It's early here is Spoleto- a beautiful town in the heart of Umbria, Italy. And even though it is not quite 7 am as I write, the light is luminous, as though one is inside a painting by Giotto. Words can't quite describe it. What am I doing here in his amazing place? Singing with the Umbrian Serenades, a choral program founded by Paulo Faustini and Holly Phares, colleagues from my student days at Westminster Choir College. All three of us were here in the 1980's as part of the Spoleto Festival. And here I am again (I still can't quite believe it), singing under the direction of Joseph Flummerfelt, Musical America's 2004 conductor of the year, and the director of Westminster Choir.
Being in Spoleto after 26 years reveals one thing: you can go home again. As it is, my first experience being in Spoleto was life changing: I had my solo debut singing in the Faure Requiem, heard an orchestra up close for an extended period which changed how I sang (hearing a good string section opens up the ears), and made music for the first time on a high level. And while I am not here as a soloist or singing with an orchestra, the Umbrian Serenades is a high level musical experience.
Singing with Joseph Flummerfelt again as a absolute joy. This is a man who is a legendary choral musician. Rehearsals are all about making music, which becomes immediately apparent in the first rehearsals with his deceptively simple exercise of singing in parallel fifths. Not an easy exercise, this tunes our 25 voices together in a way that mirrors the light outside our rehearsal space (a 16th century chapel). It glows.
We'll be singing on the Duomo porch tomorrow night, which will be followed by three concerts later in the week. I'll be writing more about the experience as the week progresses. But right now, a wonderful breakfast awaits, and then a full day of rehearsal, which will be followed by an Umbrian cooking class. We'll be making the local dish: Strangozzi. And I'm so sorry you won't be here to taste it and the glass of red wine that will go along with it.
More about Spoleto and the Umbrian Serenades in the days to come.