I mentioned yesterday that we might be doing a little rehearsing on our two buses as we headed toward our first concert, at St. Peter's Basilica. I don't know about the other bus (the one that had our director, Pat Edwards, in it!), but our half of the group was too busy looking around as we drove. There was a lot to see, and then we had a very pleasant surprise at St. Peter's!
There are, of course, any number of relics from thousands of years ago throughout the city, and under it--you probably can't sink a trench anywhere for miles around without encountering an archaeological site. There is a section of the ancient aqueduct right near our hotel, and this is the Coliseum (photographed out the rear window of our bus--sorry about the optical quality! Some of us plan to go back for a closer look tomorrow).
This is what's left of the Circus Maximus (again photographed through a bus window), the great chariot racecourse. You know how wealthy individuals and companies today will reserve skyboxes at NASCAR tracks? The ruins to the right of the site are an imperial residence that would have had a nice view of the action!
At the Trevi fountain, depicting King Neptune and his attendants the Tritons, more than a few of our folks tossed the traditional "Three Coins in the Fountain" to ensure that they would someday return to Rome again.
Our guide described the Piazza Navona, an open pedestrian area where an ancient stadium once stood, as the most beautiful of the piazzas of Rome. The fountain in front of the church of St. Agnes represents the four greatest rivers known at the time of its creation by Bernini 400 years ago: in Europe the Danube, in Africa the Nile, in Asia the Ganges, and in the Americas... the Amazon? The Mississippi? No, the Rio de la Plata; the others hadn't been discovered by Europeans yet. The obelisk incorporated into the fountain is one of several you can see around Rome that were carted off as trophies by the armies that added Egypt to the empire.
Finally, I mentioned above that we received a nice surprise when we arrived at St. Peter's Basilica to perform a brief (ten-minute) concert. The front of the cathedral, like many another famous "face" we saw around the city, was covered by scaffolding as it is cleaned and repaired for the Holy Year celebrations in 2000; also, the open area before the main doors was constricted by the seats still set up from the Pope's mass audience this morning. Thus there really wasn't room to array ourselves outside on the front steps, as we had expected--so they let us go inside and sing just under the rose window, behind the main altar where the Pope says Mass!
We sang, from our repertoire, several a capella numbers so as not to have to set up the keyboard we had brought: Cantate Domino, Poor Man Lazrus, Lord of the Dance, and Jerusalem. I've never sung in any place like that, not that there are a heck of a lot of other places "like that!" It was quite a treat. This photo was shot by Jim Belt using my camera (thanks!). The rose window, visible above and behind us, depicts the Holy Spirit descending as a dove; the material is not stained glass, but rather thin, translucent slices of varicolored marble. The choir, by the way, are wearing our "informal" uniform, the blue shirts and khakis that you may have seen us wearing at MBCC on our last Sunday before departing. (Note added 4 July: both Rick Hefner and Mike Spencer ran the original rather dark photo through their image-processing programs and made it much clearer, then sent the result to me; I'm not equipped to do that, so I took Rick's version and replaced the original here. Thanks to both of you!)
After the concert at St. Peter's, most of the choir rejoined our local guide and went on to the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum, but a few of the more jet-lag-susceptible among us, myself included, got on the buses and went back to the hotel. I may have something to report tomorrow about the adventures of the rest of the choir.
new 30 June 1999, updated 13 July 1999