Monday, June 23, 2008

Italy Tour 2008, Remembered

Travel Remember: Waiting for your bags in Roma, that were already on their way to Palermo. The looks on the faces of the people from Air One as they tried to book everyone on a flight that had been boarding for half an hour. The faces on the plane when we finally boarded for Palermo. Majken, David, and Trevor saying, “Where’s mine?” The barking drug dog and Kyle Rodgers’ “night in hell.” Bus one and two. Meeting Elisabetta and Mauro for the first time. Palermo Remember: Singing a concert in a large classroom. The example set by the University of Palermo Choir on maintaining proper vocal health through smoking. The light fixture that sounded like a trapped bird during O magnum mysterium. The applause and the standing ovation. The walking tour of the city and your first Gelato Siciliano. The Hotel Jolly and the walk by the ocean. Agrigento Remember: The Valley of the Temples. The sun, the heat, the view of the valley, the olive and almond trees. The town of Agrigento perched on the hills over the valley. The Mediterranean Sea in the distance. The beach and the cool breeze at lunch. Playing in the Mediterranean and the spotted lizards running by the boardwalk. Mauro and his collection of partially consumed wine bottles. Monreale Remember: The gold and the mosaics in the Cathedral of Monreale. The wonderful performance, including the group that just had to have a closer look at the altar during Caritas et amor. Dr J locked in the sacristy after everyone had left. Ferry to Napoli Remember: The beauty of Palermo fading in the mist. Your spacious cabins on the SNAV ferry line. The sea gulls trailing the ship. All the group and individual pictures. The disco and people sleeping under the tables. The early port call and sunrise over Napoli. The garbage in Napoli. Pompeii Remember: The size of an entire Roman city frozen in time with Vesuvius in the distance. The plaster molds of the victims left behind to protect the homes of the rich. The villas and their open spaces. The bus ride along the Amalfi coast and the narrow roads. The first view of Sorrento from the cliff. Sorrento Remember: The Hotel Michelangelo and the size of the rooms. Shopping in the narrow streets off the main road. The casino featuring “Texas Hold Them” and the disco. The Primavera Gelato shop with fifty flavors available. Kris Dahlen’s Scooter Repair Shop and Driving School opens in August. David, Majken and Trevor finally receive their luggage - “clean clothes and they’re mine!” Isle of Capri Remember: The steps down the gorge to the harbor. The boat ride to the island. The sun and Dr J’s Indiana Jones hat. The flowers in the garden. The views of the harbor and the homes perched on the cliffs. The ride to Anacapri that was supposed to take fifteen minutes, done in six. Trying to get a picture out the window while speeding around cliffs roads with a one thousand foot drop off. Walking two miles to the performance at Santa Sophia, after Mauro told us it was “just off the main square.” The pictures outside Santa Sophia with the sculptor. Singing Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit and Va, Pensiero in the square before the concert. The concert where people just kept coming in and listening. The book of the history of Santa Sophia given by the priest at the end of the performance. The water donated by the local restaurant. Getting lost among the winding streets of Capri and Anacapri. The boat ride back and the view coming into the port of Saorrento. The steps back up the gorge from the harbor. Sorrento again Remember: Walking in your robes through town on the way to San Francesco. The smell of the convent library. The beautiful court of the convent. The view from the cliffs outside the convent - Vesuvius and the Bay of Napoli. The priest opening the large doors at the back of the cathedral and seeing the statue of S. Francis and the flying bird. The crazy photographer from California. The lady screaming out, “Is this Sim shalom now?” The standing room only audience and the standing ovations. The sound in San Francesco. Singing in the court yard of the convent after the performance. Assisi Remember: The ride through the coutryside and into Umbria. The stop at the Tenuta di Pietra Porzia Winery in Frescati. The boxes of wine marked ALTO. The medieval streets of Assisi. Waiting in the sacristy of the Basilica of San Francesco for over twenty minutes wondering if anyone will come out in the rain at 20:30 hours on a Friday evening to hear a Lutheran choir from South Dakota, while Mauro kept saying, “Just a few more minutes, more people keep coming.” Walking out for the performance and seeing a standing room only audience in the Basilica. The Cardinal Monsignor in the third row of the audience, along with so many of the Franciscan brothers. Singing the Trilogy in the Tau formation in St. Francis’ own Basilica. The tears and the spirit of St. Francis with us all. The repeated standing ovations. Running through the rain to the buses and being “with robe” again. The Monsignor pulling me over out of the rain into a medieval doorway to present me with crucifixes blessed by Pope John Paul II to be given to the soloists as recognition of the mission of the entire Augustana Choir. Roma Remember: Entering the Eternal City of Roma and arriving at the Hotel Mediterraneo. Metal detectors to get into church - okay, so St. Peters Basilica is a little different than First Lutheran. Squeezing into the choir loft of St. Peters to sing High Mass. Singing Va, Pensiero in St. Peters square with the Swiss Guard ready to pounce and carry us off to wherever they punish Lutheran choirs - thanks Mauro, Great idea…. Singing Sunday Mass at the “American Church,” Santa Susanna - in English. The Gay Pride Parade and Elisabetta reluctance to tell everyone that it was going on. The gypsy demonstrations outside the Colesium. Group one’s guide, Gabriella - the voice from six years ago. Sunday evening, the Hardrock CafĂ©, Roma; oh yes, it does rain in Roma!!!!! The Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel - SILENZIO! Our final concert in Santa Maria de Trastevere; the man blowing out the altar candles during Praise to the Lord. The tears on the Litany and the Trilogy. Barely being able to get through Va, Pensiero, knowing it was our last song in our final concert on what was a truly magnificent tour. The pictures, laughter and joy of our Farewell dinner at La Piazzetta Restaurant. Following Andrew Kightlinger with Alyssa’s pink suitcase on his head as he led us on our final excursion through the streets of Roma. Staying up all night if you were in the 3:00 departure group. Elisabetta Amadi from Venitia, and Mauro Tonelli from Roma, the BEST tour guides in all Italia.

Always remember that: “Wherever you go, however long you are away, you are always a part of The Augustana Choir. God be with you till we meet again. By his counsels guide, uphold you, with his sheep securely fold you. When life’s perils thick confound you, put his arms unfailing round you; God be with you till we meet again.” -Dr. J.

The 2008 I-Tally

Number of Pizzas Eaten: 256

Number of Euro Spent on the Bathroom: 79 (that's $122.45!)

Number of Passes Made by an Italian: 78

Number of Gelato Eaten: 297

Bottles of Wine Consumed: 196

Shots of Lemoncello Taken: 162

Number of Times Overslept: 11

Number of Days NOT Showered: 38

Number of Sunburns: 39

Number of Mis-understandings Due to Language: 89

Number of T-Shirts Purchased: 69

Number of Card Games Played: 63

Number of Bags Lost: 3

Number of Bug Bites: 56

Number of Miles Walked: average of 84 per person!

Number of Blisters: 31

Number of Electrical Appliances Blown-up: 10

Number of Countries Assumed to be From (other than U.S.A.): 11

Number of Postcards Sent: 82

Number of Credit Card Limits Reached: 5

Number of Hours Spent on the Internet: 54

All together, a good time was had by all!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Running in the Rain in Rome, an Alliteration

Good evening, America-

This is Chapman Riedel here, writing from a very wet Rome, Italy. Our day didn't start quite as dreary as it ended. We left the hotel at 9:30 for our short walk to St. Susanna's- the American church here in Rome- where we sang mass and performed a short set of music following the service. The choir was pretty excited to be participating in an english service as lately our very Lutheran choir has been blindly attempting to navigate through Catholic dogma all in Italian. This morning was a nice break from that terror.

When we finished bonding with our new American friends, we headed out into the sprinkling rain- satin robes bundled under our shirts like big bellies- back to the hotel for a few hours off. Most of us ventured out for some lunch and sightseeing. Based on the talk in the hotel lobby, I suspect the McDonalds down the street did a healthy amount of business.

At 3:00 this afternoon, we boarded our busses for a short drive to the Colosseum for a tour that also included the Roman Forum and the so-called "wedding cake"- the monument commemorating the birth of the modern Italian republic. It was an afternoon spent viewing the exact place where Caesar was murdered and burned, where Hitler and Mussolini shook hands at the height of WWII, and where thousands of gladiators and wild animals met their bloody deaths... a lovely afternoon by the by. One special element of note was the earpieces we were each given to help hear the voices of the guides. Nothing like playing spy among the columns of ancient antiquity.

By the time our tours had ended it was feedin' time again. No group dinner was provided this evening, so we split into smaller groups to conquer some sustenance. On the way to a well-earned meal, many of us headed to some famous sights not officially on the choir's docket including the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. By the way, if you're wondering the proper etiquette for throwing a coin into the famed Trevi, you must turn your back to the water and toss the coin from your left hand over your right shoulder while making your wish.

Then came the rain... a large group of us trucked it across town to the Hard Rock Cafe for some much missed American cuisine. After our sub-par meal, we began the long walk back to the Hotel Mediterraneo. We became mildly concerned and quickened our pace when the clouds turned black and the thunder began to rumble. We broke into a brisk trot when the sprinkles began. We flat out ran when the clouds opened up and downpour of epic proportions began to pummel the members of the Augustana Choir. Some of us whipped out rain jackets. Others were swindled into buying over-priced, low-quality umbrellas. Others, like our own Alyssa Nance, proudly marched down the street with no rain gear whatsoever, with mascara running down her face like a girl stood up on prom night. We arrived at the hotel a bit pruney but in very high spirits after our Italian water adventure. After a quick shower and change of clothes, we all came down to the lobby, and are now watching Germany and Poland compete in the European Football (soccer) Championship while blogging with you lovely people.

On a bit more serious note, this may be the last blog for the Italy 2008 tour. We have a farewell concert tomorrow afternoon at St. Maria's followed by a group dinner with alumni before heading the airport in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Tomorrow will be a bittersweet day for all of us, but most especially for we seniors. Tomorrow is our last day as members of the Augustana Choir and students at Augustana College. I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we couldn't have asked for a more exciting and inspiring end to our college careers. It has been a great pleasure and immense honor singing in this ensemble for the past years. Not only have we had the opportunity to travel around the country and world bringing a message of peace and love, but we have been given another family of people whom we cherish with all our hearts. We thank Dr. J for his patience, guidance, and encouragement, and we thank our fellow choir members for their enduring friendships. We will miss you terribly, but we will certainly not be strangers in the coming months and years. God be with you 'till we meet again.

Signing off for the Augustana Choir and Italy 2008,
Chapman Riedel '08

Saturday, June 7, 2008

All Roads Lead to Rome...

We left our hotel, bound for Rome, at 9:30 am. Three hours, one stop, and four permits later we arrived in the Papal city. Our guides were right--all roads DO lead to Rome... or at least the A1 does.

We found lunch in a whirlwind and were robed and ready to go to St. Peter's by 3:30 pm. It's hard to describe how monumental the Vatican really is. It is huge. Columns, ceilings, and murals tower overhead while beams of sunlight reflect off the marble surfaces. Beautiful...

As the parade of purple headed toward the back of the church, the guards unhooked the red velvet ropes and let us pass into the area behind the organ and alter (a place where most people don't go, so the other envious tourists snapped photos of the students the whole way in!). Once inside we couldn't help but look up. The art went on forever--around each curve and arch. It was flawless.

Mass began promptly at 5:00 pm with the ringing of a bell. The Choir sang beautifully throughout the service with many alumni and friends in the audience (taking many, many photos). Having seen the inner workings of the mass, we're really excited to come back on Monday for our official tour of the church.

The evening ended with a wonderful group dinner at the hotel across the street and a free evening for all. Tomorrow we sing for mass at a church down the street and then tour the Forum and Collesium. So, until next time.... ciao!

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Day with the Saints

Good afternoon to all of you at home... it's late here and bed is calling my name. However, I wanted to write a bit about our day in Assisi.

We had a wonderful walking tour through the city of Assisi which included the Bascilica's of St. Clara and St. Francis, both gorgeous buildings to be in. St. Francis was truely amazing due to having two churches (an upper and a lower, both of which we had the opportunity and pleasure to sing in.) The art work was absolutely phenominal - artists such as Giotto and Cimabue did great murals that included Christ and St. Francis. Random trivia fact: he appears in murals approximately 92 times in the Basilica.

After the tours, we split up for shopping, eating and touring on our own. I, like Ryan, went to vist Rocca Maggiore (see pictures), but did not get lost on our way there. The best part about the castle, being my first time in one, was all of the awesome spiral stair cases that kept going up and down forever and a day and tended to be quite narrow steps. No major casualities occurred on the steps, minus me slipping and scrapping a knee. Like Ryan said, the view was spectacular and the passage ways to get to the views was just as exciting.

To be honest, the best part of my day was singing in St. Francis Basicila. The sound in there was indescribable... it rang off of the ceiling in every direction. We made a few fans during the mass (in the lower church) who came back to hear the full concert. Over 200 people atteneded, which made us feel very special. One unexpected guest that attended the concert was a Monsignore, who gave cross necklaces to the 5 soloists blessed by Pope John Paul II.

Overall, it was a great day. I think we are all tired and ready for a good nights rest. Tomorrow we are off to Rome! We perform at St. Peter's for 5 pm mass... another great experience is awaiting us there.

My love to my family, fiance, and dog. Written by: Christie Schneider-Ness (Sorry Stu... it's a long story) '08

A 23rd Birthday Worth Remembering!

I'm going to start off by saying hey to everyone back home following the progress of our adventure in Italy. Today was an extra special day for me because it was the 23rd anniversary of the day of my birth. This is the second time I have been on an international tour for my birthday. As some of you may remember from the Tanzania tour, I lost my luggage for the first 9 days of the trip, which was a huge reality check. I'm happy to report that I arrived with all of my luggage for this trip and everything has been going well, but enough about the past.

The point of this blog is to tell about this tour and I have already deviated from that simple task. So I will try to get focused and finish up as it is nearly midnight our time.

Today couldn't have been a more memorible birthday. The day started off with a guided tour of Assisi, by our guide Eduardo. He brought us around all over the city and showed told us everything we ever wanted to know about Assisi.

After the tour we had about 3 hours in the afternoon to explore the city on our own. Myself and a group of others decided it would be fun tour hike up an incredibly steep hill to a castle called Rocca Maggiore. It was not as easy to find as we thought. We managed to go about 3 miles out of the way and had to stop and ask directions in our broken English/Italian a couple of different times. We finally reached the castle and it was definately worth the effort to get there. The 2.5 Euro charge to explore the castle was worth every bit once we got to the top of the castle's highest tower. We could see for miles in all directions and this also provided some great picture opportunities.

After our adventure to the castle we were starving and prior to heading out we had asked one of our trip advisors, Mauro, where the best pizza place in Assisi was located. This restaurant ended up being much easier to find than the castle and Mauro was correct in his recommendation. The food and service was amazing! We were all glad we waited to eat until after the hike to the castle because if we had eaten before we would not have made it from being so stuffed.

The next memorible event was the mass and concert at the Basilica Di S. Francesco {or Basilica of St. Francis for those of you not able to understand Italian}. This performance was particularly special to our choir because one our "Augustana Choir Tradations" songs is the Prayer of Saint Francis. It was incredible to be able to sing the prayer that he wrote in a church dedicated to him. I think that this was a special memory for everyone in the group. There was also a great turnout for the performance. It was raining prior, and we did not know how many people would show up, but it was a packed house and there were actually people standing in the back.

The last thing that comes to mind from a very exciting day was after the concert it was absolutely pouring rain after the concert. We had to roll up our choir robes, tuck them under our shirts and run to the buses which were about a 5 minute walk from the Basilica.

Hopefully my day in Assisi wasn't too boring for everyone back home. It definitely was a birthday I'll never forget!

Written By: Ryan Wilkison '08

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Land of Rolling Hills and Saint Francis

Hello to all this is Derrick reporting in from Assisi.

Today was spent riding in style on our luxery charter buses. Roughly five hours were logged on these narrow Italian highways. We departed from at 9:00 am this morning and drove two hours to our first destination, which was a vineyard located just outside of Rome. We took a tour of the winery and the fifth-generation owner showed us the ins and outs of wine making. In my eyes it felt like I was on one big episode of the Discovery Channel show 'How It's Made.' There was an awesome celler from the origanal vinyard made 200 years ago. After the tour there was a tasteing of the wines made on the premise--which were tasty.

P.S. To my parents... If you are reading this A) I am alive and well, and B) I have two gifts to bring back from today's trip.

After the tour, the choir hit the road again for three more hours. I cannot tell you about anything of that ride because it was a classic opertunity to catch some sleep.

Upon arrival in Assisi, I decided it seemed like a place out of one of the cheesy postcards all the darn venders keep trying to pawn off on us. I personally am excited for tommorrow's tour of the area, hoping the weather grants us a little reprive from the rain we got all day today. The Grand Hotel seems to be the swankiest one that we have stayed in yet. We ate a huge meal at the Hotel and celebrated four different birthdays with candles and tarts. The best part of the night were the Asian tourists taking pictures of the crazy Americans belting out the best version of 'Happy Birthday' ever.

Written by: Derrick McKenna '09, Choir Secretary-Elect