Choir18 Assisi and Spello trip, June 2012

Choir 18 is actually a pool of about 40 singers from whom David Boarder selects a choir of a size and balance that suits the venue, occasion and music for a particular gig.

The late spring weekend when we sing abroad often conflicts with Cambridge University exams, which Jenny has to mark, so some years she can't come. Sadly, this was one of them. She was more than a little hacked off, particularly when I told her what a great time we'd had!

There were two big downers apart from that - first, my purse was filleted while I sat in a restaurant in Rome Termini station (fortunately I keep cards and cash separate, so the scumbag only made off with my cash), then I went down with a mild flu, which meant that although I was not completely bed-ridden, as I would have been with proper flu, I felt bloody awful a lot of the time. Fortunately I was OK some of the time and had more or less recovered by the time I got home.

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We were staying in a convent in Filogno, a small town a little way south of Assisi. I'd looked on Google Streetview before we set out, and been unable to understand why I couldn't see the street where the convent was. On arrival, of course, all became clear, since many of the mediæval streets were too narrow for the Streetview camera vehicle to negotiate. The first photo is of the street where the convent lived.

Our tour guides were the lovely Alex and Temi from Singing Holidays who had organised everything beautifully and took special care of us and had put a lot of effort into all sorts of details, not least publicity for our two concerts, resulting in decent audiences. Highly recommended!

Inside the convent, as with many of the buildings around there, the walls are adorned with ancient frescos, many damaged in the earthquake of 1997. I found this contemporary Independent report which fills in some details. You can see where much of the original plaster has fallen away, taking the frescos with it, and been replaced with plain plaster. Says a lot about the severity of the damage.

These doors, which seem to me to be original, though much cleaned up, appear to have been made from enormous planks, in a manner we don't see today. I wanted to take them home!

In the morning I felt OK some of the time, lousy much more, so didn't take many photographs. We caught the train to Spello, two minutes north of Foligno, where we walked up to the top of the hill. It was lovely and warm, probably 26°C or 28°C, but I found it rather hard going some of the time. Tour Guide Alex knew a good restaurant with a great view, but it was right at the top of the hill! You can tell how ill I was feeling by the fact that by the time we got there, I'd decided to forgo alcohol and drink only fizzy water. That plan foundered when jugs of beer appeared before bottles of water. I did only have one small glass of beer before moving on to the water! And lunch was a tasty green salad, which was all I could face!

He was right about the view, however. The panoramic at the top is three photo's I took, stitched together with Autostitch which is a free download.

In all the towns we visited, it was common to see narrow alleys like these ones, often with arches across. Some arches seem to have allowed people to move across the street without coming down to street level, but others clearly didn't do that, so it's not obvious exactly what their function was. I took several photographs, but there's a limit to how many narrow alleyways you want to see!

In the church where we sang our first concert, we changed in a side room in which there were several portraits. It's not uncommon for churches to be decorated with portraits of past clergy, and this one was no different, but I did think this picture bore an uncanny resemblance to Rowan Atkinson playing Blackadder!


On the Sunday we caught the train to Assisi, another quick, cheap and easy ride, then spent several happy hours rubbernecking around the town. The first two photographs above show the Basilica de San Francesco from the side and then from the front, then the rest are just typical views of the town.

I did particularly like a pair of wrought iron dragons, of which the picture on the left is one. Just the sort of thing to tickle my fancy!

In many places you caught a waft of some floral scent, and it turned out to be not some woman's perfume but jasmine in flower, all over the place. This was one of the more extensive displays, but they were all over the place and the scent was just wonderful! It rather put me in mind of Córdoba at Easter, when the old city is filled with the scent of orange blossom.

Some of the buildings had (damaged) frescoes on the outside walls, as in this case, but we saw many more in the house of some wealthy mediæval couple which had recently been converted to a museum. In this case, most of the frescoes had been removed from the walls and remounted. Really interesting to wander around the house, and a source of great regret that (I assume) the earthquake had done such a lot of damage.

The last picture here is a fresco of Saint Julian slaying his parents. I don't know the story and I'm not sure I want to!

After a very pleasant lunch looking out towards the front of the Basilica, we went into the church. There are actually two churches making up the Basilica, an upper one and a lower one. I suspect the lower one was originally just the understorey of the upper church, but then they decided it was such a lovely space, it would be a shame to waste it, so they converted it into a church. I'm making that up, of course, but it's fun to speculate!

After rehearsing for a bit in the upper church, we went downstairs and sang mass, then came back up again to sing a concert. Alex and Temi had done a great job with the publicity once more, and we had a decent and very appreciative audience.

Alex posted a short YouTube clip of us in concert here. Having his camera off to one side means the two choirs are not perfectly balanced, but you get the idea.

Last modified by Rob Clack on 20th June, 2012.