After a marvelous experience in Madrid, the Georgia Boy Choir drove through the afternoon and evening, finally crossing over the seven-mile Vasco da Gama Bridge and into Lisbon, Portugal late at night on Sunday. Their home for the next couple of days was a quaint, little, 300-year- old village called Aldeia da Mata Pequeña on the outskirts of city. Decades ago, the small hamlet was abandoned until its current proprietors lovingly restored each unique cottage into a delightful Bed-and- Breakfast. There was just enough room for the entire Georgia Boy Choir and its entourage. The young choristers were so excited to explore their new dwelling. In the morning, a sack of fresh warm bread was delivered to each cottage and the boys fixed themselves breakfast before going out to explore and greet the other residents: a donkey, some goats, guinea pigs, rabbits, a peacock, several cats, and a singing pig named Alfonso.
A short drive away sits the magnificent Mafra National Palace, where the Choir was scheduled to give a concert on Monday afternoon. Constructed in the early 18 th century, the Palace contains hundreds of rooms, including a large basilica lined with marble and housing no fewer than six pipe organs. The boys enjoyed touring the elegant palace before presenting a concert in the basilica. The room has a gracious acoustic, which allowed the singers to employ a wide range of dynamics throughout their performance. Even the softest of sounds could be heard in every corner. The enthusiastic ovation that followed each song clearly indicated the audience’s deep appreciation of the marvelous singing they heard. The atmosphere at the post- concert dinner indicated that the young performers were also exhilarated by the experience.
On Tuesday morning, the warm bread once again greeted the boys in their cottages. After fixing themselves breakfast and doing their dishes, they found great delight in exploring their tiny town. An epic game of hide-and- seek broke out, while some others enjoyed simply sitting on their back porches sipping tea and taking in the splendid view of the bucolic Portuguese countryside. It was tremendous fun for all.
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By contrast, Lisbon, the country’s capital, is a bustling city of nearly 2 ½ million people. It has a fascinating history that the boys enjoyed learning as they bus- hopped from site to site. While visiting the magnificent church at the Monastery of St. Jerome, they treated the hundreds of other tourists present to a “drive-by singing” of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Bogoroditse Devo.” Everyone present was grateful. There were tears in the eyes of more than a few, and several expressed disappointment that the Choir did not sing more.
The local economy received a boost that afternoon, when the boys embarked on a shopping excursion picking up various souvenirs and gifts to take home to family and friends. A highlight of the day was sampling the delicious Portuguese egg- custard tarts that the city is known for.
There is a thriving French community in the city of Lisbon, and the Georgia Boy Choir was scheduled to give a concert that night in the Church of Saint Louis of France shared with the lovely ladies of the Youth Choir of the Gregorian School of Lisbon. The boys from Georgia were first on the program. The full-to- capacity audience was immediately rapt as soon as they heard the magnificent sound, and was enthusiastic in their response, clapping long and cheering loudly after each song. This only infused even more energy into the Choir as the concert proceeded and when the boys finished their set with “When the Saints Go Marching In” the audience gladly joined in with the singing, then jumped to their feet to show their approval.
The boys then sat mesmerized as the Youth Choir (about 40 girls and one brave boy) processed in singing. They truly had a wonderful sound and sang with great artistry. It was a pleasure to hear them. To conclude the concert the two Choirs joined together to sing Patrick Doyle’s setting of “Non Nobis Domine.” The combined sound was truly spectacular. What a great privilege it was for both groups who don’t even speak each other’s language to stand side by side and make music together. It shows the power of music and beauty to break down cultural and personal barriers and unite us all.
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Until next time,
The 2016 Georgia Boy Choir Spain and Portugal Tour Team
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