Tag Archive | chorus tour


They say that musical performance is much like an iceberg, where the practice part is the enormous amount of ice below the waterline, while the actual performance is comparable to diminutive visual tip of the ice mass.

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Going on tour with Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus allows for more exposure of that tip: seven schedule performances in 11 days, plus the inevitable “drive-bys” that are just what happens when you get a bunch of well-rehearsed singers in an amazingly resonant space.

So, as one of 70 singers, I eagerly report for rehearsal Tuesday and Thursday nights and Saturday mornings, armed with a raft of music, my tuning fork, three sharpened pencils, a large bottle of water and a bag of throat lozenges.

This trip began as a gracious ornate invitation from the capelmeister of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It is the 500th (!) anniversary of the choir at the Vatican, and the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus was invited to be part of the year-long celebration. Expanding on that opportunity, we will begin in Dubrovnik, traveling generally north along the Adriatic coastline through Slovenia, and then make a hairpin turn south to Venice, and then on to Rome.

While the opportunity to perform so frequently in a short time is attractive, the real bonus is the opportunity to sing the music composed for the places where we will sing, particularly St. Mark’s in Venice and St. Peter’s in Rome. I had similar experiences in Seville, Leipzig, Salzburg, and Vienna – you can feel the centuries of history rise up around you, envisioning times before, singers before, that made the music ring in these spaces.

While we are still a little more than three weeks from departure, my anticipation grows as we perfect our musical skills with each passing hour of rehearsal.

The beginning of this journey starts on this page.

Enchanted Lake


Lake Bled, Slovenia

Though we wanted more time in Ljubljana, we were headed into the mountains to Lake Bled.  A quiet and tranquil place, we set off to walk around the lake, even though it was threatening rain. A castle perched on the point above the lake set the scene. We strolled along the lakefront path, about a quarter of the lakeshore. We stopped at a dock to catch a boat to the island in the lake. Hand-oared boat service shuttled us to the shore, where there were 99 steps to take us to the top of the island. Legend has it that the groom must carry his bride up the steps for good luck in their marriage.

More gift shopping, a coffee stop, and then a discussion about returning to the shore.  Kate and Kevin brought their swim suits, so Ellen and I planned to catch the next boat back to shore carrying all of the gear.  Unfortunately for the swimmers, the distance was shorter than they thought, and the wait for the next boat was longer than we thought.  We found the intrepid swimmers shivering at the side of the lake. Kate, relying on the kindness of a friend, had borrowed a fleece.  They quickly changed into dry clothes behind a dumpster, and we took off at a brisk pace for the buses.  We got back in enough time to bolt over to a bakery to purchase bureks (coiled dough stuffed with meat or cheese) before we headed off to Venice.

Road Show


On the road to Ljubljana

Back on the bus, we are excited to see what Slovenia would bring.  It’s a long bus ride: five hours, including the border crossing.  Arrival in Ljubljana was expected about 5:30, with an evening in the old city.

But, the travel gods had other plans for us.

When we reached the border, the line to clear immigration was immense, and was not moving.  Since we were in the special line for tour buses, with a grassy area nearby, many were getting off the bus to stretch.  There was a group of college-aged students out on the grass, and suddenly they started singing.

Well, that was it – we were all soon off of our busses, and the directors met. This was a group of Turkish college students, on their way to Perugia.  Their conductor had studied ancient Christian music of Anatolia, and the music they sang was very interesting – very different harmonies and rhythms compared to the bundle of Renaissance music in our folders.  So, of course, we sang for each other.  It is magical how two different cultures can meet and connect so quickly, on the side of the road.  It was a particularly poignant exchange, considering recent events in Istanbul: who knows what they will face when they return home.  Every embassy should have their own music group – imagine what a different world this could be.

It took three hours to clear the border – apparently the agents there are not amused with losing their jobs once Croatia implements the Schengen agreement.  We were not amused either, arriving in Ljubljana about 10:00pm.

Travel Day

It must have looked like the circus had come to town. Nearly 90 of us lined up at the Lufthansa ticket counter, ranging in age from pre-teen to retirement age, all dressed for travel, with a variety of colored suitcases, carry-on totes, backpacks, hats and even a wind wand. (Still can’t believe that the wind wand made it through security…)

SFO GateLong haul flights are never fun, but at least we had on-demand movies and TV to try alleviate some of the figgeties that come with confinement. We were delighted to find that we were also sharing the flight with Peninsula Youth Symphony, heading to Germany for a one-week tour.


Packing Perplexities

We’re still 19 days away from departure, but I feel like I should do more than find my passport. I’ve pulled out my rolling suitcase, which has gathered dust since we went to Botswana in 2005. (I found a great convertible travel pack, and have used that for trips, domestic and international, ever since 2006.)

I’ve completed Stage 1: Making Lists. A clothing list, a toiletries list, a accessories list, an equipment list, a concert attire list.

Now, I am in Stage 2: Making Piles. Many of the items on my list are still in use, or will be used again before we leave: shoes, toiletries, concert garb. But, things like noise-canceling headphones, sunscreen, cash belts can be readied to avoid any last-minute rush. Sorting through my closet for warm weather clothing, I’m selecting only items that can easily be hand washed and dripped dry and still be relatively wrinkle free.

Then there is the weeding of the piles: can I wear or use this more than once, or for more than one purpose? Do I really need SPF 15 and 30 sunscreen? Will I ever really get chilly? An umbrella AND a rain jacket? How big does my carry-on need to be? Then, I remind myself I am traveling to western Europe – packing oversights are easily remedied with a quick shopping trip.

As I sort through it all, the plan is have the suitcase closed by two days before departure. Looks like I have a good start on this process, but I probably won’t be adding more until after the send-off concert on the 15th. At least I now have a good working list.

Be Our Guest

We are social creatures by nature: receiving an invitation is always flattering. it says that the sender thought that your presence was important for the occasion. It goes straight to the ego: “Oh, you want ME!”

An invitation can come in many forms: choosing up sides for a pick-up basketball game, a text message or phone call to meet for lunch. They can be spontaneous or they can be planned well in advance. For bigger life celebrations, like birthdays and weddings, the invites are more colorful or artful, and often delivered by the mail carrier. Whatever the occasion, invitations are usually framed to entice you to accept.

Certainly when the Vatican sends an invitation, they do it in style. So, when you receive an ornately hand-addressed enveloped, postmarked Citta del Vaticano, with a stamp commemorating Franz Joseph Haydn, this does capture the attention. Then, as the enclosed letter evokes the Vatican history back to Pope Julius II and Palestrina and 1513, well, it becomes even more compelling. But, the clincher? The charming sentence, “Therefore, I think it would be nice to celebrate our anniversaries together.”

And so, this journey began, with a humble and eloquent note from the “Chapel Master” at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.