Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Friday in Padua! End-of-Tour Catch-Up!

Friday was all about PADUA! Leading up to today, many people had approached us about the Scrovegni Chapel- Giotto's crowning masterpiece, so we were lucky to be able to visit that on our last day!

The Scrovegni Chapel is completely covered in frescoes. Giotto broke the laws of painting of the 14th century by working with shadow and light. These biblical images nearly pop out at you- the pre-cursor to 3D art. Unfortunately, I adhered to the "no photo" policy and have nothing to show for it. Google it, it's pretty cool.

After our tour of the frescoes, the girls finally had some free time in Padua to explore, eat, shop and get all their jitters out before our big concert that evening. 

Our concert was held in the Scuola della Carità or The School of Charity. We just can't get over how beautiful everything is here! We're getting pretty spoiled by these gorgeous venues.

We arrive a little early and had some time to finally take group photos of girls in formal attire. Italy is the perfect backdrop!

If you've seen any of our promotional materials, you've seen the iconic shot of 4 girls in formal attire holding hands walking away from the cameraman. We believe this photo is from the last time the choir toured to Italy and, in fact, features one of our current singer's older sisters. We couldn't help but recreate the shot.

Our concert couldn't have been more well received. We premiered a commission by local Italian composer Alexander Kirshner titled "William il Magnifico" with the Iris Ensemble, our hosts that evening. It was a very emotional concert for the girls, knowing that tour was coming to an end and that this would be the last time our beloved graduated seniors would sing as members of PG.

After the concert, we had a dessert social with the Iris Ensemble and then sadly headed up to our rooms to pack and get a good night's rest before our return flight home the next day.

We LOVED Italy, and, judging by our reception at all our concerts, Italy loved us back. We're so glad to be back in the groove of tour after two years without touring- looking forward to what's in store for PG next!

Stay tuned for favorite tour moments from the girls! Ciao!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Thursday in Venice! End-of-Tour Catch-Up!

Due to basically NO internet in Padua, we were unable to update the blog beyond Wednesday night! The next few post are a catch up from the last few days of tour!

Thursday was dedicated solely to VENICE. This exquisite gem of a city was an excellent place for the girls to explore on their own. Our tour guide recommended everybody get lost- we advised them to not as we had a scheduled mini concert in the San Marco Basilica at 4:30!

Side note, there are posters for our Friday concert in Padua everywhere! This one was in the restaurant where we had dinner on Wednesday.

Just waiting to take the people mover into Venice prompted some gorgeous photos. This is actually a bus parking lot.

Those who participate in our off-Broadway presentation of Mandela! were reminded of the many subway rides we took while in New York. Chaperone Sue and Program Manager Kelly in particular had vivid flashbacks to those cold, crazy mornings while boarding the people mover. This made for a nice change.

Once in Venice, we took a brisk walking tour. Did you know Venice is actually comprised of 118 islands connected by over 400 bridges? We had to keep reminding the girls that there are over 400 bridges to take photos on and that they would have hours of free time later to cross over as many as they want.

As you can see, all our girls were dressed very respectably, but this time the priest was not too keen on the spiritual "I Know My Time Ain't Long." We know this because he attempted to stop them from singing once they had already started! Tour agent Kathie tried to explain that it was, indeed, religious, but the language barrier was not helpful in that situation. The audience loved it, though. 

Kathie assured us that her friend who had arranged this concert would speak to the priest later that week to smooth things over- we're so grateful to have her along with us!

After our concert, we took a boat shuttle (basically the equivalent to the public bus) back to the mainland. 40 minutes of sitting (imagine that!) prompted a little experimental photography on the girls part. Selfies are so 2013!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Day Late- Wednesday in Padua!

After breakfast, we said a sad goodbye to our new home in Ravenna and left for our new home in Padua.

The rain that had been in the forecast all week finally came to fruition today, but luckily, the majority of the downpour happened during the bus ride to Padua.

Once we arrived, we are lunch and immediately set off for a walking tour of this bustling city. Padua is home to the second oldest university (next to Bologna) which is spread out across the city, classrooms and offices residing in old city buildings. You'll see no new university construction, and with over 70,000 students, classrooms are often packed and lectures broadcast in many other classrooms.

After our tour (and a quick stop for gelato) we headed to a musical presentation by several students of the Pollini Conservatory of Music. It was a true treat to listen to such talented musicians sharing the beauty of Italian music. The setting in the Santa Catarina Church didn't hurt either.

There really is no shame in a good selfie :)
Dinner with our new friends from the Conservatory followed. They're coming to our concert in Padua on Friday-we're excited to share our music with them as well!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kimonos and Pizza

Today we ventured to the bustling city of Bologna, or "the Fat city." Know for it's excellent food, it's a good thing we showed up hungry.

We began our day by singing in the Basilica di San Petronio- the 15th largest church in the world. It still being an active church, they were very strict about the dress code. All of the girls brought sweaters or shawls to cover their shoulders, but some shorts were deemed "too short" (to their defense, it was quite warm) and we were made to purchase 1 Euro kimonos to use as cover-ups. Unfortunately, due to their doctor's office quality, they didn't seem to make much difference in bettering their appearance. Some girls smartly converted them into skirts. One girl in particular strapped her "skirt" on and said with determination, "okay, let's do this!"

Pictures were not allowed in the church so I obviously took one anyway. The girls mounted a narrow winding staircase and squeezed through the 15th century choir loft to sing to the visitors who seemed a mile away from their stance. The reverberation in the Basilica is almost magical. Mr. Metallo took plenty of time after cutoffs to let the echo resound enough before cueing the girls to come back in- quite the dramatic and stunning effect.

After our short set, we set off into a 90 minute walking tour through the city. We strolled through the Piazza Maggiore and the University of Bologna- the oldest university in the world (founded in 1088!).

Remember how we came to the city hungry? We still hadn't had lunch and our tour guides took us right through the central restaurant district- talk about torture! Once there, our tour guide carefully explained that spaghetti al bolognese does not exist in Bologna. You would need the rougher pasta, tagliatelle, for the sauce to stick.

When our tour ended, the girls quickly parted into smaller groups to get some lunch. Reports show that pizza and gelato were choice favorites.

After lunch, we boarded the bus back to Ravenna for some time to explore the town in small groups, although about 1/3 of the girls actually ended up napping- pizza + bus ride + jet lag is a dangerous formula for a nap.

In the evening we enjoyed dinner at a new restaurant. The girls were relieved that this dinner was only three courses instead of the usual four. It's been a rough few days :)

Tomorrow we leave Ravenna for Padua. Buono notte!

Monday, June 23, 2014

First Performance- First Encore!

We began our day with a walking tour of the incredible city of Ravenna. Our first stop: Basilica di Sant' Apollinaire Nuovo (coincidentally our concert venue later that evening). Constructed in the 6th (!) century, I think it's safe to say it's one of the older venues we've had the chance to perform in. Its stunning mosaics could have captivated the group for hours.

We moved next to the Church of St. Francis, poet Dante's final resting place (he's had several, poor guy). This church, built in the 10th century, has sunk over three and a half meters and has been reconstructed several times to compensate. You can see that the water still rises into the church by the marked stones.

Finally, we reached the Basilica di San Vitale, an unusual octagonal structure, where we sang "How Can I Keep from Singing" much to the surprise of the present tourists. The liveliness of the space prompted chaperone Georgette to dub it "How Can I Keep from Ringing."

It's always particularly impressive when a jean short clad, ponytailed group of rowdy teenagers can suddenly convene into a choir. Tour guide Claudia said it best, "where did that sound come from?!"

I must add that this was not staged, the ceiling mosaics are that entrancing!
We parted ways with our wonderfully informative tour guides for lunch then were able to secure some free time for the girls to explore or nap (the jet lag is quickly catching up to us).

Our concert began at 9:00 pm- definitely later than any of us are used to, but it gave us ample time to eat a light dinner, change for our concert, and rehearse in the venue. With the promise of tiramisu to follow our performance, the girls were especially focused and determined to do well.

This concert was a part of the Ravenna Festival, a special honor. We were told after viewing the video from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Festival organizers were so impressed it garnered an immediate invitation to join. 

The Basilica di Sant' Apollinaire Nuovo set an extraordinary setting in which to sing. The Festival organizers quickly filled the space with chairs, lighting and a piano which were nowhere to be seen when we passed through earlier in the day.

As the girls recessed out of the church following the concert, the unceasing applause from the audience prompted Mr. Metallo to exclaim "turn around!" for an encore.

And yes, the tiramisu was worth it.

Everyone is looking forward to a good night's sleep (hopefully one that does not involve waking up and playing cards from 2:00-5:00 am). We are headed to Bologna tomorrow!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

We've Arrived!

Buonasera from Ravenna!

It was smooth sailing from Newark to Venice. In fact, Mr. Metallo said we might be the easiest group he's ever toured with in his x-years of teaching. We'll take it!

Most girls slept through the flight to rest up for our arrival to Italy. We ate a lot of plane and airport food, so we were thrilled when Kathie, our tour guide, had our bus driver stop at a road stop where the girls enjoyed espresso, chocolate wafers and "the best nectarines I've ever had"-every girl who ate a nectarine.

We arrived in Ravenna with enough time to check into our hostel and freshen up for dinner. We walked all of two blocks to our dining destination, but it's a beautiful 2 blocks! We enjoyed a 4 course meal which I think set us up for a good night's sleep.

We're looking forward to our performance in the Ravenna Festival tomorrow- our first concert in Italy!