The Cromwell Singers of Newbury
ITALY 2000

Some of the choir plus friends visited Verona in Italy during the Summer Half Term. We combined with "Schola Cantorum" of St, Tomas Cantuariense, Verona, to give two concerts, one at St. Tomaso Church and the other at St, Paolo. (We also did much sight-seeing and ate and drunk a little!)

Here are a few pictures. (Click here for a Video Extract).

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Waiting at Gatwick North Terminal to board the plane. The hostel where we stayed Relaxing on the hostel steps after a hard day practicing.
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The Hostel Common Room The "practice room" at St. Thomaso. Relaxing before visiting the Arena.
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The Arena. Many of the "wheelie" bins seem to be decorated. This one with a picture of the Arena. Inside the Arena. The stage was being prepared for the opera season due to start at the end of June.
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St. Thomaso interior. Table in St. Thomaso covered with posters advertising various concerts (including ours) held there. Another view of the interior of St. Thomaso.
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Crucifix in St. Thomaso. Enjoying Italian ice cream.  Nic Cope (centre) with Duncan and Katie Powell who sang with the Schola Cantorum when they lived in Verona for eight years.
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Scenes at the meal given by the Italian choir. Nic, Betty (organist) and Duncan discussing the music.
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St. Paolo exterior. Combined choirs singing in St. Paolo.
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Presentation to Nic Cope. Members of the Italian choir celebration after the St. Paolo concert.
(More pictures can be found here.)
Fact Sheet

Tour Duration: 

Saturday 27th May 2000 – Sunday 4th June 2000


 £300 - £350 per person, not including lunch or evening meals


Bed and Breakfast at the Verona Youth Hostel.
Split dormatories (i.e. men / women). The Copes had a "family room".


27th May 

Depart London Gatwick and fly to Verona.
28th-29th May  Rehearsals and free-time.
30th May - 1st June  Daily rehearsals and concerts
2nd June  Free day
4th June  Depart Verona and fly back to England.


The programme included items performed by the Italian Choir and The Cromwell Singers together with items sung by the joint choirs (some in Italian) which will include:

  • Ave Maria - Jacob Arcadelt

  • Ave Verum Corpus - W.A. Mozart

  • Cantate Domino - L. Lasagna

  • Panis Angelicus - César Franck

  • Regina Caeli

  • Senza Te, Sacra Regina - A. De Antiquis Venetu

Below is an article written about the trip.

(An abbreviated version was published in the Juliet/August edition of the St. Nicolas Church magazine.)

THE Cromwell Singers (plus friends) visited Verona in northern Italy during the summer half-term holiday. We stayed at the Youth Hostel and joined with a local choir, Schola Cantorum based at the Roman Catholic church of S. Tomaso (St. Thomas à Becket of Canterbury) to sing two concerts.

The events that inspired the play by William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet", took place in Verona. In a courtyard near the Market Place there is a balcony and a statue of Juliet with one naked breast. A honey-pot for tourists and romantics of all ages, the custom being to have one's photo taken whilst rubbing the exposed breast and to write graffiti-like messages on the wall to your lover. There is much else to see and do, including a 1st century Roman amphitheatre still used for open air concerts, the Castle Vecchio (1354) which now houses a museum of art, and a cathedral with an exceptionally fine baptistery. During the week we had two days free of rehearsals and concerts. We used these to visit Lake Garda traveling by boat to Garda town, and to visit Venice.

S. Tomaso church became the base for rehearsals, socializing with the Schola Cantorum and the venue for the Thursday evening concert. The present church was built at the end of the 15th century by the Carmelites on the site of two churches built almost side by side, one dedicated to St. Thomas à Becket and the other to the Virgin Mary upon Annunciation. When the new church was consecrated in 1504 it was to the Virgin Mary, but it kept the name of S. Tomaso. I loved to know why! The structure of the church is a compromise between the Romanesque style (with no transept and a slanting roof) and the neo-Gothic. Its floor area is roughly the same as St. Nicolas, but there the comparison stops. As a concert venue it is like no other that I had sung in. It boils down to reverberation, how many surfaces there are for sound to reflect on. Microsoft Encarta 98 illustrates this by sound-bites of basketball played indoors and outdoors. Before singing in S. Tomaso, I would have likened St. Nicolas to the former; now I put it in the latter. Sadly the Baroque organ was away being restored so we were unable to hear it - Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart played it on 27th December 1769 when he was 13 years old.

What was interesting to me about the trip was the way in which music unites people who can't speak each other's language. For some weeks prior to the visit we had been practicing the sacred music to be sung by the combined choirs. Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus gave no problem apart from adjusting to the acoustics, since it is part of our regular repertoire, but the others presenting varying degrees of difficulty as we proceeded to master the pronunciation of unfamiliar words. However, once we were singing with the Italian choir, all was well.

Our conductor, Nic Cope, found himself having to rehearse and conduct the Schola Cantorum after their conductor became unavailable. This was most interesting to witness. Speaking through Duncan and Katie Powell who had lived in Verona and inspired the trip, Nic achieved much in a short space of time. When I first heard the Schola Cantorum they seemed hesitant and lacked confidence. By the Thursday concert they were making great music singing their items with much realization. The items sung by the Cromwells alone were quite varied and ranged from "God so loved the world" from Stainer's The Crucifixion through the Africa welcome "Shoshoza" from the musical Ipi Tombi to a medley of Beatle songs "On Love". As mentioned the Cromwells combined with Schola Cantorum to sing in Italian/church Latin. It was only a pity that there wasn't time to teach them English Madrigals so that they could sing them with us.

On the Tuesday evening the choir entertained us with a home-cooked Italian meal - wonderful! At first the two choirs set at separate tables but as the evening progressed and the delicious red wine flowed in abundance we began to mix with individual's with a vague smattering of the other's language attempting conversation. I don't know quite how or who started the impromptu singing, but I was suddenly aware of Sarah Cope teaching the Italians to sing Frere Jacques in French. Then someone suggested Barbershop and as there were four members of the St. Nicolas Close Harmony present a bold attempt was made at "When Pa" with actions. Briefly, it is a tale of man scared of women going swimming loosing his clothes and have to go home dressed in a barrel. I'm still not sure if they understand the plot although the actions were fairly convincing! Anyway they like it so much that they asked for more when we celebrated after the Thursday night concert, when some of the red wine was 15% proof and the home-made ice cream biscuits melted in the mouth. Not that I was much better getting the plot when the Italian ladies treated us to a wonderful song about, I think, a hunchback having a baby who died, was buried and eaten by worms, the latter being conveyed in the chorus by the wiggling of little fingers worm-like and what, in barn dancing circles, would pass as a dozy-doe.

The Editor suggested I include an appropriate picture with this PIC00125.JPG (15194 bytes)article. I took over 200 - they are all on my web-site. But my favourite picture is this one. Pictured on our last night after the second concert at S. Palo are two members of the choir sampling locally grown cherries. They look so happy, so Italian, so welcoming: and perhaps a little bemused. In short just like I felt after a week which brought personal challenges and achievements (with a little help from my friends).


Robert F. Willis (bass)

An amateur recording of the concert at St. Paolo is available.


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