysterics.’

‘has to be St Mark’s – it was amazing, and was very evocative and emotional’

‘singing in the organ loft at St Mark’s was mindblowing. A stunning sound.’

‘a magical city…highlight – Carpaccio paintings and church of the Miracoli ….and as ever Blundellians have been an endless source of fun and a pleasure to be with…’

The Party
Annabel Barlow George Lyon
Briony Deuchar Dominic MacBean
Tori Doyne-Ditmas James Milnes
Siobhan O’Kelly Simon Higgins
Henrietta Mills Tom Tait
Anna Milnes Ben Weaver-Hincks
Katie Rumble Ben Oddy
Amelia Schicht  
Chelsea Siegel Staff
Lucy Smith Tim Hunt
Rosie Swan Debbie Hosking
Alice Walpole Andrew Barlow
Natalie Wander James Taylor
Ali Akhtar Becky Symonds
Ed Jolley Peter Dickinson

Photos by DJH and AHB