Choir Tour to Florence and Tuscany 2010.

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The tour party comprised a choir of 41 singers (14 sopranos, 13 Altos, 6 Tenors and 8 Basses) with 10 non singing partners and Conductor and Organist. This allowed Graham to devise an interesting little programme incorporating the Haydn Missa Sancti Nicolai and a variety of other pieces selected from our May concert based on the Psalms, including the three unaccompanied pieces by Palestrina and Gabrieli.

The majority of participants initially booked to fly direct to Pisa from Liverpool Airport using Ryanair on 2nd June, with the remainder travelling independently and making their own arrangements. An annoying change of Ryanair schedules after our initial bookings, forced us to change our departure airport to Stansted. Four Girls, our very accommodating coach firm, were able to cope with this and arranged an early pick-up from Chester at 4.50 am. and travel to Stansted for the 11.20 am. flight to Pisa.

Generally, I think the party found the tour enjoyable and largely successful. We sang two full concerts in Florence churches, one at the Santa Maria de Ricci and one at the Santa Stefano. In addition we were granted permission to sing two unaccompanied pieces in the Duomo during afternoon public access. (In the event we sang four, without being found out by the authorities. These three events went well but we were disappointed with the inadequate publicity given to our presence. Had it not been for the enthusiastic efforts of the non-singing members of our party encouraging (haranguing?) potential attendees on the street and handing out programmes, our audiences might have been very small.

Our visit to participate in the 10.00am Mass at the Duomo in Siena proved to be little short of a disaster and very upsetting for us all, particularly as all contributing factors were outside our control. The planners had grossly underestimated the time for coach travel to Siena and totally omitted to tell us about the 25 minute brisk walk uphill to the Duomo. All this meant that we arrived totally out of breath just as Mass was starting. This gave no time for rehearsal or setting up with organ and just allowed the rushed singing of three unscheduled a capella pieces when indicated during and after the service. In particular we could not sing the Haydn “Sanctus” as previously requested by the priest as this required organ. Naturally the whole event was very upsetting for the party and particularly Graham and Simon as we could not perform at our best.

The rest of the day was spent exploring the Duomo interior and the city followed by a visit to San Gimigniano for a group evening meal before returning to Florence. A final group meal was also arranged for our last night in Florence after our A Capella performance in the Duomo. The return journey on Sunday was uneventful, with everything going according to plan.

Very many thanks on behalf of everyone to Philip Josling, Jon Banks and Sue Eales for all the hard work they put into the planning of the tour. Philip has now indicated, after several years in the role, his intention to stand down. This is a summary of Jon Banks’s report on the tour.