|Postcard: Basilica del Santo performance|
The Yuma Youth Choir had the chance to sing right before a mass started in the Basilica del Santo in Milan, Italy, drawing a large crowd of people who were touring the gorgeous and huge cathedral.
|Postcard: La Scala performance|
The Yuma Youth Choir sings in Milan, Italy in the lobby of La Scala, the most famous opera house in the world. This was the very first day of the group's Italian tour, having just stepped off of a 10-hour plane ride over the Atlantic.
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Day two: Milan and Padova
While everyone was still reeling over the loss of Jhamiel 'J.J.' Robles due to her visa problems, we were also trying to overcome sleeping, or attempting to sleep, sitting up for the last day. Few had the chance to sleep at all Wednesday evening as most drove up on a shuttle bus to Phoenix and the only other option was to sleep sitting up on the airplane ride over the Atlantic. So, we were all dragging when we arrived at the airport in Milan.
So, the second day of the choir's tour of Italy has actually felt like a continuation of the first. After a short wait for the guide for our adventure, Flavio Nicoletti, (who was well worth waiting for) we headed straight to the legendary La Scala opera house. While you can make it in New York, you are it if you sing at La Scala, and the choir had a chance to test their pipes, albeit in the lobby, but, hey it's La Scala!
Even the lobby of this famous building has acoustics to die for. The kids' faces lit up as the sound reverberated throughout the room and tourists wandering the nearby museum stopped to listen to the impromptu concert. I love watching the faces in the crowds when this choir sings - it's just a treat to hear them and see the looks of surprise as people come around the corner to see a group of teenagers in jeans and t-shirts singing like angels.
The other neat item about La Scala was that it was the first place we participated in a tour using what Flavio referrs to as our 'Italian iPods,' little radio receivers worn by each tour participant. The guide speaks into a microphone and no matter where in the tour you may be, you can hear her voice, making it easier to take photos and wander freely around sites without the worry of missing the facts.
After La Scala everyone headed over on a walking tour of Milan's greatest sights - the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in the Piazza Duomo.
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II could very well be one of the oldest shopping malls ever built but looks like a modern structure. Relatively new in Italy, it was built in the mid 1800's and is filled with mosaic tiles and sculptures and topped off with a steel structured roof.
The Duomo itself is a massive and ornate gothic cathedral complete with scenes from the bible in the form of astounding glass windows, door panels, and statues. The cathedral dates back to 1300 and each scene was built as an educational tool to teach the bible stories visually to the mostly illiterate population who attended services, while also instilling a sense of awe in the creator with its splendor.
The choir sang another impromptu song inside the Duomo right before the start of mass. Since mass was beginning, they could only sing one song, prompting tourists who had seated themselves for the mini concert to stare after retreating choir members in confusion. Many a whispered 'bravo' was said as we passed out of the cathedral.
After feeding or dodging pidgeons in the Piazza del Duomo -the birds are everywhere - we headed back to the bus and on to Padova, about a three hour jouney usually. Unfortunately, a truck accident made the drive closer to 4 hours and the visit to see Giotto's work in the Cappella degli Scrovegni had to be cancelled.
The most touching moments came when we visited St. Anthony's Basilica in Padua. No cameras were allowed in the church as it is a working church. As we entered the doors we realized we'd arrived just as a mass was ending and the loudspeaker system pretty much drowned out our guide's voice.
The main parts of some of these churches I've noticed will continue with services in a designated area as tourists view the rest of the building.
As I mentioned before, cathedrals were decorated in a way that visually told the stories and teachings of the bible and inspire awe in the divine. St. Anthony's Basilica definitely delivers in the awe department. The walls and ceilings are covered with paintings and sculptures which leap out of the walls to tell the stories of St. Anthony's life and martyrdom.
The decor is jaw-dropping in its beauty and I highly recommend visiting their website to see more. Some of the choir members were moved to tears at the sight mixed with the chanting of the priest's strong voice at the end of mass.
The baslica houses the remains of St. Anthony, whose tongue, vocal chords, and jaw were found to be miraculously well preserved. As a result, all three are shown in splendor in a side chapel as a relic.
At the end of the tour, our guide asked if it would be possible for the choir to sing. We were a little confused as the guard let everyone around the cathedral and arranged the choir singing into the chapel of St. Anthony. Then it dawned - this is where the body of St. Anthony is laid and the choir was to offer their song directly to the tomb.
The performance in that space and watching the reaction of the people all around, was very moving. Those who appeared to mildly resent tourists in such a holy place suddenly were still and staring and a small crowd gathered behind the choir. Many approached parents in the seats to whisper a 'bravo' or a 'molto, molto bene' (very, very good) as they passed with smiles.
This is why this choir is here, to create those moments in time and, while I can't share it with all of you since cameras were forbidden, it was one even more precious to me for the fact that it only did live in that moment - and filled it completely. Bravo YYC.