On Sunday 15th May a party of around 120 choristers, music staff, family and friends departed the UK on our 9 day tour of Northern Italy and Croatia. Our first destination was a three night stay at Lido De Jesolo just outside of Venice. We stayed at Hotel Sofia which was a quaint little 3 start hotel just off the beach front. From here many of the tour party spent the next day in Venice taking in the sights and sounds. One of our choristers managed to get on the wrong ferry back to the hotel and ended up on a seven hour tour of his own of Northern Italy! On Tuesday 17th May we held out first concert at the Piazza Aurora where a crowd of around 400 heard Ben Pinnow our musical director for the tour and our accompanist Jayne Thomas professionally guide the choir through 18 songs including Speed Your Journey, Y Tangnefeddwyr and Rachie. Our two soloists Kirk Lewis and Brent Owen also took us through I’se Weary and Ride The Chariot.
On Wednesday 18th we departed from Italy and headed to the beautiful country of Croatia. We stayed at the Resort Hotel Belvedere in Vrsar which provided delicious half board meals for the touring group which meant for the first time we all managed to sit down together and eat and drink.
Our first concert in Croatia was on the 18th May at St Bernado's Church in Funtana. We formed part of a joint concert with the church’s resident choir and also the Zbor Roženice choir led beautifully by Ines Kovačić Drndić. We kicked the concert off with “A Voice of Singing” and ended with the fantastic Amen of “Tydi a Roddaist”. After the concert the choir enjoyed local hospitality in the church hall where we were fed and watered and we also spent a few hours singing to each and other and together cementing that special bond between performing amateur choirs.
On Saturday 21st May we completed our formal part of the tour when we performed in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Sea in Vrsar. This was a joint concert arranged as part of the FAKS festival and again we performed with Zbor Roženice. We started our concert with the rousing song, “Men of Harlech” which in the wonderfully acoustic church woke up the audience. Ben Pinnow and Jayne Thomas again led us seamlessly through 14 varied songs ending with a fabulous joint choir rendition of “Speed Your Journey” (sung in both Croatian and English), “Neka Cijeli Ovaj Svijet” and last but by no means least an impromptu performance of Elvis Presley’s, “Wise Men”!
The morning after the concert the choir had an early breakfast before setting off to mass at the Parish Church of St. Martin in Vrsar where we joined in mass by singing “Benedictus”, “Gwahoddiad”, “Morte Criste”, “Heilig Sanctus” and “The Lords Prayer”.
The singing at mass went down so well the priest asked us to perform a few songs after the religious ceremony and our performance of “With A Voice of Singing” and “Rachie” were warmly received by the local community. Our choir Chairman, Robert Davies was also put on the spot during mass by the priest when he was asked to read a sermon to the congregation. Rob (or Father Bob as we now like to call him) conducted himself great aplomb and delivered the sermon as if he had been practicing it for a month!
And finally we would like to extend our warmest thanks to the people that made this trip happen so smoothly. Brian Williams has worked tirelessly on every detail to ensure that 110 choristers, musical team and friends and family were moved en-mass from Aberdare to Italy to Croatia, everywhere in between and back home again. Further thanks to Rob Davies our chairman and Denzil Boaler our Vice chairman and all members of the team that made this trip happen and for their organisation and commitment to the choir whilst out on tour. And there ended the 2016 Croatian tour! The Croatian organisers and the audiences we performed to were so thrilled that we have already been asked back next year to perform in the choral section of the FAKS festival! Committee members have already started looking into 2017 and a return trip to Vrsar and Croatia!!