Taunton School Main Building at Dusk

Venice Choir Tour

Posted: 25th October 2018


Day One

We have had a splendidly fun jam-packed day taking in some of Venice’s most impressive and famous sights by boat and by foot. The weather has been kind to us and promises to continue to be pleasantly warm and sunny over the next few days. Many of the children thoroughly enjoyed having opportunities to purchase sunglasses during the heat of the day at en route to our performance and to our other activities. We enjoyed delicious pizzas and ciabattas on market squares in the centre of Old Venice near the Grand Canal. Everyone is thoroughly excited and feeling the magic of this amazing city. On the singing front (the reason we are here, of course!), we gave a fantastic concert of all our choral and solo pieces to an appreciative audience of some local Venetians and many parents of the children in the choir. The Anglican Church of St George welcomed us warmly and proved an excellent and hospitable venue for our Venice debut performance. Before the concert, we had an extensive and fascinating tour of the Doge’s Palace right on St Mark’s Square near the Grand Canal. We explored the lavish state rooms with ceilings and walls adorned with frescos and gold paint and the dark and foreboding dungeons, reached from the Palace by crossing the famous Bridge of Sighs. After our concert, we walked across the town along the waterfront and spent two hours designing and painting proper Venetian masks so now we have some really special and unique souvenirs to bring back. Donning our masks, we brought a great deal of colour to the restaurant we visited and to the streets we navigated on our way back to our hotel.

Amanda Hendy
TPS Teacher

Day Two 

Today’s action-packed day began with an outing by boat to the island of Murano, famous for exquisitely made glass. We watched a demonstration given by a gentleman who has been designing, blowing, and making glass for 50 years. We were mesmerised as he sat in front of us and, just out of a blob of melting glass, fashioned a beautifully shaped horse and also an ornate jug. The children could have spent most of the day in the shop, but we had to press on to another island, Burano, where we entertained passers by on a large market square by a fountain. Then we had a spot of lunch, a quick exploration of the shops, followed by a journey to the Rialto Bridge, one of only three bridges crossing the Grand Canal in the centre of Old Venice. Here we savoured the delights of “real” Venice, with plenty of market stalls and lovely riverside vistas of old classical buildings. We then enjoyed a gondola ride in several different gondolas. The children in Mr Hornsby’s gondola serenaded the whole of Venice with their beautiful singing on the water. We loved passing through the canals,  meandering past the area we explored yesterday (the great Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs, among others).

Before singing for Mass in St Mark’s Basilica, we were lucky to fit in a trip up the huge bell tower on St Mark’s Square, giving us fabulous panoramic views of the city and the surrounding islands.
Just as the sun was setting, we made our way across the square and into St Mark’s Basilica. What an opportunity to get to perform at such an ancient and awe inspiring venue. Again, it was lovely to meet another group of friendly TPS parents and friends who had come to hear us.

After such a long and stimulating day, it was with relief that we made it back to the hotel with enough energy to enjoy a delicious hotel dinner and a well earned sleep before tomorrow’s activities.

Sam Baker
TPS Music Teacher

 Day Three

Today we spent the day on mainland Italy. After taking our usual lovely private launch from our hotel destination up towards the old island, taking in the sights that we savoured on our tour yesterday like St Mark’s Square and the huge bell tower, we spent the day away from Venice first in Padua and then in Verona. The weather forecast was not good initially, but it turned out to be warm and sunny for us upon arrival. In Padua, we gave two performances at the Basilica of St Anthony. At 11am we were ushered into our pews by the high altar of the Basilica where we sang four pieces from our repertoire of sacred motets. This was part of an official celebration of the Mass, similar to the service at St Mark’s. St Anthony’s Basilica in Padua is bigger than St Mark’s in Venice and almost as spectacularly ornate. After this, we were given the opportunity and somewhat rare privilege of singing a few more pieces around the tomb which has the remains of St Anthony buried deep within the marble stones. Donatello was the renowned Renaissance sculpture who designed and crafted the beautiful marble tomb.

Father Alessandro, one of the priests who guided us during our time in the Basilica, presented us with a beautiful certificate giving a record of our visit. What a delightful souvenir for us to take back and proudly display in our Music Department! We were on cue for a well earned lunch break by this point, so after bidding farewell to kind Father Alessandro, we explored the market square with a fountain and various cafes and street food stalls.

Onwards to Verona, where we sang in the third largest Colosseum built by the Romans. Nowadays the building hosts opera performances and concerts. The acoustic is incredible, as the parents who came to hear us will testify!

By this point it was beginning to rain, so we made our way carefully across the road and into the enchanting old part of the city. We went to “Juliet’s balcony”, said to have been in the very courtyard that inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which begins “Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene”. And so, in fair (but rather wet) Verona, we enjoyed a shopping opportunity on the market square, followed by an excellent dinner including pizza and fruit tarts. After the journey back to the hotel, time to pack, shower, sleep, and be ready for an early departure. The days have flown by and the performances have been a treat, not to mention the special opportunities and activities unique to this amazing city and country.

Sam Baker
TPS Music Teacher

Categories: Blog Preparatory