Pembroke Chapel Choir Reflects on 2016 Italy Tour

26th August 2016

John Trusted and Joe Morton of the Pembroke College Chapel Choir describe their trip to Italy, supported by the Pembroke Annual Fund.

'On 26th June 2016, ten members of Pembroke Chapel Choir, along with our organist Myles Hartley, set out on a tour of Tuscany, continuing the yearly tradition of summer choir tours at Pembroke College.

Our trip took us through two of the major cities of Tuscany, Pisa and Florence, as well as some of the surrounding villages. Bringing our repertoire of ten choral anthems, including Charles Wood’s Oculi omnium and the perennial favourite Ubi caritas, we found ourselves performing in a number of different locations, from churches to town squares and even the Pisa Botanical Gardens.

In between performances, we were also able to learn more about the area and visit some of its key sights. In addition to seeing Pisa's famous leaning tower, we were amazed by the many beautiful, quiet churches scattered around the small alleys and streets of the old town. Florence too did not fail to impress - alongside the gigantic Duomo Cathedral (if only we had been able to perform there!) and surrounding square, we had the chance to visit the grand Uffizi gallery and (after some queueing) Michelangelo's sculpture of David.

By far the highlight of our trip was our final performance, in the small Tuscan town of Reggello. On arrival, we were met by Octavio, the friendly and enthusiastic pastor, who treated us to a meal and gave a full tour around the church. The building dates back to 11th Century, though the bell tower is older, and lying in the church grounds is a museum containing the San Giovenale Triptych. Discovered in the church in 1961, this is the debut work of Masaccio, a renowned 15th century painter who lived near the village for some time. The performance itself was our most successful - every seat in the church was full, and Myles got a chance to try his hand at both of the church’s two organs, one of which was first installed in the 17th Century. At the end we were asked for an encore and were given a number of gifts by the church, including a small replica of the triptych, which is now on display in Pembroke Chapel.

The tour was a success for everyone involved and provided a fantastic opportunity to say goodbye to choristers Rory and Kat, who have graduated and will sadly be leaving us. It also brought us closer together as a choir and introduced some new favourites to our repertoire. For the Freshers who organised the trip, it gave us some important organisational skills, as well as some basic Italian - none of us could speak any when we started!

We would like to thank the Pembroke Annual Fund wholeheartedly for supporting this tour, and for helping us to continue this tradition every year. Once again, it was an invaluable experience for all members of the choir.'

The choir beneath an aqueduct
Rehearsing in Pisa's Botanical Gardens
In Regello, with priest Octavio.