During the July break 17 keen Music students accompanied Darryl Pope and Pauline Baker on a Music and Cultural Tour to Switzerland and Italy.
We spent the first weekend at the Montreux Jazz Festival, during which we stayed in the charming historic Swiss Hotel Masson. We also visited the mediaeval Chillon Castle where we were astounded by the building and facilities and dungeons etc! It was a really cool place to visit, and right on the very edge of Lake Geneva. We also visited the Charlie Chaplin Museum and display just out of Lausanne (where he lived in his later life after being exiled from the USA), and then travelled through Italy taking in the sights of Milan, Venice, Cremona, Lucca, Florence, Assisi, San Gimignano, Montecatini and Rome.
We performed numerous concerts along the way and were very ably assisted by our friends from Musica Italia and their local contacts, particularly Ilio in Tuscany, who had organised performances for us in a range of different piazzas and churches. Wherever we went we were made to feel very welcome and were received warmly by both local people and tourists. We met several Australians who were on holiday and recognised our accent, so came along and listened to us. They spoke warmly of their experiences, and were very appreciative of our music and how well the students were performing.
We saw an amazing amount of Italy and were really well led by Rafaella (Raffi), our tour leader from Musica Italia. She became such a good friend and led us to some amazing sights, shopping experiences (and gelato shops). The weather in Italy was warm to hot (36 degrees on some days) and we were well looked after in some very good hotels and restaurants. The outdoor concert in Venice was particularly memorable and really well received by a very healthy crowd of local people. In typical Italian style this concert was at twilight and we then walked to a lovely pizza restaurant for a late dinner. In Rome we took time to see the fantastic ruins of the Colosseum. It was amazing to think of how big and impressive this building was—and how long ago it was built! We also went to the Vatican and saw the amazing St Peter’s Cathedral, which is huge! It will hold 80,000 people—just in the church—while the Square outside will hold up to 150,000 people! The architecture of these buildings is just amazing and an experience that will stay with us all for many years.
We then travelled down to Santa Marinella, about 50 km south of Rome. It is a beachside suburb/village and we performed a short concert at the local café by the boat harbour, before setting up for an evening concert in a local square where we played from 10–11 pm for a group of warm and friendly locals, and finally a late trip back to our hotel in Rome. This was a great place to do our last concert before heading towards the airport the next day.
Many friendships were made among the students travelling, but also with Raffi and Alberto from Musica Italia, who looked after us so well. Everything went exactly to plan—we played better and better as the concerts went on, and enjoyed the sights, sounds and tastes of Italy immensely! Thanks to Angas Travel for all their work in setting up the tour for us, and to the staff and students who travelled for their friendship, fun and positive attitude at all times.
Director of Music