I’m in Lisbon, writing in an apartment in the funky Alfama district. The windows are open, music from the bar across the road and random street sounds float in, and I find this more life-affirming than distracting. I’m just now, three days after the event, coming down from the glory that was the singing by the great choir Animae Voces in a shared ‘open rehearsal’ last Saturday in a church in Florence. Their version of Indodana especially is a thing of wonder.
For my group of Australian and NZ singers, some of whom had had little previous singing experience, the thought of singing after Animae Voces that evening was understandably daunting— we’d only been together for two weeks, and they’ve been singing for over 20 years. And they have the wonderful Edoardo Materassi at the helm. But it was an evening of sharing music rather than a gig, and I think we did OK on One Morning Soon, Satan We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down and Senzenina (great solo, Andrew Davis!). Then we sang together with Animae Voces (Bella Ciao, Loli Rokla, Bènia Calastoria and One Step) and everything was beautiful.
I was proud of my group’s diligence and enthusiasm for the music, and what we achieved together in Italy. But I can hardly take all the credit — my brothers in music, Edoardo Materassi and Guerrino Parri, with their very different approaches to directing, were an inspiration and a challenge for us all.

Here’s a clip of the combined choirs led by Guerrino singing Signore delle Cime at San Francesco church in Mercatello sul Metauro. This was a concert for the village, a precurser to their annual festival. After singing in the church, we performed again in the main square (see below), then partied in the garden of Palazzo Donati, ancestral home of our hostess and chum, Luisa Donati.

Two weeks singing in beautiful surroundings with 30 or more singers and two amazing Italian conductors? Big tick. Prosecco, pizza, prosciutto, pecorino, parties? Another big tick. Beautiful music and great local bands entertaining us at dinner? Choirs combining to share repertoire and culture? Massive ticks. A huge thank you to all involved: Jennifer Richardson for creating the event, Jules Damian and Andrew Davis for looking after the details, Francesco and all at Montestgliano, Luisa Donati at Mercatello, Edoardo, Sabrina and all in Animae Voces, Guerrino and Coro Poliphonico Icense, and all the hard-working and fabulous singers.


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