Choir Trip to Venice December 2010

Thursday 16th

An early start, and an easy trip to Gatwick (along with the usual passport panic), arriving in Venice on time at 3pm. We took the waterbus rather than the ordinary bus (which took us an hour or so) as the sky was clear, and an impressive sunset meant a memorable arrival at San Marco. Our hotel was only a couple of minutes away and we arrived shortly after 5. There was time to settle in, to have a little exploration before eating in a local restaurant.

Venice bridge Venice stage

Friday 17th

VeniceMany were woken by the bells of San Marco at 7am – indeed they were far better than an alarm clock for the entire time we were there. After breakfast in shifts, and some quaint heating solutions, were set off about 10 to meet Christine Marigonda, an Italian lady whom we had known for several years and who had done a lot for our arrangements and contacts. We were taken to the Cavagnis School where we gave a concert to the junior part (about 200 pupils) Veniceof the school in their chapel, where the organ was hidden behind a pillar, and was not fully working. Alex MacBean continued her role from the Carol service at School by conducting the choir for all the accompanied items extremely well, as she did for the entire tour. The choir sang well amid a certain amount of shushing from the teachers which made more noise than the odd bit of chatter in the audience. We were shown a picture of the Brothers Cavagnis who had started the school a couple of hundred years ago. Everyone enjoyed the cakes and drinks afterwards – our first encounter on this trip with the various Christmas cakes – panatona and panadoro.

VeniceAfter lunch, during which time it began to snow, we went to practise at St George’s Anglican Church. VeniceThere was a snowball fight, and then we settled down to some serious rehearsal in the Church ready for the next few days having met Father Howard who had been the Archdeacon of Egypt previously. The evening was spent in another restaurant, during which Ed learned of his success at Keble, and earned a round of applause, and the congratulations of the waiters who obviously knew about Oxford. The sixth form stayed out a little, but all were back early – it was very cold. Several settled down in the hotel for various games, one of which, Boggle, had been brought over by IGS. It seemed pointless trying to sleep before the extended bells in San Marco at midnight – which gave 7 hours before they rang again to wake at least some of us.

Saturday 18th

Breakfast enabled DJH to give us the cricket score, and information on the vagaries of the heating system. We met Silvia Marri (another friend from previous visits) who took us to the Marco Polo Liceo where we listened to their choir of girls singing pieces of English music (including Rutter’s ‘For the beauty of the earth’ – which we did at Harvest), before performing for 40 minutes or so. This was followed by cake and coke, and a tour of the rest of this building, which, like many schools in Venice, is housed in a palazzo with lots of frescoes, and impressive ceilings and chandeliers. VeniceThere are three separate schools which all came together under the leadership of one Head – it seems the Italians got to federation rather sooner than the English. It was interesting too to learn that Saturday school is normal here. VeniceWe stayed for the rest of the morning, discovering that they were intending to come to Torquay with a group of pupils next September – an opportunity for closer relations perhaps.

We all went our separate ways for lunch, meeting up again to go first to the Instrument Museum, where we gave a short recital in an excellent acoustic, as well as an opportunity for looking at some impressively old instruments. We were received with much warmth by the management.  From there we went to the Gesuati Church where a rather grumpy lady at the ticket office let us sing for ‘a minute’ as we were keen to try the acoustic, which was memorable. From here we went to St George’s for the Carol Service at 5.30. When we got there two professionals were practising with the young Serbian organist (who is not allowed into the UK, despite being allowed in other EU countries). This service went well – a full length Nine Lessons and Carols. This was a really good service and the choir sang well, appreciating too some quality singing from the soloists (one of whom had sung for Susan Boyle’s recent album). Afterwards we met Ivor Coward (British Consul in Venice, who has been a great source of help over the years), and Christine while drinking prosecco, and eating more cake. (How about these for after Sunday morning services in Chapel?) We went back to the hotel, and thence to eat. Some were taken aback by an Italian Santa Claus peering through the restaurant window. Afterwards, a few explored the locality, and others retired for more Boggle.

Sunday 19th

Off to St George’s this morning for the service at 1030. Not many in the congregation, unsurprisingly, but we sang well – ‘God so loved the world’, a capella. The service was followed by more cake and prosecco. We said farewell to Father Howard, who has been most welcoming, and we returned to the hotel, where all dispersed in their various groups once more for lunch. VeniceThe staff visited A La Rivetta – to be recommended to any parents who might visit Venice. We met up in the afternoon to go to the Doge’s Palace. VeniceIt was great to visit when there were so few tourists – to go into the massive rooms with virtually no one there gave a really good impression as to their dimensions. Some fun was had in the prisons, over the Bridge of Sighs.

There was a quiet time in the hotel before we went to the Basilica of San Marco for the evening service. We were taken to the loggia – organ loft – where we had no time to prepare, or for any practice with the organ. It was quite amazing to be underneath the extraordinary domes with all their amazing decoration, able to look round the various walkways in the roof, and to look down on the basilica, being able to see the unusual design of the building. The illumination is brilliant, and never seen other than during the services. We were able to see into the vestry where there are some extraordinary paintings too. We were thanked by the priest towards the end. The organist was most helpful while AHB was playing the accompaniment especially for Evening Hymn – the final piece of the service, after which there was an impromptu round of applause from a sizeable congregation.  One wonders whether the choir realises what a privilege it is, what an unusual experience to be able to perform in such an historically wonderful place.

The sixth form had asked if they could have a meal on their own, so off they went, while the staff and year 10/11 revisited an earlier restaurant. All settled down well after a very busy day.

Monday 20th

This morning we went to the Sansovino School, another palace with frescoes and unusual architecture. The choir sang well, though one or two were suffering from colds. VeniceFrom there we went on a traghetto across the Grand Canal, with a quick walk through the market (though the fish market had already closed) to the Rialto and its church with the medieval clock.

VeniceWe separated once more for lunch. Then we met up for a walk to Vivaldi’s Church – La Pieta – which unfortunately was not open. This left time for some shopping before went to sing at our final venue – the Circolo Italo Britannico. This is a group that meets regularly for lectures mostly, with members made up of Italians and British and American expats. We were met by Valerio di Scarpis, a professor at Venice University in English Literature, and taken to the venue –  Palazzo Pesara-Papafava – now used by Warwick University for some of its teaching. There was a large and appreciative audience. At the end there were some excellent refreshments, including the cakes, and prosecco, and also some mince pies made by the Italians. We had a very pleasant time conversing with some fascinating people. Ed has facebook details of the professor’s daughter – also an archaeologist doing an MA.

Venice Venice Venice Venice

We found our way back to the Rialto and from there to eat together for the last time. At the end of the evening we sang ‘Goodnight sweetheart’ to the assembled (and rather surprised?) clientele. A good evening.

Tuesday 21st

Mireille at the hotel had booked water taxis for us – Venicea lot easier way to travel with this number, though more expensive. VeniceMrs Brigden enjoyed the prospect of being the likes of Sophia Loren for the trip, and AHB his own private boat.

There was some apprehension as to whether there would be flights to Gatwick (closed the day before), but we were fortunate –on time (though those flying to Heathrow were frustrated because all flights there were cancelled). Our drivers had managed to get to Gatwick without difficulty, and we arrived back in School just after 6pm, to discover a lot of snow.

The Party
Alexa Batting Alex MacBean
Will Coon Laura MacBean
Will Costa Ciara O’Kelly
Vicky Cox Matt Oddy
Ed Crawford Katharine Sendell
Sam Davenport Charles Silcock
Susie Durant Robin Silcock
Lottie Dunk Erek Thursam
Alex Everett Joe Wander
Justus Gartner Alex Williams
Florence Hart Amelia Young
Philippa Horne  
Andrew Barlow Debbie Hosking
Dee Brigden Isobel Scott
Peter Dickinson  

On the way home everyone was asked for a memorable experience on the trip. Here are a few of them.

‘The acoustics in the Gesuati church.’

‘Singing in St Mark’s... amazing experience and once in a lifetime opportunity.’

‘Singing Ave Verum in St Mark’s... spectacular.’

‘Being in the golden dome in St Mark’s, and the warmth and hospitality of the Venetian people.’

‘Being at the top of San Marco where no one goes and seeing the mosaics up close. Singing in unexpected places like the Music museum, which sounded great and people appreciated it...’

‘Singing Goodnight Sweetheart everywhere...’


Many thanks to Debbie Hosking for these excellent photos.

Venice Venice Venice

Venice Venice Venice