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Schola Cantorum Madrid Tour April 2016

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Spirits were high as the children boarded the minibus for Heathrow Airport on Thursday morning. After checking in at the Youth Hostel (and deciding on top or bottom bunks!), the choristers enjoyed a lovely Spanish meal in a local restaurant before returning to the hostel for a good night’s sleep.

It was an early start on Friday as we travelled to the beautiful hilltop town of Segovia for Mass Participation and a concert in the Cathedral. The children were lucky enough to be facing the altar for the performance, which was adorned with gold sculptures and ornaments. They sang beautifully and Miss Hartley got the chance to play an organ which was built in the 1500’s. We were then taken to Manzares El Real, a stunning castle with a huge garden providing the perfect opportunity for some ‘downtime’ and even an impromptu performance on a jousting stage. It was an early night after some wonderful traditional Spanish Tapas.

After a sunny morning spent in Madrid’s  famous Retiro park, we travelled to El Escorial where we had a guided tour of the magnificent monastery of San Lorenzo. The boys’ choir then joined us for a joint mass participation in the Basilica, where together both choirs sung Ave Maria amongst other repertoire. The choir and congregation then stayed to hear our concert which sounded superb, especially as the high notes continued to ring around the Cathedral long after they had been sung due to the fabulous acoustics.

Sunday was spent in Madrid, where Schola Cantorum was the sole choir singing Midday Mass at Madrid Cathedral – the equivalent of St Pauls in Britain. Their performance was of an incredibly high standard, and the 500+ strong congregation even applauded them after the Mass, a rare event! In the afternoon some children chose to stay for a film  in the hostel whilst the rest were treated to time viewing the magnificent works of art at the Museo Prado. The children then had a dinner of traditional Spanish paella, and for many it was their first time trying the dish (and I am sure it will not be their last!).

The next day we spent the morning at the incredible Royal Palace, touring around the most magnificent rooms where no expense was spared. We even saw the throne room and the dining table built to seat 50 people. The group then split for either hot chocolate and churros or a trip to the Real Madrid Stadium (with a very enthusiastic Mr Hobkirk!). In the evening the Jesuitas School hosted us for a joint concert, where they performed in the first half and Schola Cantorum the second, followed by some joint items, most notably Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. Schola raised the bar yet again with their best performance so far and received a standing ovation from a packed concert hall. The enthusiasm from the children in the combined choir was particulary moving and had many of the audience in tears.

Our last full day began with ‘Schola’s Got Talent’, followed by a three course meal in a restaurant in Toledo. The choristers had a chance to look around the shops before a concert in the Church of San Manuel and San Benito. This was Schola’s longest concert where they performed their full repertoire, mostly from memory. The standard of performance was exceptional, receiving a prolongued standing ovation from the audience. Many people commented on the fantastic quality of sound coming from just 23 children.

The choristers were a joy to be with on the tour. Their energy, enthusiasm and dedication was clear to see, and it is such an achievement for them to say they have performed to such a high level in Madrid’s most prominent Cathedrals and Churches. Well done to all of the choristers for a brilliant week and thanks to all the parents for their support, whether from home reading the Schola Blogtorum or in Madrid watching the concerts.