Today was a day that was entirely blank on our printed schedule. Could it be a holiday, a day off? Yes, it was — except for six hours of rehearsal here at the hotel in Gorizia.
We arrived last night at about 1:15 a.m. after another post-conference feast in Aquileia. The performance had left us with mixed feelings because the church where we sang was an incredible structure but the layout of the building made it almost impossible for us to connect with the audience seated in the transepts and nearly out of sight. The church was one of the earliest to be found anywhere, reportedly established by Mark the Evangelist who had been sent here by the Apostle Paul from Rome. The sense of ancient saints still filled the building and the art was a tangible expression of the devotion of the earliest of Christians. Mosaics, frescoes and stonework conveyed the symbols of the faith that were used as a sort of code that served as teaching tools for the faithful but would escape the censorship of the ruling powers of the time. Accepted theology and the refuting of unorthodox ideas stood out as clearly today as they did for the believers some seventeen hundred years ago. Even the portraits of saints and patrons and the depiction of Bible stories to teach new Christians gave a reality and immediacy that was startling. Those early builders and artists were as real and human as the guys in the choir with whom we have been travelling for the past couple of weeks.
Now that we are here at the site of the competition which is the focus of our tour we are down to the real work of polishing and perfecting the music that we will be singing in the five festival categories for which we are entered. This could be a tense time when pressures build up and perhaps even bubble over into thoughtless or hasty words. I’m happy to report, however, that I still haven’t heard a single comment that was not positive or constructive. This is an amazing group to travel with and it is to the credit or each man here (and the women, too) that our experience together has made us even more cohesive than we were when we started the adventure. Our hotel is perhaps the most comfortable one we have yet been in so it is particularly satisfying that this is where we will have our longest stay, five consecutive nights before our journey back to Vancouver.
Along with the natural trepidation that accompanies any important competition there is a feeling of confidence and excitement that continues to build. No matter what the outcome of the judging, which will begin with our first performance tomorrow afternoon, we are sure that this will be a great experience for each of us. Diane retains her customary cool and efficient manner, the warrior queen with a winning smile that makes war unthinkable. We’re also blessed with the diplomatic and professional presence of her cohort and assistant on this tour, our leader-in-waiting, Erick Lichte.
Paul Birch, bass