Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Singing in Florence and Pisa

When the choirmaster made the arrangements for Choir18 to sing in Florence I got the mistaken impression we would be singing in the Duomo, which you see on your left.

Until we got there on Friday, I'd only ever seen pictures taken from a distance, and had no idea the building was entirely faced in white, green and pink marble. I was completely blown away.

We had a walking tour of Florence on Saturday morning when I saw it in the light and also went inside. Rather to my surprise, all the effort to impress had been expended on the outside, and inside was rather dull and plain.

I took a brazillian pictures of statues and buildings, most of which will never see the light of day. I do plan to do a website with rather more photographs, but that won't be straightaway.

In Florence, we actually sang in the church of San Lorenzo, which is rather more modest, though still enormous inside. We sang a concert for a little less than an hour, and it wasn't bad, though it was all a bit tense as the church folks didn't seem to be expecting us and then wanted to charge our audience to come in, despite the fact that it was supposed to be a free concert.

On Sunday a coach took us to Lucca which is near Pisa, where we sang in an oval piazza which you can see here.

The area had been a slum in the 19th century. The authorities cleared the area and discovered a Roman amphitheatre underneath it, so the houses they put up are on the eliptical outline of the amphitheatre.


It was very pleasant to sing there, with a row of caf├ęs around, and we had a decent, appreciative audience.

After lunch the bus took us to Pisa where we sang in the cathedral, which is also called the Duomo, hence my original confusion.

We arrived rather before we were due to sing, so admired the buildings and had some refreshments while we waited. Our tour guide, Camilla, blagged us 5 minutes in the baptistry, which is a cylindrical domed building near the west end of the cathedral.

It had a 10 second decay, which is another way of saying if you snapped your fingers, the sound would take 10 seconds to fade away. We sang two pieces we know very well, singing them at about half normal speed, and the effect was simply astonishing. In an accoustic like that, if you sing too fast, all the detail just disappears into a blur, so you sing more slowly than usual. I fess I was moved to tears by the experience. Music is a funny thing and can get you like that.

I didn't notice, until proofreading this post, that the photo of the cathedral and leaning tower has been distorted by the camera. To compensate for the fact that the light-sensitive panel in the camera is flat, the software or possibly the optics compensates, but in so doing distorts the picture. You'll notice that the leaning tower of Pisa is in fact upright in my snap!

After that we moved into the cathedral itself, where we sang a concert for an hour. The interior shot is of the Pisa Duomo, and I have to say, I rather like the white marble altar near the camera.

And just to make a brilliant weekend perfect, and to compensate for the fact that Jenny had to stay at home marking final year exam papers, my lovely friend Jane came with us, even though she's not in the choir. She flew over on the same flight, stayed in the same hotel and was one of the choir groupies. Ah, life's good!

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