Today we said farewell to the fascinating and utterly unique city of Venice. Under clear blue skies we savoured the water taxi rides back to the mainland. The highway from Venice to Tolmezzo wound its way past wide, open fields and picture-perfect villages with their stately churches and houses sporting red-tiled roofs. Then, the imposing Dolomites loomed before us.
We arrived at Tolmezzo by mid-afternoon. Our first stop was City Hall, where we were warmly greeted by the mayor. Then it was off to join our host choir, Tita Copetti, for a barbeque. It was there that something poignant — even magical — took place. The choir had arranged to use the large common area at a care facility for people with severe disabilities. After the wonderful barbeque lunch, each of the choirs sang a couple of songs for each other. Our hosts then introduced us to the administrator of the care facility. She expressed her delight that we were there and asked if she and her staff could bring their residents into the common area so they could hear us sing, as only a few of the residents would be able to attend the evening concert. When all were gathered, we sang several songs, including “We Rise Again.”
After the applause, one woman in an electric wheelchair not very far from me spoke (in Italian) into a microphone that is attached to her chair. The administrator came over and interpreted what she said: “I am sad because I cannot clap my hands for you.” It was a touching, beautiful moment.
The evening concert was held at the performing arts centre and was very well-attended, thanks to extensive advertising by the host choir. Some of the residents from the care facility also were able to attend. The mayor sat front and centre as well. Tita Copetti first sang three numbers and then we took the stage. The audience was very warm and appreciative, gracing us with extended applause after each song as well as with an enthusiastic standing ovation at the conclusion of the concert. For the encore, we sang Wimoweh (aka The Lion Sleeps Tonight). It was amazing to see how many people sang along with us, including the mayor!
After the concert, we returned to the care facility for a late evening dinner, again hosted by the choir. Plates of pasta, salata, prosciutto, cheese and desserts greeted us throughout the evening. Once again, each choir sang songs for the other. Back and forth the singing went. Cheering. Applause. Laughter. Finally, as the clock edged past 12:30 am, we simply had to excuse ourselves for our return to the hotel. While tired, we were overwhelmed by the generosity and hospitality given to us. It was a special day, indeed. Thank you, Tolmezzo.
Greg Mohr, baritone