Some members of the English Arts Chorale, joined by friends from Eye Bach and Ripieno choirs, travelled to Umbria as ‘Voci Allegre’. Our destination was Lippiano, a small hilltop hamlet close to the border with Tuscany. Here we enjoyed culture, countryside, food, and of course singing together and performing in atmospheric Italian churches. Two well-received concerts raised over €800 for a local cancer charity.
We stayed at Villa Pia, and our friendly and accommodating hosts provided us with abundant Italian-inspired food and drink. Rehearsals took place in a large barn, which was also our eating hall, since sadly the weather did not quite lend itself to meals al fresco.
The concert programme was on the theme of ‘Darkness into Light.’ Softer pieces such as Whitacre’s ‘Seal Lullaby’ and Chilcott’s ‘Irish Blessing’ contrasted with Macmillan’s ‘O Radiant Dawn’ and Rutter’s ‘Look to the Day’. Conductor Leslie Olive had worked hard in on-the-day preparations to adapt the choir‘s rehearsed sound to the church acoustics. Jonathan Lilley, EAC’s accompanist and organist in his own right, treated the audience and choir members to an outstanding rendition of Marco Enrico Bossi’s ’Scherzo in G minor,’ a lively interlude. Both concerts received enthusiastic applause, amplified after our encore; ‘Nessun Dorma’ by Puccini.
Villa Pia provided many opportunities for other forms of entertainment. Some swam in the pool each day, a brave option. Others played tennis and ping pong. Walking in the Umbrian hills was a popular pastime for individuals and groups, there being two particularly enjoyable 2 hour loops from the villa with views back to the village castle and tower. Those with cars led mini excursions to towns and villages in the area and shared photos of churches, gardens, markets, cafés and more.
The entertainment evening was a chance to perform for ourselves. Choir members came forward with solo performances such as Percy Grainger’s ‘The Sprig of Thyme’, small groups performed barbershop, Whitney Houston and spirituals. Jonathan had the group in stitches with his adaptation of Noel Coward’s ‘The Bar on the Piccola Marina.’
Pictures uploaded, and positive comments on our group chat, confirmed that the tour had been appreciated by all. Friendships were formed and the joy of music making reaffirmed. As a consequence, a return visit next year is already mooted; another opportunity to spend time and celebrate singing in the beautiful Italian countryside.