Thursday, June 18, 2009

Concerts in Canegrate and Brugherio

Artistic Director Jordan Sramek writes:

{Thursday, June 18, 2009, Legnano, Italy} Ciao everyone! All is well here and we’ve been singing our hearts out. Everyone is in great spirits and we’ve acclimated to the schedule and the never-ending stream of schedule changes. In other words, we’re just going with the flow. Carrie, Scott, Matt and Roy (“the new folks, ” as the veterans refer to them) are doing great and the group is sounding tighter and tighter as the days progress.

Two nights ago we performed in the town of Canegrate in the Antica Chiesa Parrocchiale Santa Maria Assunta (‘The Old Parochial Church of the Assumption of Mary’). The presenters (hosts, really) were quite insistent that we perform a program of more popular music, stating that the priest was liberal and didn’t mind secular music in the church. But the second we entered this magnificent old church we knew that our sacred program would be much more fitting. The bus driver had gotten slightly lost on the way there, and because of some logistical challenges in the space (long story, but let’s just say there was no bathroom and we were forced to use the single-seater in the bar across the piazza), we had virtually no time to rehearse. We also had to gather everyone to move the altar (not a big deal, really), but then the organizers asked if they could please open the doors to the audience, and once they did there was a massive flood of people literally running for the front seats. It was quite a scene, really. Here's a photo that Lisa Drew took while we were getting settled into the space during our 8-minute rehearsal (!)

The concert went very well, I must say. It was again our ½ Slavic / ½ St. Francis program, which worked very well in this deep and often-heavy acoustic. The space accentuated the lower men’s voices much more, causing the women to have to put out a little more volume, but we attained a richness to our sound that I just loved. Anliz and Tristan attended the concert and said we sounded great. Some guy recorded the concert and none of us knew who he was, so I’m going to try to track down the recording (I dunno – maybe it’s already on that massive black market of choral programs in Italy). The church was stiflingly hot by the end; the audience was fanning itself wildly through most of the concert and we were simply dripping wet. We were cheered to two encores and I decided to appease the presenters by offering spirituals for both: J David Moore’s gorgeous arrangement of “Been in de Storm” and our new collective arrangement of “Balm in Gilead” with a descant written by Monte Mason of the Gregorian Singers in Minneapolis. The presenter was clearly pleased and I don’t believe there were any hard feelings in the end.

Yesterday we moved from our first hotel, Una, which was really nice (had a killer breakfast, too) but a 45-minute walk to the center of Legnano), to Elitis, which is right in town and the same place we stayed last year. Elitis is definitely a step down in terms of comfort and accommodations, but this festival is “tiered” so that the majority of the groups performing are all together in the middle of the festival and then only half the groups are here at the beginning and the end of the festival. We are now entering the last week, so the five remaining choirs (USA, England, Bulgaria, Norway and Cuba) have been placed in the same hotel. I was lucky to be on the 8th floor in the old place and I’m now on the 6th floor in the new one. I say this because I walk the stairs each day and I get a little leg workout (I end up walking up and down the stairs up to ten times a day, so it’s great). Elitis is LOUD and without much consideration for those of us who arrive back at our hotels at 2:00am each night. Similarly, our breakfast here was scheduled for 8am, which makes no sense, but it’s a small breakfast room and they have to revolve the schedule to avoid a traffic jam each morning. Our lunches and dinners are served at a cafeteria-style place called “Il Giardino” which is about a 4-minute walk from our hotel. Each meal features at least two pasta choices, a risotto of the day, several meat and fish options and some type of vegetable. Dessert and wine/beer are extra but very reasonable. We’re not starving but several of us miss Provence (whoops, should I have said that here?).

Last night we performed just outside Legnano in the town of Brugherio. I’m not quite sure how old the church was. There was an old foundation stone that said 1659 but surely this church was newer and some of us estimated 19th century. In any case, this was a grand church that reminded many of us of a small version of the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis. We again gave our Slavic/Francis concert and the church was packed and really hot (a theme is starting here, no?). Two encores again and a very enthusiastic crowd. Many more CDs sold, which was good news, and Francesco Leonardi, one of the organizers of the festival was in attendance (he liked it, by the way). I couldn’t seem to get a good shot in the church but Mark did and I’ll try to send it tomorrow. In the meantime, I attach a photo of our changing room (woo hoo). A lovely little reception thrown by our friends in Voces 8 was waiting for us back at the hotel, and that was so nice. In fact, the Norwegians, Cubans and Bulgarians all arrived back from their concerts about the same time and many stayed around to socialize. The mingling of languages and the sheer force of conversational sound was something to behold. I particularly enjoyed talking with two Bulgarian women, with whom I compared the similarities of the Czech and Bulgarian languages. I would say a word in Czech and they would see if they could guess it and then say the word in Bulgarian. Sounds kinda dorky, I know, but somehow it was really hilarious (perhaps the Prosecco helped). Ciao–Jordan

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