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An Amazing Day in Rome!

First of all, I realized today that I didn't put the pictures in yesterday's Blog, so I added them if you want to go back and look.

Today was one of the the busiest and most important days of the trip. We started with a 6:30 wake-up call and were on the road into the center of Rome by 8. I'm very proud of the kids, because this whole day leads up to our participation in the 5:00 pm mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. So we basically had to be in our performing clothes all day.

Here was our morning: We drove right up near the Colosseum. We met our local guides, Got "whispered" up and walked past the Colosseum to the entrance to the Ancient Forum.

Originally a marshy swampland, the Forum became the main meeting area for trade when there were different tribes atop the seven hills of Rome. The Romans began building things there in the 8th century B.C. and continued until the last major expansion in 312 A.D. Like most of what we've seen this week, the pictures you see of this in some history class don't begin to compare to being right next to them. Even though it is in ruins, it is hard to get my mind around just how old these buildings are. After hearing the fascinating stories of different emperors building and knocking down temples, arches and palaces, walking past the place where Julius Caesar's ashes are entombed, and treading the same cobblestone paths where ancient Romans strolled in Togas and Sandals, it is easy to be reminded that our country's history is a brief blip on the radar of world history.

We exited the forum and all five touring groups descended the hill to the Colosseum. It's real name is actually the Flavian Amphitheatre, but it became known as the Colosseum because of a colossal statue of Emperor Nero which was right next to it. I have to say it's quite a sight seeing 130 students in blue touring jackets, 2 or 3 wide stretching for about a football field. I tell you, when we take Europe, we TAKE Europe. A big shout-out to John and Cynthia Sheridan for once again helping us with the trip jackets, even though all of their kids have graduated. Every trip our guides tell us they are the best thing ever! This year, some leaders from another tour told our guides that they wished they had thought of doing that. It really does make knowing who is in your group a total piece of cake! There are a zillion (purely technical math term) people outside trying to get in the Colosseum,

so we had to get all 207 students and adults together in one line to get ready to enter. Six years ago when the choir came here I don't remember it being so hard to get in, but Lisa, the tour director on my bus told us it is now run by a private company and it has slowed everything down. In this day and age, I would get it if it were about security, but security was not the problem, just inefficiency. When we all finally got in, each local guide took their respective group in different directions. This is one of the great things about our tours, the local guides all have a slightly different take on the places. This causes us to compare stories after the fact. I swear we get a semester's worth of history in one week!)

This is another site where I don't know where to begin. The stories of decadence, violence, cruelty and valor are all rolled into this amazing structure that in it's prime held 70,000 spectators.

We climbed to the upper level to get good pictures and a better vantage point. We could see the blue jackets strewn throughout many different parts of the interior. After we had all heard the great stories, we left to go find our buses. We were going to take a ride through the crazy Rome traffic to be dropped of near the Vatican. This is where our students were troopers! We had to......

1. Be sure we were in full concert dress, and had our dress shoes, robes and stoles in a small bag so we would be able to take it in through Vatican security

2. Carry all that stuff with us to lunch and back to the meeting place for the walk to the entrance to the tour.

3. Get 207 people lined up and through security.

Once again, our kids rose to the occasion.

I'm going to fast forward a bit...The vatican, with the exception of the residence of the pope, is basically am museum with the most incredible collection of art in the world. The are more statues, tapestries, and frescoes than you can imagine. Then you get to the Sistine Chapel. It is much smaller than you might imagine, but more spectacular that words can describe. We were able to stand in there for about 20 minutes and admire Michaelangelo's masterpiece on the ceiling. The tour finishes right outside the doors to St. Peter's. We threw our robes and shoes on and entered this important, historic structure. It is truly breathtaking! I don't have any good pictures because I was being taken up to talk to the organist, but I'm sure you'll see them from everyone else.

We went all the way up to close to the front and were met by a representative who took us through the rope an up to the main altar area. We filled half of the available pews, with our parents and other people attending mass filling the rest of the seats.

I had a quick pow-wow with the organist and was briefed on when we were to do which number. It was a full mass, and we were to do the processional (Sicut Cervus), the Offertory (the Ground), Communion (Abide With Me), and The Recessional (Vieni Nel Mio Cuore). The service went back and forth from Latin to Italian, and I kept close watch for the "high sign" from the organist to begin our next piece.

I want to place a little historical perspective on this opportunity. This was built in the 1500's, the height of the Renaissance. During this period, choral music as we know it was truly born. This era in history melded science, art, architecture, and many other things. So the designers of the churches of this time built places that were meant to take music and transform it into something reverent and etherial. The composer of our first piece, Sicut Cervus was Giovani Pierluigi da Palestrina, who was the music director at St. Peters in the late 1500's. So we got to sing a piece that was written for the space in which we sang it. It was a truly special moment for us. Every song went very well and I was congratulated by the organist afterward. They even let us crowd up front and take a group picture in front of the altar. What a thrill!

The church closed right after the service so we left, did a quick flash mob out in the square, and had a short time for shopping before going to a terrific dinner at a local restaurant. This was the best group meal yet! Parents, you may have to cook some Italian food when we get back so the kids don't have withdrawal symptoms!

After dinner, we loaded up and came back to the hotel for a quick meeting and room checks. Tomorrow it's off to Pompeii, but now it's 2:11 so it's off to bed!

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