The Choir’s Pilgrimage to Santiago

Our week-long tour in Spain’s Galician region traced the route of El Camino Inglés – one of several traditional pilgrimage routes to Santiago – starting in A Coruña.

El Camino Inglés

Our first performance in A Coruña was exceptional. We participated in a mass, singing our beloved Victoria Missa Ave Regina Coelorum. Performing a mass in its intended sacred context somehow lifts the music onto another level and was a profound experience for singer and congregation alike.

After the mass, we were joined in concert by the local chamber choir, Ludus Tonalis. The Renaissance Choir started the programme with joyous music sung by pilgrims on the Camino, to the obvious delight of the huge audience. After pieces from both groups, the two choirs joined together at the end of the programme in a performance simply described as “awesome”.

After the concert, we repaired to a local café, where our Spanish hosts had prepared a sumptuous feast for us. As always, we enjoyed the post-concert celebration, with our common musical language breaking down language barriers.

The choir performed again at its very best to a packed house in the Iglesia de San Francisco in Betanzos. The Spanish premiere of Mauro Zuccante’s Laudes Creaturarum was a highlight of the programme. The text of this evocative piece is St Francis of Assisi’s Prayer – the saint made his pilgrimage to Santiago da Compostela 800 years ago, so it was particularly appropriate to include this in our programme, in a church dedicated to him.

When we arrived in Santiago, the choir sang in the Iglesia de San Francisco to a packed audience – and part of the concert was shown on Spanish television. Once again, the choir delighted its audience, which included professional musicians, with a challenging and varied programme of Spanish and British music.

Our tour of the pilgrimage route concluded with the choir’s participation in a mass with a congregation of 1500 pilgrims in Santiago de Compostela’s iconic cathedral. The concert that followed was received rapturously by an audience from around the world.

Moments of magic

On our tours there are always times when the unexpected can provide moments of great pleasure, and our Spanish tour was no exception.

On our “pilgrimage” day, when we travelled by coach from A Coruña to Santiago, we experienced one of these moments. We stopped along the way so that we could walk a few kilometres along the pilgrim trail. A small chapel was opened up for us for an impromptu performance and the large, resonant lobby of a church provided an excellent acoustic for a moving rendition of Busto’s Ave Maria.

This piece provided again a moment of pure magic during our final meal. We found ourselves sharing a dining room with three other parties and wondered how our traditional final sing-song would go down with our fellow diners. However, after a robust rendition of Dashing Away with a Smoothing Iron, we were pressed for an encore by a group of Italian pilgrims. Singing the beautiful Busto from memory moved many in the audience to tears. More friends, more profound memories.

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