Tuesday, March 11, 2014

School Choir Tour to Madrid

In the February half-term some of the Vaughan's School Choir went on a tour to Madrid and the surrounding area. Across five days, we sang in the Cathedrals of Madrid, Toledo and Segovia and spent a wonderful day with the choir of El Escorial, the historic home of the Kings of Spain. We also visited the cathedral of football that is Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, the home of Real Madrid!

Our first full day, Saturday, was spent at El Escorial, a royal palace built by Philip II of Spain.  The first architect, Juan Bautista de Toledo, designed the ground plan of the palace on a gridiron scheme, recalling the grill on which San Lorenzo, the patron of the building, was martyred.

We spent the day with the wonderful boys choir of the monastery, taking part in a workshop and then singing at Mass in the early evening. Perhaps the most memorable part of the day was lunch, taken in the monastery's dining room. This video gives an idea of the occasion:

During the afternoon we given a guided tour of the Palace which included visiting the Mausoleum where many of the Kings and Queens of Spain are buried. At the Mass both choirs sang separately and then joined together to perform Victoria's Ave Maria from the steps of the altar.

We received such a warm welcome from the choir and their staff - the boys had great fun being taken to the town's sweet shop in particular - and I feel sure we will see the choir again: they are hoping to come to London on tour in the not too distant future.

Our tour guide for the week was the wonderful Flavio who worked very hard on our behalf and proved very popular with the boys.

Sunday morning was spent singing for Mass at Madrid Cathedral. The Cathedral is a relatively modern building but it was a lovely place to sing and the choir was on good form in its repertoire of Victoria and Guerrero. We were certainly high up!

In the afternoon we visited Real Madrid and the boys spent a happy couple of hours looking at all kinds of football related things. 

Monday was spent in the beautiful town of Segovia, an hour or so drive outside of Madrid, where we sang for Mass in the Cathedral and spent some time exploring, including admiring the famous two thousand year old Roman aqueduct.

Later that day, back in Madrid, we visited the Modern Art Gallery. The boys were very interested in the collections of Salvador Dali and Picasso in particular. 

That evening, as on all evenings on this trip, we enjoyed an excellent dinner, on this occasion just off the main square in Madrid, the Placa Mayor.

The following morning there was momentary concern that some of the boys were not eating enough....

but then we remembered we were visiting the National History Musuem.

On the Tuesday afternoon we traveled to the medieval town of Toledo.  The boys spent a happy couple of hours exploring this amazing place before we gathered to sing for Mass in the Cathedral. Toledo Cathedral, built in the thirteenth century, is widely considered to be one of Europe's great Gothic cathedrals.

The Cathedral's most famous feature is the extraordinary reredos, five stories high and built in the fifteenth century, that sits behind the main altar.

We sang for Mass from the Choir, sitting in choir stalls engraved with the most amazing carvings, not all of religiuos imagery; some show grave robbers, animals fighting or children playing.

This video of the choir singing Victoria's Ave Maria hopefully gives a sense of the beauty of the occasion.

After the Mass the choir sang a short recital for the congregation. As everywhere we went during the week, we were met with a very warm reception.

After a final evening in Toledo and the traditional exchange of gifts for our hosts and staff we returned to London the following day, bringing to a close what had been a very enjoyable five days of singing and sightseeing. Congratulations to all who attended and many thanks to the staff who made it possible. 


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