Singing in the largest Christian church building in the world – St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City (which covers an area of 5.7 acres and can hold over 60,000), an honour very few schools are granted, represented just one of the many highlights of King Edward’s Witley Chapel Choir’s five-day action-packed trip to Rome.
The 29-strong Chapel Choir, with the youngest being 11 and the eldest 18, comprised la crème de la crème of King Edward’s singing talent with around half being Music Scholars at the School. The choristers’ visit to Rome was organised by Director of Music, Mr Stasio Sliwka, and provided the opportunity to sing as a choir in a number of awe-inspiring locations, whilst also taking in Rome’s key tourist sights.
The first musical highlight of the tour was a concert of English choral classics at Sant’Anselmo on the Aventine Hill, which serves as home to the Abbot Primate of Benedictine Monks, an international university and a community of monks. The Chapel Choir was asked to sing at Vespers during the Week for Prayer for Christian Unity. The Service was a mix of Gregorian Chant sung by the monks, and great English Choral music. The next day the Choir sang in St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City for the main Mass at the Altar of the Chair.
Whilst their friends back at School were getting ready for their own Italian ski trip to Madonna di Campiglio, the Choristers and accompanying parents were then treated to a reception, kindly organised by a former King Edward’s pupil who is now studying in Rome. Whilst the School roll is predominantly British, pupils come from 41 different countries, with 18 Italians currently studying at King Edward’s and many Italian alumni, so the Choir were absolutely delighted to be hosted in Italy by the wider King Edward’s community.
The final musical event was singing at the main Sunday Mass at Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, sited over the burial place of St. Paul, the Choir sang Vierne’s epic ‘Messe Solennelle for choir and two organs’.
Outside the demanding musical schedule, the Choir still found time to visit a number of famous tourist attractions including the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, take part in a night tour of Rome in addition to exploring numerous central Rome landmarks.
Commenting on the trip, Mr Sliwka says, “This trip has offered our Chapel Choristers a once in a lifetime experience, singing in some of the world’s most revered churches in the ‘eternal city’ all steeped in tradition. But the tour delivered so much more than purely outstanding musical opportunities, each pupil has also been given the chance to expand their independence, to explore the culture of another country and to appreciate the established benefits of travelling.”