Thirty-five pupils and five staff set off the day after speech day for the long-awaited Music tour to Northern Italy. Thankfully, the weather upon departing was considerably cooler than the previous few days and the 58-seater coach was packed to the gunnels with musical equipment, instruments and cases, ready for our continental adventure. On arrival at the Port of Dover, we managed to secure an earlier Ferry with minimal queuing and enjoyed some food onboard the Pride of Canterbury P & O ferry before disembarking at Calais. A beautiful sunset gradually faded away in the distance behind us as we crossed France overnight.
By morning we had reached Basel at the Swiss border with its majestic mountain scenery and this is where we stopped for breakfast, and a much-needed leg stretch. The croissants were delicious and use of the well-maintained toilets at 88 pence per visit provided welcome relief. Heavy rain and thunderstorms were frequent as we pressed on through to a sunnier Lake Lucerne. After a brief lunch stop as we crossed the Italian border north of Milan, we arrived at the hotel at 2.30pm, unpacked and relaxed for the rest of the day, some of us making good use of the pool before dinner. After our three-course meal we had a choir rehearsal before some additional free time before prior to turning in for the night.
On Tuesday, we enjoyed a continental breakfast before setting off for our morning boat trip from Lake Garda to Lazise. We had to rearrange our crossing for a slightly later time due to a missed time slot, although it did give a little more time to do some shopping and look around a local market before boarding. After a quick lunch back at the hotel, we travelled to Torbole in preparation for the one-hour evening concert containing orchestra, brass ensemble, choir and soloists.
Torbole is a town at the north end of Lake Garda and there was a chance for some free time before we set up. The wind was extremely strong and our musicians did a valiant job of keeping their music on the music stands using all kinds of items ranging from pegs, mobile phones, sun tan lotion bottles, music light clips, cello spike holders, hair clips, wallets, extra humans and just about any other suitable retaining device that would work. The audience was appreciative and we built up a sizeable following as the concert progressed. Carrying all of the equipment back to the coach was quite a challenge although with our fantastic team it was all completed in a mere 20 minutes.
After a cooler start to the day on Wednesday, we headed off to Venice to do some sight-seeing. After parking the coach, we took a boat to St Mark’s and the view on approach was immense. Pupils and staff had ample time to find lunch, admire the fabulous architecture and visit the many shops before enjoying a good buffet at Villa Ducale in the evening. After a quick change into our tour t-shirts, we set up in the beautiful grounds of Villa Valier to set up and perform our second concert. It was a long day but a rewarding experience for all.