Having been more than suitably impressed on our last visit by the port scenery, sophisticated Italian architecture, and local McDonalds, we began our last full day on tour with a return trip to Trieste. First on the order was the mass service at Parrocchia Sacro Cuore di Gesu’. Despite initial apprehension first contact with the priest found him to be a lovely, warm and generous host who welcomed us fully into the heart of the church.
With very little rehearsal time before the clanging of the church bells summoned the sizeable congregation to their seats, the girls choir readied themselves to sing two items. The Simon Lindley Ave Maria was first on the list, and once again demonstrated the choirs superb diction and clarity. John Rutter’s The Lord Bless you and Keep you finished the preludes where the final amen section demonstrated their dynamic control and intensity before a calming resolution.
Mr Jones was restored in his innermost being and his soul soared as he finally was given rein to flash his fingers over the keys of the majestic church organ. Accompanying Mr Jones in the organ loft was our trusty translator Chiara, who was incredibly useful as given the distance of the organ to the choir, communication was going to be a problem! The first contribution Cantores made was in the alleluia, where they provided a powerful acclamation before the gospel reading. With communication being relayed through both distance and translational stretches, the volume balance wasn’t perfect at the beginning of the Sanctus from Haydn’s little organ mass, which sadly meant the choir lacked support at first however they held their own and within bars were back on track.
At communion the choir sang two anthems, the first being Samuel Hudson’s Greater Love Hath No Man which has the plainchant ubi caritas woven in. The choir sang the Hudson with elegance and sensitivity, with the middle section standing out in its dramatic quiet intensity. This was followed by Howard Goodall’s The Lord is my Shepherd, the piece beginning with an angelic solo by Meghan Mulvihill; the choir responded in an equal manner. Both pieces were sung with exceptional sympathy and musicality during communion and this didn’t go unnoticed by the congregation, who at the end of the service were keen to show their appreciation, leading to three extra choral postludes – the upbeat Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel, the transcendent Caccini Ave Maria, and a calming performance of Amazing Grace based on Pachebel’s canon.
The local priest, obviously aware of his guests, made every effort to include us as much as possible throughout the service; in a gesture of humility and grace he asked his congregation if they would join with us in saying the Lord’s Prayer in English, a truly humbling experience. We followed the mass as closely as possible and then came the sermon. There are still words that are universal, uniting all who hear them in understanding, despite differences in language or culture and one of these words rang out over the assembled throng – BREXIT. It would appear that our esteemed foreign secretary Boris had been in town obviously soothing tensions and ameliorating angst prior to our arrival.
Inspired by the awe and wonder of the church and all that happened there, Teejay embarked on a dramatic retelling of the Exodus having been cast in the role of Moses. After what seemed like a literal forty years wandering through the wilderness of tall office buildings, with some of the tribe fully embracing their role as grumbling Israelites, Teejay finally led the Children of Israel across many hazardous paths, safely crossing the fast flowing, unpredictable Italian roads to the promised land of Trieste town centre and the Piazza de Italia, ready to further explore the promised fine dining and shopping. With strict instructions not to purchase any golden calfs we were sent out to explore the new horizons and possibly bring back precious booty.
With all fully satisfied and no cries for the cucumbers and garlic back in Egypt, like Joshua before us, we clambered aboard our trusty Chariot for the extended journey over the border into Croatia for tonight’s promenade performance in the town of Vrsar.
We have seen many a stunning view on this tour, and the arrival to Vrsar didn’t disappoint! The port housed countless luxurious boats and the beaming sunshine glistened on the water front demonstrating the Adriatic Sea in all its beauty. We found the restaurant for evening meal and began the process of ordering 64 meals to sustain us all for the night’s revelries – a chance to have expertly cooked pizza at last. Unfortunately the strain placed on the kitchens meant the pizza dough would not stretch far enough and despite Fergus’ inadvertent attempt to ease the situation by ordering steak, several in the group had to reorder. Will Gray without a hint of chagrin gratefully accepted the last pizza in front of Meghan and Mr Bailey and proceeded to tuck in with gusto, igniting Mr Bailey’s sense of injustice at being denied culinarily once more!
As the sun began to set, the jazz band began mentally rehearsing their finely honed set-up routines as they approached the stage for tonight’s performance along the promenade. It proved to be one of the more ‘interesting’ platforms. At first glance the planks of the raised floor looked like they had been borrowed from the wooden prow of the local pirate ship docked in the bay so warped were they, but ever the professionals, the Jazz band expertly positioned themselves on the rather narrow 6x4m stage to delight the already onlooking crowd who were eager with anticipation for what might ensue – and boy were they in for a treat!
As Dave gingerly tread the boards of the stage almost buried in the saxophone section in order not to make an undignified splat off the stage the band wowed the audience with Woodchopper’s Ball, Moten Swing and It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t got that Swing! The Croatian audience seemed to double in size as more and more people rolled up to hear the band! After a brief word in English to tell them who we were the band then continued with Fly Me to the Moon and Ain’t misbehaving which drew shouts and cheers from the onlookers! Children danced up and down the front and some of the posh yachts could be seen to have lively dancing in them as people partied the night away as the sun began to set.
Dave’s view as she gazed across the top of the trumpet player’s heads was one of yachts, the glistening sea and the setting sun in the perfect orange sky. Looking back at the band as she directed Final Countdown with a gem of a solo from Rachel Crowe, Watermelon Man with one of the slinkiest sax solos ever from Meghan Mulvihill followed by Mr Robert Williams’ musical trumpet improvisation and Mr Joseph Marshall’s effervescent trombone solo she began to realise that Mr PJ Hitchcock was slowly disappearing into darkness … as was his music!! As his music blew in the wind, he flapped frantically at the stand to try and keep it in place as an interesting array of chords accompanied by a chromatic bass line issued from the stage … ‘Do I pull the plug on the amp?’ she mused ‘Ah no! That pleasure is reserved for guitarists only!’ … Astounding Mr Simon Wilshaw, she asked for louder guitars in A Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square; Mr Wilshaw thought all his dreams had come true in one swift moment whilst Mr Alex Jeffery got so excited his grooving guitar moves became quite wild nearly knocking Mr Wilshaw from the stage!
The Light grew dimmer and the audience screamed and shouted for more. Mr Marshall leant forward and said to Dave ‘Mood Indigo, I really want to play that one final time with the band before I leave’ … With a melting heart at the thought of losing all these phenomenal musicians this year the band struck up the slow Duke Ellington number and the warm sweet sounds of Mr Marshall’s trombone echoed across the sparkling seas in the last light of the day.
As the evening drew to a close Mr Lucas McIntyre struck up the introduction to Sing Sing Sing driving the audience crazy and the clamoured for more and more and more! Not to mention the wonderful, dirty trumpet solo from Miss Ella Aldred-Aymen – never played better! By now Mr Hitchcock had completely disappeared and all Dave could see was the occasional bobbing of his head as he frantically tried to see the dots in the gloom. The evening drew to a close with Rock Around the Clock as the band moved with Jukes-like Choreography trying not to fall off the stage as they did so! …. Where was Mr Marshall?!?!?! He had vacated the stage to Dave’s horror as Mr Williams leant forward with a ‘just go with it miss’!!! Then there he was, Mr Marshall, in all his salsa hips glory, dancing across the front of the audience and ‘high fiving’ anyone under the age of 7! Cheers and cries of more resounded through the harbour…..We’ve played the entire pad, thought Dave ……. Oh go on let’s play Moten Swing again. Mr Williams paled visibly on stage, his screaming trumpet would be needed AGAIN?!?! ‘I may pop’ he whispered frantically to Dave ……. In true Dave fashion she smiled, said ‘you’ll be fine just get on with it ……’!!!! He did – the trumpet screamed across the top of the band as the evening drew to a close and his lip did indeed pop but only on the last note so all was well!!!
The band could have played the night away but alas all good things have to come to an end and so the packing up began with which realisation dawned on Miss Ella Aldred-Aymen that this was the Year 13s penultimate concert with the band and the tears started to flow, and flow, and flow!! Hugs and squeezes all round!!
Unlike Joshua’s foray into foreign territory this was no piercing trumpet blast of victory and conquest but rather one which drew people of all tribes and tongues together in a spirit of joy. Whilst it may not have had the musical perfection of Valvasone, the universal language of music freely given and gratefully received had dissolved barriers and brought a sense of freedom and community to all, creating lasting, treasured memories for many of those present. If we had been told that this was to be the only legacy of the tour then we could return home to Accrington content, happy in a job well done.