Rome in April! What could be more attractive? The opportunity to visit iconic places previously only read about: the Sistine Chapel and Vatican, the Colosseum, Forum and Pantheon. Add to this the chance of ‘happening upon’ Bellini and Michelangelo statues and Caravaggio and Rafael paintings - and being able to test the marvellous acoustics of so many romantic places, with not only the appropriate repertoire in your head but the means to recreate it right then and there with your choir friends!
Include the opportunity of singing to packed audiences in contrasting venues and to experience the privilege of singing in a Mass in the magnificent Basilica of St Peter’s in Vatican City and you have the makings of an unforgettable tour! Rome was experiencing sunny, warm Spring weather when the thirty-one choir members, supported by six staff, arrived. This helped immeasurably with moving the group around the busy capital city using the metro and on foot - by far the most effective modes of transport. For some choir members, so much walking came as a surprise but saved them from the excesses of pasta, pizza and ice-cream. (The choir were well-fed during this tour!)
For David, Julia and myself, this was to be our 27th and final tour with FYC. Our combined touring expertise was supported by three other staff members. Assistant Director Jo Tomlinson took the role of pastoral care (when she wasn’t warming the choir up vocally!) and choir mum Sophie Budd, whose experience of taking teenagers abroad on language courses proved invaluable, organised the FYC uniform. Leading the adult team, and touring with FYC for the first time was Fiona Blair, a friend of Jo’s whose day job is working with students at Reading University. Fiona’s meticulous preparation coupled with her ability to dot the i’s and cross the t’s meant that there were few surprises other than those of which we could have done little to pre-empt. Rome also proved attractive to many of the families who decided to holiday at the same time as the choir tour and to attend FYC’s public concerts: one in a school (where the platform was shared with three Italian choral groups, two of which were from the Donna Olimpia Music School), the other in a church (Sant’ Eustachio, near the famous Pantheon).
On both occasions, the concert was delayed while extra chairs were found to accommodate the crush of people. The enthusiastic audiences certainly enjoyed the English choral sound and were impressed by the way the choir could switch from sacred to up-beat secular and folk songs with
seemingly natural ease.
And FYC didn’t just sing in concerts. They delighted tourists whenever they burst into song. After hearing the choir perform in Santa Maria Del Popolo, (home of wonderful paintings by Caravaggio and Raphael) a priest-in-charge told the young people “Caravaggio and Raphael created great art with brush and palette: you do so with your voices!”