Choir tour to the Amalfi Coast

Hot on the heels of House Music, on Saturday 14th October 16 pupils and four members of staff met at school at 6am to head for Stansted airport and the Amalfi coast.  After a 10 year gap it was with excitement that the school was returning to such a beautiful area of Italy with an abundance of performance opportunities.

Over the next five days the choir performed three concerts in Sorrento, Ravello and Sant’Agnello di Sorrento as well as enjoying a visit to Pompeii. Taking full advantage of the warm autumn weather, leisure time included time on the beach and in the resort pool as well as competitive rounds of Mr Carr’s game ‘Six second scribbles’, which certainly showed up who can draw under pressure and who cannot!

Our days fell into an easy pattern of breakfast and rehearsal; the rehearsal room offering beautiful views across the Sorrento Bay. The first concert on Sunday 15th was in the Chiesa di San Francesco just back from the high cliff top promenade and park in Sorrento. With its ancient cloisters dating back to the 14th Century and the Franciscan monks, this impressive church was the perfect venue for the first concert. The location ensured a large audience of over 100 as tourists and locals alike made their way to the cliff top walk to watch the sun set and admire the view across the bay to Naples and the ever-present and rather arresting site of Vesuvius rising up from the coast. Many who popped their heads in the door on hearing the choir, sat down and stayed to the end, giving our pupils the standing ovation and rapturous applause they so deserved. Leading the way was our group of loyal groupies, parents who couldn’t resist the pull of a few days in Italy to support the choir.

Free time in Sorrento allowed us all to explore the small streets, visit a gelateria and savour that first proper Italian pizza!  Mr Jones proved his love of Italian ice cream is as strong as ever!

The second concert was in another beautiful venue outside Sorrento, which was in fact just a parish church, although hard to believe given its lavish interiors. Our choir rose to the occasion with another wonderful programme.

Forecast rain threatened to spoil an easier start to the day on Tuesday 16th, but the clouds soon cleared and before we all headed off to Ravello for concert number 3, there was time to enjoy the pool and the waterslides once again or another swim and snack down at the small beach.  Our academic staff will be pleased to hear, there was also evidence of revision!

The coastal drive to Ravello is spectacular and provided more views of Vesuvius and small Italian villages clinging to the sides of steep-sided coves. Ravello itself is a must visit town with the white-washed cathedral or Duomo rising up from a set of steps in the main square. The break between rehearsal and concert gave everyone the chance to look round the shops and soak up the Italian sunshine in the surrounding cafes. Our faithful band of supporters had made the long drive from Sorrento and how lovely to see familiar faces in the Square when we arrived!

Our final day was spent in Pompeii before flying home. Under the expert guidance of Roberta, we were steered round the huge site and shown the highlights of this ancient city and told some the countless stories excavation has uncovered over the years. A delay in departure was made easier by the discovery of a piano and our pupils gave their fourth and final impromptu concert to an appreciative audience in departures.

The tour this year had an extra-special element to it as the programme included pieces composed by our music teacher Mr Carr, The Holt Service Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis and Jimmy T’s, (13 F), The Souls of the Righteous. It was no doubt a special moment for them both to have their compositions performed by friends and pupils abroad.

There are so many memorable moments from the tour this year.  All 16 pupils sang beautifully and intuitively, forming an impressive ensemble sound, allowing our soloists to shine. They reduced our audiences to tears and delighted them with more light-hearted pieces. And we wonder whether a 16-year old Benjamin Britten writing Hymn to the Virgin in the School San in 1929, could imagine that this piece would be revered and sung by future Gresham’s pupils on tours abroad.