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Music Italy Tour 2015

Posted on: July 28th 2015

We left Dover under grey, rain-soaked skies and landed in France to much of the same. (Rain featured spectacularly in the early part of our sojourn.) The overnight journey was marked by the ink black night sky being illuminated by brilliant flashes of lightning. However, as we entered the Swiss countryside, rivers of torrential rainwater gave way to gentle sunshine.
Most students claim that the sandman didn't visit them during the night journey; however, when Teachers walked the length of the coach to check on your precious darlings, most of them were gently snoring. Our solo Year 7 student, Max, complained that he only got 7 hours sleep. There was a little jealousy from the teachers when he voiced this!
Since we disembarked from the coach, it has been an Italian whirlwind of an itinerary. Up at 6:30 then breakfast then rehearsals then out for the day. Did you take note of the 6:30? (My heart goes out to the parents of some students who had difficulty waking up. How do you cope on schooldays? (Emily S, Sadie and Jemima.)
Food in the Hotel Centro Turistico Gardesano has been plentiful. As one of three or four schools, it has been amazing how they have managed to serve so many students in such little time. Rooms are basic but serviceable. To be honest, we have only had time to sleep in them and there hasn't been too many hours of that! We have been arriving back at the hotel with just enough time for our evening meal and to shower and change into our performance clothes. (I wonder what they will smell like after our third performance in scorching temperatures.)
Italy's hottest July for a number of decades hasn't resulted in grumpy teenagers. They have been able to talk and sing their way  through all situations. Moreover, the searing heat hasn't affected our plans; it has, however, affected the air conditioning on the coach, which has been well and truly tested but is being fixed today. I must say, watching the film Frozen on the coach as a distraction technique has been an interesting and ironic experience. Even Mr Smallwood knows the tunes... And sings along.
Monday started with a picturesque walk along the shores of lovely Lake Garda. We then made our way up to the top of Monte Baldo in what appeared to be a precarious cable car. (You'll see what I mean when you see the video of our escapades.) Fortunately, the cable car was robust and the views were sublime. I can see why the Romantic poets were so awed by this part of the world. (I make no apologies for the literary reference, I am an English teacher after all. On that note, if the grammar and writing style is good, it's all my own work. If there are any mistakes, I am blaming Mr Smallwood who is in charge of the final posting.)
Mrs Newns' energy and enthusiasm has been remarkable. She has been an absolute musical and logistical star. For such an intricate and jam-packed trip, thorough planning and attention to detail has meant it has been pretty smooth sailing. Brava Mrs Newns! Mr Starbuck has been his usual aspirational self and remains resolutely positive and smiley. Who needs the sun when we have him around. Miss Pridding's lively eccentricity has helped settle any students suffering from brief bouts of homesickness. (Parents, don't worry too much, they don't seem to think about you a lot. Funny that.) Mrs Vincent has been our financial guru and supportive trip mum.
Malcesine and the following trip to Limone were delightful. I'm sure that you will be interested when you view the thousands of photos that our students took of the quirky flower-decked balconies. (There were also a lot of ducklings that we saw; they needed so many of the 'duckies' because we don't have them in England!)
Our debut to an international audience took place on the edge of Lake Garda at Castelnuovo to a larger than expected audience. Amy's parents attended the performance, which was lovely. We were amazing. Indeed, we even got asked for an encore. Bravo SGS. Exhilarated by our Italian accolades, we wearily wended our way back to the hotel.
After our 11:00pm return, we were still up at 6:30 for another intensive day. This is, after all, a musical tour and not a holiday. (I think we are all clear on that now.) Breakfasted by 8:00am, we rehearsed until 9:30 then we were rewarded for our behaviour by a couple of hours in the hotel pool. Shout outs need to go to Alex who won the pool jumping competition (diving prohibitions meant that we had to get creative). Stephen came second and Miles was third. Judging by the ladies was based on quality of performance and rule infringements. The boys' judgements were questionable and relied heavily on personal bias. If I sound bitter, that's because I came second to Imogen's first place in the handstand competition. I haven't held a grudge, but I will remember who gave the extra half mark to make that happen! Felicity and Nicola managed to learn how to throw a frisbee...
Showered and hungry, we then went to our pizza making experience where we watched an expert demonstration in an authentic, rural pizzeria trattoria that has been in the same family for five generations. We watched our pizzas being mixed kneaded, proofed, covered and finally baked to sizzling perfection in a wood oven that bizarrely bore an Islington Road sign on the front. I have to say, it was a memorable experience; 55 students and staff sitting munching pizza and chatting in amicable harmony about everything from astro physics (the students) to the quality of the cheese (the teachers). Double bliss.
Verona and the Romantic setting of Romeo and Juliet's balcony were next on the agenda. Many gelatos were consumed before we arrived at the imposing Roman Amphitheatre where we gave an impromptu performance on the steps inside. Not many teenagers can claim the musical distinction of having performed at such a venerated opera venue. Standing in the ferocity of the Italian sun, I felt honoured to be a part of such a superb group of people. SGS left their own historical mark that will echo through the memories of our young people who sang there.
Back at the hotel for a hasty shower, we still found time to sing Happy Birthday to Evie and Alina. The number of voices swelled as the other school choirs in the restaurant also joined in with the birthday songs. It's safe to say that their birthdays did not go unnoticed; the Music department had gifts and cards for the birthday girls to make their day as special as it could be.
Tuesday evening found us performing in a quaint waterside venue in the Medieval picturesque town of Sirmione. We had another large multi national audience, and Emily's Dad also joined us. Another sterling concert ended with Mr Starbuck asking the students to look out over the moonlit lake; he made sure that they took a moment to appreciate the setting and experience. I know that I will treasure that moment. What lucky young musicians they are to have such a wonderful experience.
Wedensday we have had a fun and restful day at the water park. The students have enjoyed being in the water despite being made to wear t-shirts and regular re-applications of sun cream on Mrs Newns' orders. We are now regrouping and getting ready for this evening's concert in Pastrengo.

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