Wednesday was a day to explore the sights of Rome; after a full breakfast at the hotel, we went as a group to collect our travel cards for Rome, before heading off in groups to the Colosseum—only a quarter of an hour’s walk from our hotel, or a 2-minute tram ride.
Various groups of us wended our way through the building, following a tour guide, or clutching audio guides to our ears as we went, trying to absorb a few fast facts about the enormous edifice!—more than one of us wondering about the brutality of the place, and discussing the modern equivalents to the Roman circus.
After our time in the amphitheatre, we spent time drifting through some nearby backstreets and ate lunch, before heading back to the hotel to get into our tour t-shirts for the competition registration and the opening Mass for the competition.
Led once again by Lauro, aka Larry, our guide, we squeezed our way onto the tram, and then onto a connecting bus—”squeezed” being the operative word!—trying to keep our belongings close to protect against pickpockets. After another 10 minute-walk, we arrived at the Basilica di San Crisogono, the location for the Musica Sacra a Roma (Sacred Music in Rome) festival.
We wandered into the building to the sounds of the East Rand Youth Choir from South Africa, an impressive bunch of young people cranking out gospel music, who were followed by Kantilena, a women’s chamber choir from Russia. Hearing and meeting the other competitors/participants is always a highlight of participating in events such as this festival, and we’re looking forward to chatting with some of the other choristers from around the globe. The countries range from Scandinavian, central and eastern European choirs to visitors from China, Malta, Israel, and, of course, Australia!
After the registration process, there was time for a quick cuppa and wander through the beautiful cobbled streets of Trastevere, the area in which the basilica is located, before returning for the opening Mass which launched the festival. Gathered alongside the other choirs of the competition, we sang our way through the Missa Romana by Aurelio Porfiri—for many of us, our first Latin Mass, but we made it through with some support from the useful sign language of the festival official present. And so the festival begins!
We broke off again for more excursions of Rome—what a privilege to be able to explore and participate in the cultural life of the Eternal City!