Conductor’s Journal: Italy, Day Two

[The second of eleven installments of Maestro Liuzzi’s journal, originally posted by Josh Yarden at AllCityPhiladelphia.org, July 26th, 2015]

All City Orchestra Italy Tour 2015

by Don Liuzzi

June 21st: We Arrive in Italy
After 8 and half hours of sleep, meals, and movies – lots of them — we land in sunny Rome. The weather is gorgeous. The previous day’s rain has cleared the air and made everything fresh for our arrival. The airport is mobbed with incoming tourists. Our travel guides Teresa and Yaelle greet us as we come out of baggage claim and customs. We all get an apple, a water bottle and head to our buses – and very nice buses they are! They will be our traveling homes for the next 9 days!

A variety of pines and poplar trees line the land scape as we bus our way in to Rome. We are heading straight for the Colosseum and the Roman Forum to walk the ancient Roman roads, and see the ancient arches of Constantine, and Titus.

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After winding our way through the Forum we imagine that mortals roamed these Roman street thousands of years back – what commerce, what deals, what city life, what Roman triumphal parades marched through these ancient arches.

We are getting hungry after an hour of our guided tour in the dry heat of the noon sun. We are constantly reminded to stay close in groups… Russ and John – our Philly cop chaperones are on the lookout to keep the groups together.

We tiredly enter a restaurant, fill their basement tables and chow down some pasta dishes topped off by a vanilla/chocolate “gelato” cup. The real gelato is yet to come.

I hear news of the first medical issue. One student is not well, but hangs in there through lunch. We send her to the bus after the lunch to spare her the walk to the Pantheon. Half of the students are drooped with their heads on the tables by the end of lunch. We better get moving before we all fall asleep!

We march in our groups through Roman neighborhoods, past the Trevi Fountains that are under re-construction… no refreshing spray there! (I remember feeling the wonderful spray of the fountains on a very hot day, my last time in Rome.) No need today, the air temperature is in the low to mid 80’s and not humid – unlike Philly!

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We eventually arrive at one of my favorite Roman sites – the 10th century wonder of a church called the Pantheon. The open circle in the grand domed ceiling always casts a beam of light to some corner of the church depending on the angle of the sun. What a marvel, this ancient church. I am the last one out as we head to Piazza Navona. All the students spread out to check out all the painters and illustrators, or to hang by the beautiful fountains, or buy their first real gelato.

After 30 minutes, we head back to our buses for the ride to the hotel. The Parco Tirreno is pleasant enough… The pool will be a nice place to relax after two very long days. A few swim, but the schedule is tight. We are to rehearse from 5:30-7PM. There is talk of no rehearsal, but I will have none of it… We came to play and play well.

Though the students are tired, we gather in the basement conference room – a modern space with curved walls and very lively acoustics, which is good practice for the cathedrals where we will perform.

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We work through a fine rehearsal of Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso, then on to Verdi’s La Forza. We take it apart and put it back together again. I am proud of the students for their work ethic after such a busy two days of travel and sightseeing. We eat at 7:30 – more pasta and some chicken. Before room-check, I coach the percussion section a bit for their chamber work, Little Rhumba, which will end up being an important contribution to the chamber music we will perform at each concert location. Everybody is beat.

9:30 – Room-check… Not a peep from anyone… All sleep well!

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