April 4

April 4
Rome/Frankfurt/Michigan
Written by Donovan Jewell

I can’t believe this trip is over. Months of anticipation and excitement eventually culminated in the trip of a lifetime, and it was easily the best 9 days of my life. This whole trip was an absolute dream, and as I am sitting here on the bus home from Detroit after being up for almost 30 straight hours, I am exhausted, but I can’t help but reminisce about the past 9 days and the absolute wonder they brought.

First, the plane ride home. Holy cannoli, I don’t think I have ever been more stressed. After strategically pulling an all-nighter to minimize the effects of jet lag, the 60 or so Rockford Choir tourists stumbled on to our bus at 3:45 A.M. like a group of zombies bedecked in pajamas and yoga pants. Our amazing tour guide, Ambra (“Wakie wakie!”), said some words of farewell as we pulled into the Rome airport, and we mindlessly crawled through customs and boarded our flight to Frankfurt with plenty of time to spare. So far, so good. When we landed in Frankfurt, however, the airport had not yet set up the stairs to get out of the plane, so we had to wait for a little bit. By the time we all got off the plane, we had about 30 minutes to find our next gate, get through security, and board the plane.

The Rockford Touring Choir took off like the Olympic track team, dashing through the airport and pushing slow tourists out of our way. People were pulled aside for random security checks, further delaying our progress. I swear, we had to go through like 4 security checkpoints, and as the timer ticked down, our stress levels got higher. Tears were shed by many a choir student as we sprinted through the airport; I felt like we were the McAllister family in Home Alone. Miraculously, we were all able to board the plane on time, and have an overall pretty chill flight home.

That’s about all there is to today, so I would like to take this time to do a little recap of the entire trip, remembering my favorite moments from the trip.

Milan

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I will never forget the first time we all saw the Duomo. I have never experienced a jaw drop quite like that one; my mouth just dropped open – I had no control over it. Also, a group of us got harassed by the infamous Bracelet Guy, who claimed that about 10 people from our choir looked like his sister as he tried to shove bracelets on their wrists and make them pay for them. #isurvivedthebraceletguy

Venice

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Venice was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. I loved the atmosphere, and our first concert was super fun! One highlight moment was Rachel Cooper and Maddie Christians realizing they had on each other’s dresses seconds before the concert, resulting in a frantic quick change moments before we walked on.

Interruption of the Recap

Oh, guess what? Our bus just broke down and we are stranded at a gas station with a Burger King! Mr. Fix, our “multipurpose chaperone” (direct quote from Mrs. Scott) is attempting to fix our bus. However, it was just revealed that our bus has to be towed back to Rockford. 60 people are cramming into one bus in the beginning of a snowstorm, and are forced to leave our luggage behind and pick it up later. Mr. Scott is laying on the floor. Welcome to Michigan!!!!!! To eloquently quote sophomore Jessica Mottl, “We should have stayed in Italy.”

Resuming the Recap – Bologna

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Bologna was a super fun city to roam around! Our tour was quite sketchy, as our earpieces didn’t work and nobody could hear what our tour guide was saying. My chaperone family, the self-proclaimed Finuccis (me, T-Bone, Kendrah, Mel, and Mrs. Rehwoldt), has a lot of fun exploring and finding a very quaint alley. We also saw some very bad breakdancers and got harassed by Peppa Pig.

Florence

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Florence was a little scary in the best way possible. We saw 2 random Italians that looked EXACTLY like Matt Brown and Jack Fix. Also, the Finucci family and Mason Parker had the best lunch ever: we had giant T-Bone steaks (T-Bone’s first time eating a T-Bone steak) and other delicious entrees. Not only that, but the amazing Eric Liu delivered a stunning performance with some street performers. We also sang with the Florence Gospel Choir, and we had an amazing audience for that concert. We were also given a chocolate easter egg that was bigger than Danny Scott, and with it came perhaps my favorite photo of the entire trip.

Orvieto

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This little Italian town captured everyone’s hearts. It was built on the side of the cliff and had the most incredible view of the Italian countryside. I had the opportunity to attend an Easter mass in this town, and it was quite the experience. I can’t decide whether everyone getting up at the same time and running to the front of the church to receive the Eucharist or the ominous organ recessional (it sounded like the beginning to Phantom of the Opera) was the strangest part of the mass. Overall, Orvieto was probably my favorite city, and I would gladly live there.

Rome

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This was such a spectacular city. The Colosseum was spectacular, and singing Unclouded Day in the middle of those ruins will go down as one of my favorite memories of the trip. However, walking around St. Peter’s Basilica takes the cake for the best moment of the week. Everyone slowly wandered the enormous church with absolute reverence, and nobody could believe that the indescribable beauty of the architecture was actually crafted by human hands. The experience was truly enlightening and special. The next day, we toured the Vatican Museum, which made the crowds of Times Square seem like the crowd of a cute third-grade birthday party. There were way too many people there. I can proudly say that I survived the Vatican Museum.

Finale

This trip exceeded all of my expectations; I felt like I was living in a dream for the past 9 days. The beauty of Italy will remain with me for the rest of my life. Thank you to everyone who has supported the Rockford Choirs. Thank you to the Scotts and Mrs. Vande Wege for making this trip possible. Thank you to everyone on the trip who made the experience so enjoyable. It was truly a life-changing experience.

Grazie.

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April 3

April 3
Rome
by Kylee Wheeler
Have you ever experienced something so amazing you just need to stop and breathe deeply? Stopped to recognize that you’re standing in a place so many have stood before and have laughed and loved and now you get to experience places that matter to them? After being in the Colosseum yesterday, I didn’t believe I could have a feeling stronger than I had then, but today proved me wrong.
Today we toured the Vatican Museums. We walked past a line stretching blocks and waiting in a second, shorter line, reserved for booked groups. We waited and shuffled slowly to get into one of the most visited museums in the world, and boy was it visited today. Hundreds of people cramming onto one escalator, thousands of people cramming into one building, moving half step after half step to see the next, beautiful painting, tapestry, or sculpture. It was hectic, to say the least.
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(the line of people pushing each other to cram onto one escalator)
After the craziness of the museum, we headed to the so called “Jewish Ghetto” for lunch and free time. It was quaint, small, and not populated with tourists. The location was full of amazing finds down every alley, from street jewelry vendors, to sandwich shops, flower venders that covered the smoke filled air with their sweet smell, making the free time fresh and exciting. We walked for hours, finding sweaters and bracelets and the most amazing fruit market, where I bought the biggest, juiciest, and yummiest orange I’ve ever had.
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(a representation of how happy i was with my orange and the beautiful orange buildings that spread down every street)
The best part, for me, were the people. Since our free time was spent in a relatively calm location, we got to interact with people in their daily lives. Store owners who tried to communicate with us in English and had the sweetest conversations; an Italian man who was painting the street market not to sell, but just for enjoyment; a man tap dancing on the street who we wouldn’t have seen if we hadn’t gotten a little bit lost.
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(the man and his beautiful painting)
The Jewish Ghetto was a tiny town, full of beautiful shops, incredible gelato, cute alleys, colorful buildings, art, culture, accordion players, fun times, food bigger than Alex Hoffman, and a spectacular time with friends. The Jewish Ghetto was a hidden gem, hidden away between the Vatican Museums, long lines, and terrifyingly bad Italian drivers. It was a beautiful place to spend an unclouded day.
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(one of the beautiful views we found in the Jewish Ghetto, just wandering and exploring the area)
After exploring the streets, we went to the location of our fourth and, sadly, final concert. We walked into a room and were blown away by the beauty of the small room we were all gathered in. Then Mrs. Scott told us something that excited us even more…it was only the changing room. The real room we were performing in was a beautiful, wide space, with domed ceilings, gold covering everything, and the most beautiful acoustics I’ve ever had the privilege of singing in. We sang for a full church of Italians and friends and family and happiness. I was full of emotion the entire time, but the entire choir fell the pieces when we sang The Lord Bless You and Keep You. The second row sopranos held hands and then Mrs. Scott told the entire choir to hold hands. We all connected and sent our energy through each other. We felt connected for our last concert and we loved each other for one last song.
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(a picture of the beautiful church we sang in, taken by the talented Gayla Fox)
We ended the day by singing on the bus for Ambra and Andrea, singing songs we haven’t sung in a year, singing in the wrong key, having fun and being together, letting loose and singing to our hearts content, being a choir, spreading love and happiness, joining together.
I’m going to miss the small towns, busy streets, beautiful paintings, and unclouded days that I get to share with my fellow singers.
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April 2

April 2
Rome
By T-Bone Rehwoldt & Matt Brown

Today was the day.
Today was the day that we have prepared for, longed for, dreamed about for months. Today was Rome.
After an early wake up, we came to the Colosseum. The massive bones of this ancient arena reigned with the knowledge of a millennia.
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After a tour of the magnificent architecture in the most beautiful weather we could have hoped for, it seemed only fitting to us to sing Unclouded Day on the arena floor.
From the Colosseum, we ventured further into the heart of the city to see the Pantheon. Here was another ancient colossus that we were given the privilege to discover. Inside, we sang a smaller set of our songs for the tourist groups that happened to be there with us.
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From the Pantheon, we rode to the Vatican City. And in the heart of the city-state was St. Peter’s Basilica. All of the beauty we had seen so far culminated in this epic display of grandeur.
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From afar, it looked like just another beautiful building, but as we approached, the massive scale of the building became more and more apparent. The towering façade, the almost-alive sculptures, and the thousands of people crowding to be allowed inside began to infuse an energy into us that reached our very souls. What we had been anticipating for so long was about to become reality.
As we entered the basilica, a hush fell over the whole company.
The sheer magnificence of what was behind the spectacular walls drove out any need for speech. All was quiet with the Rockford Touring Company.
The two hours we had between arriving at the cathedral and singing mass was enough time to see all of the cathedral, but not to discover all of its intricacies. When the time came, we sang a slightly reduced set for the evening mass in the church. After the service ended, it was time to leave the most beautiful building any of us had ever been in, let alone sing in, in our lives and return to the hotel.
This day was truly the pinnacle of our tour. Every day had been wonderful, but this day reigned supreme over all of them thus far.

 


You can keep up with more about our tour at the Rockford Choir Tour Facebook page,  on Instagram, and by searching the hashtag #rockfordchoirtour

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April 1

April 1
Florence-Orvieto-Rome
by Mason Parker

Before i get started, happy Easter to everyone i hope your Easter Sunday was as magical as ours; however it probably was not because we got to spend ours in a church from the 1500’s and then spend the rest of the day in the breathtaking town of Orvieto.

We started the day as hopefully most of you do in the morning, with breakfast. The hotel offered a nice buffet of scrambled eggs, bacon, beans, and tomatoes, along with lots and lots of coffee. After filling up on a delicious breakfast we checked out of our hotel in Florence for the last time and we hit the road to the Ancient Mountain City of Orvieto.

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Arriving to the city was a little bit different than what most of us imagined. We had to park the bus in a lot on the bottom of the mountain and then we all piled into a tiny little trolley (a funicular) that made some of us really reconsider eating beans for breakfast (alas they are the magical fruit, just not in quarters that close). Once the trolley had made it up to the top of the mountain we all sqeezed out into the streets of Orvieto where we then boared a somehow even tinier bus that “drove” us to the church (i use the word “drove” hesitantly because i normally only reserve it for drivers who do not treat the streets like rainbow road and the car as a bullet bill). We made it to the church unscathed where we either could attend sunday mass or go into groups and explore the city.

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Considering it was my last Easter sunday before graduation, and I already wasn’t able to be with my family back in the states, the next best thing was to be able to be with my Choir Family and attend mass at such a beautiful Chruch and also in such a beautiful city overall.

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Unfortunately we had to leave for Rome eventually, so we drove a couple hours south and then had a mini bus sight seeing tour of bits and peices of the city of Rome, then we were lucky enough to eat dinner at a little underground resturaunt just down the street from the Colosseum.

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After dinner we all headed out to check into our hotel to prepare for the next day: let’s hope it will be as great as today!


Photos today are from the Rockford Choirs Instagram feed and Gayla Fox Photography. Keep up to date on our Choir Tour Facebook Page.

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March 31

March 31
Firenze (Florence)
Written from the Perspective of Matt Brown.
Written mainly by T-Bone Rehwoldt
Other editors include: Eric Liu and Matt Brown

Florence:

The most exhausted I’ve been so far, and yet this city still gives me chills at each corner I turn

Florence was a mix of ancient history and modern pleasure, marble giants and leather purses, rainy days and doppelgängers.

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(This is Italian me with T-Bone)

First we went on a walking tour which brought us through a gallery depicting the history of art in Florence culminating in the Epic masterpiece that is Michelangelo’s David. After traversing through the Gallery we hit the streets. Unfortunately, so did the rain. After being berated by droplets and umbrella vendors, we came to the Piazza Santa Crocet, where we saw another larger-than-life, uniquely intricate cathedral. In the square, Eric Liu put on a show with some street performers.

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Then we had FREE TIME, my favorite part in each city. After exploring the busy streets, my friends and I found a pizza shop. There, I had a hotdog pizza with Eric.

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We had to get dessert (obviously!), so we stopped at the Gucci of all frozen foods:  Venchi Gelato Shop. I got one scoop of chocolate and one scoop of tiramisu. It was scrimdiddlyumptious

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We closed out our free time at a perfect little coffee shop where we ate delectable desserts and fantastic coffee.

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Then it was concert time. We walked the mile to a local church where we rehearsed then changed into our attire to prepare for concert number two.

A gospel choir from Florence opened our concert with an amazing set. We then opened our set from above the audience. After we finished our songs the gospel choir joined us on the stage and led us in an impromptu sing along of Amazing Grace and Soon and Very Soon. This was truly a magical evening the entire choir. Oh, I should mention that before the concert, Mrs. Scott promised us a “special surprise.”  Many people we’re convinced that Bradley Sinclair was going to be joining us for the evening. After we were finished our concert Andres, our concert organizer, presented the choir with the surprise: a gigantic Easter egg with a mystery prize inside. We named it Brad.

Back at the hotel, Mrs. Scott had the honor of ripping “Brad” apart with a knife. Inside was a single (1) blue fidget spinner.

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After spinning the Rockford Choirs Fidget Spinner™️ and eating all 10 pounds of the egg, everybody was ready for bed. Well, everybody except Eric Liu, who decided to get festive and deliver Easter Eggs to many of the Choir members. T-Bone and I tagged along for the Easter shenanigans.

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All in all, Florence , the city of flowers, left me feeling happy and satisfied all day.

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March 30

March 30th, 2018
Bologna and Florence

By Rachel Cooper

Today we started the day by having a delicious breakfast at the hotel. After breakfast, we departed from the region of Venezia and took a bus ride to Bologna.

When we got to Bologna, the first thing we did was perform an informal concert at the Santa Maria church. The acoustics in the church sounded beautiful and echoed off of the walls. After the performance, the priest of the church gave us a tour of some of the significant parts of the church.

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Afterwards we had some free time for lunch. I was able to have my first ever Italian Tortellini and Chocolate Gelato.

We then went on a walking tour of Bologna. One of the places we stopped at was the Accademia Filarmonica, a place where famous composers such as Mozart went to become certified composers by completing rigorous musical exams.

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We also stopped where the University of Bologna was originally located. Today, it is currently a museum.

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Another place we stopped at was a cathedral right in the Bologna square. Unfortunately We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the church, but the church was decorated in exquisite artwork and also had one of the world’s largest sun dials on the floor. While we waited for the bus to come pick us up after the tour, we stood in the Bologna square and watched dancing street performers. We then departed from Bologna and headed towards Florence. On our way to Florence, we passed by Tuscany which was covered with vibrant green trees, hills, mountains, and streams.

Due to traffic, we got to the hotel a little late, so we had enough time to drop our stuff to our hotel room and head to dinner at Bottega Vasari where we enjoyed Pici Pasta and a variety of different foods. We ended the night by heading back to the hotel for a good’s nights rest so we can continue to explore Florence tomorrow.

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March 29

March 29, 2018.
Venice, Italy.

by Nicole Cocuzza

Today started with an early wake up and a quick breakfast at the hotel. Then we hopped on the bus and drove out the islands.

We started out the trip to Venice with a tour that lasted a few hours. The beautiful colors of the houses and aged architecture were beyond stunning. Afterwards, we visited a glass-blowing store and experienced a new and interesting form of art before we spilit up to eat lunch.

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After eating some lunch, we all returned to St. Mark’s Square and went into the basilica. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to photograph the inside, but it had the most beautiful, intricate paintings and sculptures i had ever seen.

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Then we had the rehearsal and concert at Scuola Grande di San Rocco. When we first saw the room we were to perform in, we all stood amazed. The architecture was gorgeous and the acoustics were phenomenal. We thought the sound was incredible and thankfully, the audience did too. They were very enthusiastic and some members even stopped to congratulate us on the tour.

We ate a group dinner in Venice, then got on the boat and headed back to the hotel.

The group is beyond happy to be in Italy, but even more happy to be there with the people we care about; people we can share both the joys and woes a trip like this can bring. In moments we needed one another, we supported each other. And for joyful occasions, we celebrated together.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of this trip brings us, and I’m excited to experience every bit of it.


You can keep up with more about our tour at the Rockford Choir Tour Facebook page,  on Instagram, and by searching the hashtag #rockfordchoirtour

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