Italy Trip 2016!
Relive the Brighton High School Choir trip to Italy in the Spring of 2016!
Performance and Travel experiences of a lifetime. See the pictures and text below for an example of just a few of the opportunities you can have with us!
Italy update #1
We landed in Rome safely, after 11 hours of flight time and very little sleep, but energy levels and morale is high! We have made our way to Florence, by way of San Gimignano.
I am inspired watching the students take in new sights, new experiences. As a moderately experienced world traveler, I board a plane without fanfare. I forget that some of these students have never been on a plane. Have never left the country. Have never left Michigan. Have never been anywhere without their parents.
This will be a life-changing experience for all of us, seeing the world in person and in real time. How very exciting, and I hope you will follow our story and share our experiences with us as we travel!
Italy Day #2
Jet lag + European "spring forward" = early wake up call, but we are still in Italy!!! Birds singing, bells ringing, it's magical.
Breakfast in the hotel before a walk to the Academia, which is the top school and museum for sculptors in the world. We visited the 11 rooms, Michelangelo's "Prisoners" - Un finished sculptures that modeled the process of the art form. "David" is the featured piece of the museum, 16ft tall, and Michelangelo's crowning achievement. He was asked to create this statue out of an awful block of marble, and was the fourth sculptor asked. This was how he became famous. Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable, and held our attention the entire time.
We then walked to the Duomo in Florence, and attended the "Burning of the Cards" ceremony. Bells ringing, flags flying, choirs singing, trumpets playing, fireworks...Florentines don't mess around with their traditions!
Italy day 2, post #3
After an Easter Mass option at the Duomo, (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower) we had lunch on our our own. Luca, our guide, led some of us to an open air market, with a fresh food court. They offered sandwiches, soups, organic food, coffee, vegan options, and of course, pasta and pizza! It was a very trendy but reasonably priced location.
A quick chance to freshen up at the hotel, then a walk in uniform to our performance venue, "Basilica Santa Trinità Firenze", or Church of the Holy Trinity of Florence. The church was built between 1258 and 1280. The church boasts about 20 chapels, many with sculptures and frescos by famous artists.
The concert was an hour long, featuring ONLY the Brighton Italy Choir! The space was fantastic. Our chords echoed around in the church for somewhere between 3 and 5 seconds, depending on volume. I was brought to tears by the beauty of the choirs singing of the Beibl "Ave Maria", and that was just during the warm-up. I had the pleasure of taking trips like this in high school, and in my past job, but never being "in charge" of the trip. Being here, with these people, is a dream come true for me.
Our friend Eric Guerin, the BCPA manager, sent me a quote the other day.
"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training. - -Archilochus, Greek Soldier, 650 BC.
The young people from Brighton High School have certainly trained to a ridiculously sophisticated level, as you will hear in the recordings to be posted later. How can you teach someone how to sing in a world famous Basilica? By going there with them!!!
This choir has been learning and living this music for the past two years. They are singing pieces like Praetorius' "Sing Dem Herrn" Hassler's "Dixit Maria" and Palestrina's "Sicut Cervus" in the country that influenced their sounds. (Palestrina was Italian, Hassler studied in Venice, and Praetorius was heavily influenced by the works of Italian composers like Gabrielli). I am immensely proud of what these students have done today. Now off to dinner to celebrate!
Italy Day 3, post #4
Walking tour of Florence with our guide, Bernardo this morning. Bernardo is so knowledgeable, and is a true story teller. Saw the homes of Michelangelo, Galileo, Da Vinci, and many others. We learned about the making and history of the Baptistry Doors and the Duomo. We learned about Mark Clark, who ordered that the city of Florence not be bombed during WWII, because he didn't want to destroy "David". We learned about the Medici family, who sponsored the Academia, and paid for much of the art we saw in Florence. We could spend the rest of our week here with Bernardo learning and being entertained!
We have "lunch on our own" but you are never alone in a group like this, in a city like Florence. It is raining, but spirits remain bright as we finish our time in Florence and head to Rome this afternoon!
Italy Day 4, Post #5
Michelle Holowicki would have been beaming with pride for our United States of America today in Italy. Though Rome was founded in 730BC, Italy as a country was formed in 1861. Women did not vote in Italy until 1946. Makes you realize how progressive our country has been!
Walking through Rome, we saw the Trevi Fountain - with and without water. This morning was the day they clean out the coins thrown in for good luck. This money adds up; the city of Rome donates over a million Euro a year to local charities, all from collecting from the fountain!
We visited the Basilica of St Ignatius. There is a fresco on the ceiling that is massive, beautiful, and impossible to put into words. Take a look at the picture! There are chapels all around the Basilica, with ornate sculptures, statues, and paintings; it is really stunning.
The Pantheon is amazing. 2000 years old, originally built as a temple for the Roman gods, but taken over by the Christians. The statues of gods have been replaced by the statues of saints. This takeover is why the Pantheon is in such great condition, instead of being taken apart piece by piece and used elsewhere, like the Colosseum.
Lunch on our own was another wonderful taste of Italy!
The Catacombs we visited were the burial place of numerous Popes and St. Cecelia, the patron saint of music. The "recent" tombs were from 400-500AD. One of the groups was allowed to sing, we hope to post a video soon!
Italy, day 4, post 6
After the catacombs, we headed for the church for the evening's concert. We stopped for a quick cannoli, but there is no such thing as a quick cannoli. Too many "mmmm's" and "ohhhh's". So tasty!
Tonight's concert was at Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e Dei Martiri (St Mary of the Angels and Martyrs). It was even better than Sunday's performance. The comfort level of this choir, singing this advanced literature takes my breath away. The church was originally a Roman Bath, taken over by Christians, who replaced the Roman theme with the work of Michelangelo.
A very late, but wonderful dinner at the hotel, and an 11:25pm arrival in our rooms have us hurrying to sleep this evening.
Tomorrow we go to Vatican City for a Papal Audience, tour of the Sistine Chapel, and performance at the 5pm Mass at St. Peter's Basilica.
Day 5, post 7
This day exceeded all of my expectations. It was long, but it was also a day we/I will talk about forever!
The choir was up and dressed in concert uniform this morning, on the bus and driving to the Vatican by 7:45am. We spent about 30 minutes trying to get through security, and found a place in St. Peter's square on the rail. We performed for everyone who would listen, and then out came the Popemobile at 9:30am sharp. He zigged, and he zagged, and when he got close, the choir sang. Right in front of us, his car stopped, and he had my 5 month old daughter, Adeline, brought to him! He kissed her forehead, and was back to the route. It was a surreal experience.
We grabbed lunch and reviewed everyone's pictures - the Pope is a celebrity, and for the morning, so was Adeline!
A tour of the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica - the most overwhelming collection of art and history I have ever seen in one place - and a quick break from walking.
At 4:20pm, we queued up to head into St. Peter's to sing the 5pm mass. An unbelievably powerful experience, Catholic or not. Beautiful, resonant, inspiring, nerve-wracking, and wonderful all at once.
A simply amazing day. Check out the pictures and videos, and let us know what you think!
Italy day 6, post 8
We took the 3 hour bus ride to Pompeii as a gift after the schedule of walking, early mornings and late nights of the past 2 days. Time to sit and chat about how amazing the past days have been, to get to know each other, and to rest our tired feet from walking and tired cheeks from smiling!
We are getting to know our bus driver, Danilo, better. He is getting more confident with his English, and we with our Italian. He has a daughter named Emma who is four days younger than Adeline. He has been very attentive to us, and is a perfect gentleman with a big heart!
We arrived in Pompeii where we met our guide, Eugenio, who was a native of the rebuilt city. He spoke (jokingly) of his beloved grandfather and uncle who owned everything in the city of Pompeii.
The idea of Vesuvius exploding is terrifying. The realization that people thought this was not a natural disaster, but the rage of the gods, explains why they didn't run.
We saw and sang in the amphitheater, visited the thermal baths, walked the market, and viewed the artwork that is an amazing peek into 79AD.
Lunch in Pompeii was very nice. The food has been reasonably priced throughout the trip, but our table of 6 ate pizza, salad, potatoes, and calzones for less than 8 Euro a person including tip!
We are headed back to Rome for dinner, and an evening of relaxing at the hotel. Tomorrow we will visit the Borghese Gallery and the Colosseum, before having our farewell dinner.
Day 6, post 9
We had a wonderful dinner at the hotel tonight. Today was much more reasonably paced, which allowed us to enjoy each other's company more. I have been amazed at the response on our day yesterday. I posted a link to a short video below of the choir singing at St Peter's Basilica. They are wonderful! It is a selection by Stacey V. Gibbs entitled "Swing down, Chariot". We commissioned Stacey to write this for us last year, and we have had lots of fun living it over the past 15 months. Check out the interview and article on WHMI today about our time in Italy, and tell your friends about us!
Day 7 post 10
The Borghese Gallery is a an amazing display of the finest art of the 1500's. Bernini's "Kidnapping of Persephone" makes you want to reach out and touch the flowing robes. The detail of hands pressing into skin makes marble look soft like marshmallow. You cannot believe that this started as a block of stone. As a choir director, I try to have a sound that I am going for with each piece before I start. That sound can change over time, and my ability to communicate this sound to the singers successfully directly impacts the quality of our performance. In the case of sculpture, there is no changing direction. Once you chisel away the stone, it's not coming back. Breathtaking to think about the skill this craft requires.
The choir received a request to sing, in French today, at the Gallery while we were waiting in line! One of our students used her four years of French to figure out what was happening and translate for everyone else. They sang in a stone, arched hallway until they were shushed by security. These choir hooligans! Always disturbing the peace with their need to perform!
Luca sent us for lunch to the Jewish neighborhood for fried artichoke. We found a deli where the counter man spoke very little English. We point, he plates, we pay. What language barrier?!? Roman artichokes, supplì, fried onions, rice, white beans, spaghetti, pizza...anything you want, made fresh this morning.
We had another impromptu performance in the Pantheon after lunch. It is a massive space to fill with 37 voices. The sound, even with thousands of people, still reverberates for seconds.
Day 7, post 11
Last night in Rome! We visited Ancient Rome - including the Colosseum. It is too big to get a proper picture of from the inside. Our tour guides were very knowledgeable and entertaining. This is so helpful when traveling, I think of all the things I don't see trying to follow a map and keep from getting lost on my own.
We had a wonderful dinner, at which we performed the "Thank you Luca" Chorus, music by Handel, text by the Brighton Italy Choir! We also had entertainment; a fantastic tenor and a soprano performed Italian Classics for us between courses.
When they would finish a song, our portion of the dining area would erupt in applause. I think they enjoyed having other performers in the venue!
Our chaperones on this trip have been exceptional. They have gone out of their way to treat each student like their own children. What a great group of people.
Rome is like an onion. There are layers of history from each era in many places. It is so interesting to see how ancient Rome's buildings are used, added onto, refreshed, recycled, and just part of the fabric of the city here. They can't build anything new without excavating with care, for fear that they will dig through a historical treasure.
Day 8, post 12
We are at the airport, ready to fly from Rome to Atlanta. This trip has been spectacular. We will miss our guide, Luca, our driver, Danilo, and the cities of Florence, Rome, San Gimignano, and Pompeii!
I took a final picture of our pool area from the balcony of our room. This would be a wonderful place to visit again! See you soon!
Day 8, post 13
Touchdown in the USA! We are on the ground in Atlanta. We are all looking forward to the long walk through the terminal after a 9 hour flight.
We expect to land in Detroit at 10:53pm, and should be ready to hit the road as soon as we grab our luggage. See you at DTW!