The San Marino Chamber Choir in Spain: An unforgettable experience

The San Marino Chamber Choir is back in the USA. The choir under the direction of Howard Cheung made its way through Spain for 11 day. They performed, enjoyed typical dishes, met locals and had lots of fun. Natalia and Andy kept the families and friends at home informed about the SMCC adventures in Spain via the Incantato Tour blog. Here is a summary of their entries:

Touch Down in Madrid
After nearly 14 hours on a plane, and 20 hours since we left the choir room, San Marino Chamber Choir has finally touched down in Madrid! Torn between excitement and overwhelming exhaustion, our beloved Chamber family filed out of the Lufthansa jet into the Spanish castle of an airport ready to tackle all of the wonderful challenges that await us!

Showered with Praise after the Easter Mass Performance
Wow! What an amazing, yet exhausting, day! Our first stop was the most famous bull-fighting ring in the world! Our wonderful tour guide, Mark, told us a brief history of the landmark and explained that on Easter Sunday it is the celebratory task of a matador to fight 6 bulls at once! After a few minutes of break time in the "botanical train station," the Chamber entourage went on a walking tour led by our two lovely guest guides, Mercedes y Raquel. The choir split up and walked through central Madrid, experiencing the royal palace, town hall, old Madrid, and La Plaza del Sol. Soon after, we found ourselves spiffed-up and ready to perform the 6:00 Easter Mass. As the performance and after-performance concluded, we were all showered with praise and presented with the chance the meet several locals, including a woman from Boise. What a treat to hear english spoken by someone outside of our bus!

Watch out for the Swords in Toldeo
The bus ride from Madrid placed us in the beautiful city of Toledo. With our very intense tourguide, Carlos, we traced the perimeter of Toledo by bus and then took a trip to the famous sword manufacturer of Toledo. Once we entered the center of Toledo, we were surrounded by eighty churches, and one enormous cathedral. Step by step, line by line, we filed into this monumentous landmark. 3 hours of free time later we got dressed and meandered through the ancient streets in style, capturing many awkward glances, and comments of our mixed ethnicities. But sure enough, we overcame these seemingly insurmountable obstacles and made it safely to the granddad of all churches. We had an amazing performance for a small mass, and received many blessings from the priest.

Best Performance of the Year
While the vast majority of the morning was spent traveling to our hotel, eventually we reached our very "quaint" hotel in the center of "Old Cuenca." At 7:00 we met to rehearse in the beautiful octagonal church that was adjacent to our hotel. The performance was amazing. By far the best one our choir has had all year. After the concert we all climbed to the bus and drove to "New Cuenca" to have some great food.

From Cuenca to Valencia
Five hours of bus riding later, we arrived in sunny Valencia. We are stopped halfway to our final nighttime destination for a traditional Paella lunch! After this we took a bus tour around the gorgeous city to see the Formula 1 race track, downtown, and of course, the city of arts and sciences! We then took a tour of the Cathedral of Valencia. While we have seen a Cathedral in almost every city now, this Cathedral was just as amazing as ever. It is impossible for the brilliant architecture and history to ever get old. Reflecting back to all of our touring, I have yet to see a city as beautiful as Valencia. With such a perfect mix of local agriculture, modern architecture, beautiful culture, and history, I cannot wait to come back to Valencia as soon as I can!

A day full of relaxation and fun by the water
Oh Happy Day! SMCC and Friends spent a day full of relaxation and fun by the water. Our late wake-up call and delicious breakfast gave us just enough energy for a few hours of shopping on the boardwalk. When we got back from the excursion we all jumped into our swim trousers. With our new coat of bronze we all found our rooms and spiffied-up to watch two choir perform in the renowned performance hall of Torreviejo. We were then serenaded by the hispanic double of Hugh Laurie and Mr. Bean and entertained by the wonderful children's choir. Shortly after, Bean's choir returned to finish of the night with a bang!

A Press Conference and an Amazing Concert
After a fulfilling breakfast at the hotel, we got fancy and made our way over to the mayor's office, where we were met by a crew of reporters and television video cameras. As all of the participating choirs from Italy, Austria, Madrid, and Sweden filed in, our Chamber Singers sat in anticipation waiting for the press conference to start. After the conference we went back to the hotel, ate, and packed everything up. We then spent a few hours catching up on our relaxation time back at the boardwalk. Then we made our way over to the concert hall. We warmed up, and prepared ourselves mentally for the grueling concert ahead of us. Each song we were singing demanded every ounce of our voice, as well as our hearts. Half-way through, the Barbershop provided a quick break for the singers who were on the verge of collapse from such a demanding repertoire. The Four Chords won the hearts of the Spanish crowd with a stunning performance of "What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?" Rested, and rejuvenated, the choir finished the concert full of passion and energy. As we all sang the last note, the crowd erupted in applause. Slowly but surely re received that treasured standing ovation.

Welcome to the Cultural Mecca that Is Barcelona!
After grabbing a quick lunch by the Marina, we proceeded to the most famous street in Barcelona, one the way, visiting a gorgeous cathedral, and the very steps on which Columbus told his news of the "New World." After some free time, we all piled around the towering statue of Christopher Columbus awaiting Kiefer's guidance to our dinner location. There we were re-united with our friend and owner of Incantato Tours, Sandra. With Sandra in our ranks, we enjoyed an amazing meal of seemingly endless tapas, all of which were mouth-wateringly delicious.

Memories that Will Last a Lifetime
The day started with SMCC singing! With a rehearsal time of 9:15 at the Petite Palau, we found ourselves warming up before we could even open our eyes. After testing the acoustics of the hall, we were served a sandwich and drink before entering the hall once again to begin our concert. With foreign dignitaries present, the pressure was on, but our excitement overcame it. We performed about as well as 40 exhausted singers could, and brought joy to the hearts of those watching. Now that we had no commitment to save our voices, the real fun could begin. We embarked on a bus tour around Barcelona with a British guy name Steve. Steve took us to all of the Gaudi monuments around the city, including the one that makes Barcelona so famous: La Iglesia de Sagra Familia. As the tour concluded and an hour of shopping elapsed, we made our way over to a tapas bar for dinner. We performed for the owner of the restaurant and said our goodbyes to the chaperons. The parents were to get a good night's sleep before a long day of traveling, but the kids were instructed to party their hardest aboard a double-decker party bus. We can't thank Incantato Tours enough for all that they've done. The concerts, the sights, and the people were all impeccable. Thank you Sandra and Mark (Max Kiefer) for building memories that will last a lifetime!