Music at Clare was

rather amateurish

when I was up.

How things

have changed!

Sir Roger Norrington, conductor (1954-57)

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Malta Tour Blog - Day 2

Date: Tuesday 08 July 2014

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Malta Tour July 2014

Day 2

 

'Well, we’re not going flat'

 

Tuesday kicked off with an early breakfast. Several of the choir had become fleetingly acquainted the previous evening with the local beer, Cisk (pronounced with an English-French-Latin ‘C’), but any lingering side effects of responsible indulgence were banished by a glass of homeopathic juice, a tepid cup of tea and a reconstituted turkey sausage.  The day’s destination was the island of Gozo, where we were due to perform the first concert of our tour in the evening. The ferry to the island of Gozo took us past the smaller isle of Comino (James Proctor: “Isn’t that the clone-masters’ planet in Star Wars?”), and then a second coach took us to the town Victoria, punctuated by several stops to see some of the important sights of Gozo, accompanied by an scintillating commentary by the indefatigable Mark Agius, whose encyclopaedic knowledge and enthusiastic love of Maltese history enriched our tour no end. The historic highlight of the morning was the 5000BC temple at Ggantja, the second-oldest free-standing structure in the world, which sent archeologist Alex Walmsley into transports of orgasmic delight. Other stops included the Azure Window, a cliff arch framing a beautiful blue sea, where today’s blog photo was taken under a beating sun.

 

Finally we disembarked in Victoria and headed for a rehearsal in St. George’s Basilica, the lucky host of the Maltese Debut Concert of The Choir of Clare College, Cambridge. This opulent church was representative of the best of the Catholic aesthetic. After a quick lunch in one of the plazas surrounding the church, we had a concise rehearsal to briefly visit and debate some of the finer interpretational points of our well-honed repertoire (would we use Flemish-Spanish Latin pronunciation, or Scottish-Italian?), summed up by our glorious leader “Well, we’re not going flat”.

 

Thankfully our pre-tour rehearsals were so extensive that this and other such rehearsals can be both deeply musical and brief, allowing us unexpected time in the mid-afternoon to visit the sea – an insignificant factor in our tour to Malta compared to the music, but a bearable chore. A sun-kissed rock jutting out into a beautiful blue sea and a concrete diving platform 12ft above the water allowed a few hours of pleasurable cavorting while the Dean waged a quiet war on several cocktails and enjoyed the view from the shade.

 

Our return to Victoria was sufficiently in time to allow a visit to the town’s citadel under the quiet suggestion and leadership of Mark Agius. This medieval hilltop fortress allows stunning vistas of the island from the walls but was also sadly the location for the tragedy of the day; a malevolent gust of wind unseated Hugo Popplewell’s hat, which floated away down the battlements despite instant and fervent prayers to Our Lady (perhaps, like the Dean, she was off-duty with a G&T). We enjoyed a quick dinner in one of the rustic restaurants within the citadel (none of the professional choristers were irresponsible enough to accompany it with a quick Cisk, of course) and then headed back to our concert venue.

 

The warm first concert of the tour was attended by a healthy-sized, faintly sweltering Gozitan audience who appeared to greatly enjoy our Marian-themed programme built around the Palestrina motet and Mass, Assumpta est Maria. It was generally agreed to have been a success, if a drippingly perspiratious one. Afterwards, a brief rendezvous with Cisk by a few of the more dependent members of the group preceded the coach, then ferry (which happily served Cisk in the onboard shop), then final coach back to the hotel, where, after an action-packed day, we could settle in for a few more Cisks in front of Germany’s 7-1 trouncing of Brazil.

 

Will Bosworth (Can Tenor 2)