This year our big singing in Italy event was a cultural and singing immersion spent in 2 stunning locations and our lucky group of singers were given a
real treat with 3 brilliant maestros including our much-loved Tony Backhouse.
The Create Escape group and Animae Voces combined choir with directors, Tony Backhouse and Edoardo Materassi after our performance in Florence. What a grande gruppi!
Tony was in good form and instantly had the group sounding like a professional choir on tour! This really took our local maestro in Mercatello, Guerrino Parri by
surprise as we had discussed the concept… ‘a bunch of people come together from all over Australia, NZ and beyond as strangers and learn a repertoire’…
‘some of them will be stage performers and others are shower singers’ but you never know, maybe it will be good enough
for a concert at the end of the week.
Palazzo Donati and the village of Mercatello provided a warm and welcoming cradle for our first 6 days. The accommodation included Palazzo Donati
and Palazzo Ducale and gorgeous apartments throughout this quaint medieval village of Mercatello.
Although a little sceptical at first we were soon to find the whole village opened their Bars, Pizzerias, Ristorantes, Gelatarias and their arms and
voices for us.
There were various forms of transport, from private charter to public bus to Urbino and even a tractor ride to take us to dinner!
We found Guerrino to be a phenomenal choir and music director and it was a thrill to see our group of passionate singers of ‘american black gospel’ take
to singing a completely different repertoire. I'd been talking with Guerrino for many years about this dream to bring people here to this delightful
village and to work with him .. this was a dream come true.
Hmm - It did not go unnoticed that he looked very similar to Tony (perhaps a slightly younger version).. they even wore similar clothes!
Take a look at the video of our itinerant concert around the village of Mercatello sul Metuaro. This was the Anteprima performance to launch
the annual summer festival of Musica e Musica, curated by Guerrino Parri.
After this lovely concert where the Mayor and a large proportion of the village turned out to check us out we celebrated with a shared meal. Guerrino's
choir and a group of us prepared our meal. Sally Battson's pavlova's were won the evening! You'll have to ask her the story of the making.. it's a
story in itself.
The following 6 days were spent in Florence. A different scene after the gentle village immersion in the countryside of Le Marche. But how could anyone
not love the city of Florence? We stayed in another gorgeous Palazzo, Palazzo San Niccoló, in the artisan’s area near the Arno River.
One of our most adored directors, Edoardo Materassi was our local teacher in Florence this year and he got us inspired and energised in
the mornings and evenings with fun warm ups and exquisite songs. We were joined by members of his brilliant choir Animae Voces and worked towards a concert in the superb acoustics of the magnificent Chiesa Valdese.
Edoardo’s choir equally loved learning the spontaneously joyous gospel under the skills of the legendary Tony Backhouse. They were singing their hearts
And the concert? Well you can look and listen at some of the results of the concerts in both Mercatello and Florence in videos I posted on our YouTube
channel. We play them over and over again because they are simply beautiful harmonies and delightful to watch.
Here's a link that should take you to the playlist. YouTube >
If you are green with envy, don’t fret, we are working on bringing Edoardo to Australia for some workshops and there will be another Italian singing
immersion coming up in 2021 with Edoardo and Guerrino.
There's a similar type of event happening in Buenos Aires in 2020 with Tony Backhouse, Eric Dozier and Gerardo Flores! Take a
look at The Gospel Explosion in Argentina >>
We also have our Singing in Sardinia and Corsica event coming up next year.. you better book now for that one it is selling up quickly. Singing in Sardinia>>
Our little writers group had a wonderful bespoke experience in May working with two brilliant teachers in two gorgeous Palazzo's in two very different
locations. They were totally spoiled!
The writers came together to unlock their writing talents and be inspired in the birthplace of modern literature. An aside to this was a wish to discover
a little about the connection of a nasty ancient relative from 1300’s of our host in Mercatello and the great author of medieval times, Dante Algheri!
Don’t worry the family has grown to be hugely supportive of the arts in more recent times.
Thankfully before we left home our author and teacher from Australia, Jan Cornall had sent out some suggestions to get the creative juices
flowing on the journey to Italy.
Then our writing retreat began in earnest in the sumptuous surrounds of Palazzo San Niccoló in Florence with local author
and teacher, Lisa Clifford. Lisa has lived and worked in Florence for the past 25 years and she guided us smoothly and humorously
through our shy and somewhat reserved start and walked us through some fascinating backstreets and some of her secret locations where we were inspired
to get on and write.
Following on from Florence we took a 2.5 hour drive with our italian partner and host Luisa Donati to her family Palazzo in Mercatello sul Metuaro. Over very warm hospitality and a glass of prosecco and delicious dinner in the delightful home she shared
more nasty stories about what the distant relative of the Donati’s did to poor old Dante! To learn more about this story… well you’ll have to
come with us on our next journey to Tuscany.
After delicious leisurely breakfasts in the Palazzo we had sessions with Jan, beginning with her soothing writing meditations and expert skills and tips,
words and emotions flowed out in buckets and later in the day so did the vino!!
This picture was taken in a little room off the kitchen in Palazzo Donati straight after a morning session with Jan Cornall. These sessions were like gold; the words were pouring out and the emotions and all the senses were charged.
The only problem we faced at the end of our journey in Palazzo Donati was that no-one wanted to leave.. we wanted to stay on, keep writing, and keep exploring
this magical medieval village, the food and the warm hospitality of the people. We will factor in an add period to do just that next time ;-)