Chapel Choir Italy Tour
Words by Mr Chris Allinson, Director of Music
The Sedbergh School Chapel Choir recently returned from an unforgettable concert tour of northern Italy – bringing the 2021/22 academic year to a close with six performances in stunning venues from Milan to Venice and in between.
This auditioned choir rehearse twice a week as well as fulfilling Sunday chapel commitments, and in recent years have been in a very rich vein of form. Shortly after returning from their most recent international tour in 2019 to Boston, NYC and Washington D.C, the choir reached the final of the BBC Young Choir of the Year 2020 competition – a competition that was subsequently cut short by the pandemic. There then followed a long period of inactivity or reduced activity, making the success of the choir this year all the more impressive. This was undoubtedly led by our Upper Sixth choristers (this year and last), who ensured that the choir rebounded from the disappointments of 2020 and much of 2021.
The base for this year’s tour was Sirmione, situated on a gorgeous peninsula at the southern end of Lake Garda. Blue skies and waters, and warm temperatures were the backdrop for a morning routine of sectional rehearsals and well-earned poolside rest, ahead of performances most evenings. The venues for these performances were chosen for their beauty and variety, from the unique cliffside position of Santuario Madonna della Corona, to the almighty Milan Cathedral – one of the largest such spaces in the world. The repertoire that we performed was a selection of pieces that the choir had sung throughout the year, from Parry’s ‘I was glad’ to Lotti’s ‘Cruxifixus’, to Whitacre’s ‘Sleep’, and of course compositions by our very own Head of Choral Music – Mr Seymour.
Although all performances were memorable, it would be fair to say that the concert at Milan Cathedral marked a noteworthy moment in the choir’s history. When we arrived at the cathedral, it became clear that this was to be a special event, as we were warmly welcomed by several members of staff at all levels from the cathedral. As we rehearsed in the afternoon, they sat and listened. At the end of this rehearsal we were informed that tickets for the concert, in this vast space, had sold out. Furthermore, our concert was the first of a new initiative by the cathedral to reach out to – and collaborate with – Christians across Europe. As such, the event was attended by a number of dignitaries. Although it is fair to say that we were all humbled and moved, the choir rose to the occasion in superb fashion. Following the concert, the choir attended a reception before being taken to the roof of the cathedral to watch the sun set over Milan.
In addition to the busy performance schedule, there was time for the choir to let off steam at Gardaland theme park, and enjoy the spectacular atmosphere of ‘Aida’ at the Arena di Verona. A thrilling boat ride on our final day round the Sirmione peninsula brought the tour to a fitting, fun end as the tour party savoured the final few hours of each other’s company. We all knew that we had shared a quite remarkable experience together on a number of levels – not just in terms of the memories created, but also the strengthening of social bonds within the choir which are ultimately so important to its continued musical success.