Tour to Italy

Rome and Assisi

10th to 17th September 2008

The entire group left early from Rome and had a two hours and a half drive towards the city of peace – Assisi in the heart of the Umbrian region. On reaching St. Francis' city, one could admire the medieval cities constructed on hills which take one's mind back in ancient times. As the choristers arrived in front of the Basilica, they found Fr. Giuseppe Magrino waiting for them and lead them to the hall of his Cappella Musicale.

Right after putting on the robes, the choristers were led inside the lower Basilica of St. Francis where the 11am mass took place in occasion of the feast of the exaltation of the Cross. The choir performed in the Chapel of St. Catherine and Mro. Portelli had the opportunity to play on an 18th century organ. The choir performed the ‘Missa de Angelis' by Bartolucci and the other hymns were: ‘Crux Fidelis' (King John of Portugal), ‘Allelulia' (Taize'), ‘Ecce Panis Angelorum' (Perosi), Pater Noster (Gregorian Chant), ‘Ave Verum' (Mozart) and finally ‘Gloria in cielo' - a hymn arranged by Frisina with text of the Franciscan Jacopo da Todi. After the mass, the choir gave a short concert in the same Basilica. The audience was disappointed when the choristers left but were immediately informed that they were performing in the Upper Basilica. They followed the Schola members and joined another congregation which was already in the Basilica admiring the operas of Giotto. During this concert, the choir performed various pieces by Victoria, Palestrina, Portelli and even ‘Diehla go qalbi' singing 2 verses in Italian and the last 2 in Maltese. At the end of this service, the Leader presented a Cd ‘Jubilate' and a book of ‘Mottetti Sacri' composed by Paul Portelli to Mro. Magrino who is the musical director of the Cappella Musicale della Basilica Papale di San Francesco di Assisi which performed in Malta four years ago. Mro. Magrino remained surprised by this gesture however he appreciated and had words of admiration towards the choir.

Then he presented two Maltese Friars to the choristers who offered to take them around their sacred convent. Fr. Pasquale is the in charge of their prestigious library which boasts of having the oldest manuscripts. He explained how in medieval times, the scribes used to write manually, making meaningful designs on the books and doing all this work without any electricity facilities. He even talked about Franciscans who were elected Popes and whose memorials can be seen in the library. Then the choristers were walked outside and passed by a medieval cloister which overlooks the green valley which surrounds the city of Assisi. Peace and serenity can be felt from that place and immediately comes to mind the poor Francis of Assisi. He was surrounded by all this sense of tranquillity and beauty created by God which made him appreciate all the living forms. He was surrounded by all that led him to reach sainthood. Friars also said that a lot of people, especially the Buddhists, visit everyday this city because of the positive energy felt. Maybe that is why on January 24th 2002 Pope John Paul II chose it for an important Ecumenical Meeting.

After such a tour around the sacred convent, the choristers re- entered the Basilica and went downstairs near the crypt of St. Francis – an intimate place for prayer. Afterwards, all went for lunch and for a walk around the narrow but impressive streets and ‘botteghe d'artigianato' of Assisi. They visited also the churches of Santa Chiara and San Rufino. Obviously a taste of the traditional pastries of Assisi was not left out. On arriving back in Rome, the choristers had a shower and went out for dinner and another evening ‘alla romana'.

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