Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Italia: Day 7.

"A vacation spot out of season always has a very special magic."
~Max von Sydow

Today, our last full day in Cagliari, was just magical. After rehearsal and lunch, a few of us ventured out to the beach. I had already run down by the shore, but I wanted to go to a real beach and go swimming in the Mediterranean and we had five hours until we left for our concert that night. We could see that there was a beach just west of our hotel, about a 25-minute walk away, but I asked the front desk attendant if there was a bus and what the best beach was. Puerto-something or other. Just get on the "PF" bus and go for awhile. :)

At the bus stop across from our hotel

Lisa, Dan, Mary, Ashley and I were waiting at the bus-stop when we saw Sophia and Maureen come out of the hotel, clad in obviously beach-like attire. They were walking to the beach. Come ride the bus with us and come to an even better beach, Puerto-something or other. :) We convinced them. Our bus came and I'm sure we were quite the sight: white skinned beach-clad Americans who were furiously searching our wallets for the appropriate coins to come up with the 1,70 euro required for a roundtrip fare. The driver, luckily, was very patient with us. I wouldn't describe him as nice, but he was patient.

I had no idea where Puerto-something or other Beach was, so using my Italian phrasebook, I began chatting up the lady who was sitting at the front of the bus, Maria Christina, and asked her if she would help me to know when to get off. She was hilarious and didn't speak a word of English, but we completely understood one another through my broken Italian and a lot of hand gestures, including her pulling open my shirt, peeking inside to notice my swimsuit to ensure she understood that we were headed to the beach. She thought my attempts at communicating with her were funny. I just thought they were normal and if I do say so myself, very coherent for a non-Italian speaking American speaking Italian. :)

We arrived. The sand filtered through my toes and flew around with every flop of my flip flops. The water was beautiful. I quickly shed my t-shirt and flip-flops, carefully placing them over my purse to keep sand from getting in and walked down the beach to the water. The first contact made me gasp in a quick breath, but I soon realized how warm it really was.

Bobbing around chest high in the Mediterranean, I looked out over the water and all around me … seriously, it was magical. The beauty was amazing, but the feeling was even better. You know those memories that seem to just click and save in your brain? Yeah, well swimming today in the Mediterranean was one of those moments.

That photograph will be in my mind for a long time. :) Beautiful! Floating in the sea, just free. I still have sand on my legs and toes.

For some reason we chose a spot on the beach adjacent to the old, abandoned hospital. Sophia was scared. :)

Lisa, being the smart mom that she is, knew that we'd need something to sit on in the sand, had brought one of the hotel comforters with her to lay out. Seriously, I laughed my head off at her with her large duffel bag stuffed with a comforter (not a light blanket, mind you, but a full-on comforter) but I quickly admit that it was fabulous.

We also attracted the attention of several beach vendors. Musehn from Bangladesh (capital: Dhaka) brought his jewelry, which, lucky for him, we couldn't resist. Maureen bought a necklace, Lisa some earrings, and I, a beautiful pearl ring, set in a flower design of marcasite. Despite his persistence, I stopped with the one ring. "No money," I told him. He could barely speak English, but he was quite the salesman.

Lisa, Emery and Musehn
(and yes, my skin IS so white that it matches the sand)

And we can't forget Share (Cher?). He wanted to sell us blankets, but really I think he just wanted to sell us anything (himself, maybe)! He was from Senegal (capital: Dakar) and didn't speak English very well either. He spoke French, of which, surprisingly, I understood much. Merci,  Madame Johnson (7th grade) and Monsieur Daudin (9th and 10th grade).

Share and Emery
He is black and I am white. Literally.

I had a great time explaining to Musehn and Share that their countries' capitals sounded very similar. Dhaka and Dakar, pronounced almost entirely the same. There may have been some writing in the sand.

Share was a ladies' man, for sure. I took two pictures with him. The first was fine, but my hair was blowing in my face, so I requested a  second, for which Share was very happy oblige.

Share and Emery, Take Two.

Before the second shot was captured, I made a joke that Share wouldn't mind taking one more picture because he liked standing body-to-body with my boobs touching him (sorry, Grandpa) a little longer, thinking that only my American friends would understand, but Share totally replied, with an emphatic, "Uh huh." I still am not sure if he really understood what I said. I don't think he did, but he sure responded "appropriately," although you can see the smirky grin on his face in the second shot, which wasn't there the first time around.

Funny (and fun) day at the beach.

We had another amazing concert in the Basilica di San Saturnino with Coro El Leon de Oro from Spain. Hot and sweaty again, but it was all made right with gelato at intermission.

Lisa in front of the Basilica di San Saturnino
Emery in front of the Basilica di San Saturnino

Emery (that's me) and Blythe (my tour roommate)

Dinner following (again, at midnight) at a pizzeria with all of us and our festival directors. Among other dishes, I had a delicious pasta (surprise) with clams, mussels, and shrimp. Now for packing. (Not my favorite part of traveling.) Off to Rome tomorrow, then up to Arezzo.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Italia: Day 6.

"The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again."
~George Miller

Has it really only been six days? When you have back-to-back concerts, rehearsals, midnight dinners, and you meet and greet tons of people every day, it feels like a lot longer than just six days.

Salt Lake Vocal Artists (Italy group) with Giampaolo Vessella
Photo by Dave Reeder

So I'm still loving Italy. Was there ever a question that I would? :) Today, we had a morning rehearsal with Giampaolo helping out on "Io mi pensai," the competition compulsory piece. He acted as our tutor, helping us understand the true meaning of the piece.

Giampaolo Vessella and Dr. Brady Allred
Photo by Dave Reeder

We did some acting exercises and rehearsed and re-rehearsed the piece. Giampaolo was incredible.

Giampaolo Vessella
Photo by Dave Reeder

He has such passion within him and truly connected with us and helped us connect with the song. Our rehearsals with him will remain some of my favorites in Italy.

Combined choirs of Salt Lake Vocal Artists and Coro El Leon de Oro with Marco conducting
Photo by Dave Reeder

We then had a combined rehearsal with the Spanish choir who joined us for our concert tonight in Tortolì and will also be there for our last one tomorrow in the Basilica di San Saturnino again. They have marvelous voices with such power and it's great to sing with them. We're singing one piece together: Rachmaninoff's "Bogoroditse Devo," one of my favorite movements of Rachmaninoff's All Night Vigil. You may recall that the Salt Lake Choral Artists performed the whole "All Night Vigil" about a year and a half ago in concert with The University of Utah Singers. Seriously some of my favorite music.

Today brought a delicious risotto for lunch. And if I were my brother, I would have taken a picture of it. But alas, I was not that quick to remember to document my delicious meal. Let's be honest, I was just ready to eat it!

Emery and Jessica

Swimming in our beautiful hotel pool made for a wonderful afternoon. The pool has no shallow end. Seriously. The entire thing is like 12 feet deep, hence the synchronized swimming act of a few days ago. Oh, I never posted that picture... here you go. :) Joseph was so kind to oblige me.

And let me just say that I have a LOT more respect for synchronized swimmers after attempting to do it in a pool where I could never touch the bottom. Not being able to springboard off the bottom to give me momentum really hampered my well-honed synchronized swimming skills. You might want to check out this link, in case you're unaware of my skillz. :)

Tonight's concert was in the Cattedrale di Sant'Andrea in Tortolì, which is a cute little town about two hours up the eastern coast of the island of Sardegna. For part of the way we drove along the winding coastline highway, which made me a bit sick. But it sure was beautiful.

As soon as I stepped off the bus I saw these cheerful morning glories and then Ryan picked one for me. I immediately tucked it in my ear and walked around town like that.

Photo by Dave Reeder

Despite feeling a little sick from the bus, we went straightway to get some gelato in the center of town! :) That hit the spot. That was the first time I ordered pine nut. Ohhhhhhhh, so good. Gosh, that was just delicious. And maybe we were all a little silly to eat gelato right before a concert, but Dr. Allred led the way, so we just followed in line.

Emery and Kristen with our gelato in Tortolì

Tortolì was such a cute town, with narrow streets and flags hanging on banners all through the center of town. I'm not sure if they are always there or if there was some type of celebration that had gone on prior to our arrival. Nevertheless, it was just fun.

This just might be my favorite picture of Italy. Love the colors in Tortolì

We finally made it back to the Cathedral, where we had a sound check followed by a beautiful concert with the Spanish choir. It was fun to be a participant as well as an audience member that night.

Women of Salt Lake Vocal Artists and Coro El Leon de Oro

Women of Coro El Leon de Oro

Following the concert we (both choirs with our festival directors) headed over to a pizzeria for dinner. Yes, it was something like 11:00pm, but we hadn't eaten and we were on Italian time. Claudio, Margarita, and Rodrigo said that they always eat pizza when they come to Tortolì, so we couldn't pass it up.

We filled the whole restaurant--at about 11pm.

I remembered to take a picture. My pizza was the best! Ham, mushrooms, olives, and artichoke hearts. Yum!

Luckily, Tortolì was only a two-hour drive home, so we made it to bed sometime before 3am. What a great day!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Italia: Day 5. Sunday.

"For fast acting relief, try slowing down."
~Lily Tomlin

Along the coast of Cagliari, Sardegna in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea

Ah, a Sunday in Italy.

Several of our group are Mormon, and we were able to find a way to Church which was about 30 minutes away, thanks to the Concordia Vocis festival directors. They drove us in their cars and then we had a few in the hotel shuttle. We went just for sacrament meeting and were able to sing in Italian and they even planned for the talks to be translated into English for us, since we announced our attendance a few days before. With nearly 25 of us we considerably increased the number in attendance in their small ward and were lovingly received. Except for that one lady who kept walking up and down the aisle with a scowl on her face eyeing us very suspiciously. :)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
somewhere in Cagliari, Italy

Admittedly, I didn't leave the hotel on Sunday except to go to Church. Most of us were still trying to recover from our late night concerts and dinners following. So I just hung out and put my feet up because I have massive cankles thanks to the heat, the long bus rides, and standing in hot concert venues. (Lucky for you, I took no pictures of the cankles.)

Our hotel (Hotel Setar) bathroom nicely equipped with a bidet. Welcome to Europe!

So I'm not sure if I mentioned there is a bidet in our bathroom. :) Although I've never used a bidet for its intended purpose, I do love having one in the bathroom, for things like laundry. :) Yes, I made sure it was clean before I laundered my unmentionables.

We ended the day with an intense rehearsal and then an early dinner (at 8pm). We also met the choir from Leon, Spain, El León de Oro, who will be singing in our Monday and Tuesday night concerts with us. Mario from their group helped us fine-tune our Spanish diction on a couple of our songs. And as usual, we were scolded for our American R. :) Some things never change!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Italia: Day 4.

"If people were meant to pop out of bed, we'd all sleep in toasters."
~Author unknown

Sardinian Coastline

Saturday was a beautiful day in Cagliari, but I didn't see very much of it. After our 4:11am return to the hotel, I ended up sleeping until 1:20pm. Blythe (my roommate for the trip) and I closed our two sets of curtains (black-out ones) and slept until Joseph repeatedly knocked pounded on our door to wake us up for lunch. Yes, LUNCH. He said that no one would be served until everyone was there, so we'd better hurry and come. As it turns out, we were not the only ones who had "chosen" to sleep through lunch, and the staff decided to go ahead and serve anyway.

Unlucky for me, lunch was a warm pasta with tomato sauce and tuna. I had literally rolled out of bed, without brushing my hair or changing my clothes to come to lunch and I was so out of sorts and dizzy from lack of sleep that when I smelled our first course of tuna pasta, I thought I might have to excuse myself. Lucky for everyone else, I made it through and on to the second course which was some sort of fish filet. I think I've learned that despite the fact that I am always willing to try anything and I usually like most food, I cannot, I repeat CANNOT, eat fish for breakfast. It's not the hotel's fault... they were serving it for lunch, not breakfast. :)

Rehearsal with Dr. Allred and Giampaolo Vessella
(who helped us with our diction and expression of the Italian compulsory piece "Io mi pensai")
Photo by Dave Reeder.

We had an afternoon rehearsal. Then, our second concert of the tour was planned that evening in the Basilica di San Saturnino, which was, thankfully, only a 30 minute drive from the hotel.

Emery and Blythe in front of the Basilica di San Saturnino.

The Basilica dates back to 500 A.D. and has a fantastic acoustic, despite being painfully hot due to zero air circulation.

The beautiful interior of the Basilica di San Saturnino with the banner from our festival "Concordia Vocis"
The concert was really wonderful and the audience was very receptive. They loved the pieces that could be some audiences' least favorites and they were just very enthusiastic in spite of the sweat rolling down their faces. And they seemed to love us despite the sweat pouring down ours. :)

Basilica di San Saturnino
After the concert, we had gelato. (Surprise!) This time I went with coconut and pistachio. Yum. I know I should branch out to a few more flavors, but coconut is really hard to pass up. I ordered in Italian and the lady seemed very pleased. As I left, I wished them "buonanotte" and both workers stopped what they were doing, got a huge smile on their face and returned the farewell greeting. Leaving the gelateria, we walked through a group of audience members who had also found their way to the gelateria. They gave us several "bravi" and "komplimenti" and I responded with a heartfelt "grazie" and then, as I wished them all a "buonanotte," I got a rousing "buonanotte" almost sung in unison in return. It was quite satisfying. :) I wish I had had more time to learn a bit more Italian before I left.

We drove back to the hotel where we finished our day with a delicious dinner of sausage pasta with a sauce that tasted like a mixture of tomato and bolognese. It was SO delicious. We were seated outside adjacent to a large tent where an Italian wedding reception was underway. All the music and dancing was very fun to watch. When "Unchained Melody" started playing, our whole group sang out loud, getting our best Righteous Brothers voices on. It was hilarious. We sang the whole thing. Seriously, who are we? Singers. I sat at the same table as our festival director, Claudio. He speaks only about seven words of English. So he's constantly amused by us. Fun night.

All the concerts we are giving in Sardinia (Sardegna, for those who speaka di Italiano) are part of the Concordia Vocis International Choral Festival that occurs every year in and around Cagliari, Sardegna during the months of September and October. What an amazing festival this is, bringing choirs from all around the world simply to give music to the community. The festival, in its 20th year, seems to be very well organized and our concerts have been well attended.