From Lucca to Florence, 2017

Sunday 30 April

1) Sunday morning found us driving north. Oneness-Dream was invited to perform immediately following the main Sunday Mass in the magnificent Cattedrale di San Martino in Lucca, at 11.30am. Arriving early, the choir was ushered into an ante room to wait under immense frescoes, in awe of the history and tradition of this famous venue, built from 1063 onwards. Our choir was for this final day reduced by illness and departures to just 7 singers. Once the Mass was concluded, we were shown to our place in front of the altar to sing several devotional songs for a large portion of the congregation who remained in appreciative silence.

2) After lunch in Lucca and some time exploring this lovely town, the choir drove west to the coast. Overlooking the sea, the delightful Church of San Pantaleone, or Pieve a Elici (a name derived from the Latin word for the flower abundant on the surrounding hillside) proved to be one of our most memorable and moving experiences of the week. We had started to feel more secure and confident in our smaller group of 7 singers; the ancient church (from 892) with its accumulated centuries of devotion and wonder; and especially a small though eager and prayerful audience brought forward some of the choir’s best singing.

3) At 5pm the choir had been invited to sing for the nuns of the convent and other guests at the Church of Santa Maria a Ripa at Montecatini Alto. This warm, heartfelt occasion was followed by a sumptuous afternoon tea offered by the nuns in a small adjoining room. The acoustic in this simple, humble and intimate church was among the finest we encountered anywhere in Tuscany, and our reception was certainly among the friendliest. The nuns from several countries made our choir feel absolutely at home. Following the afternoon tea several of us were offered a guided tour of the historic 16th century convent.

4) As the sun set over Tuscany on our drive to the final concert, so the sun was about to set on this memorable tour where it all began, back in Florence. The finale would be in the Church of San Salvatore al Monte, reputedly one of Michelangelo’s favourite places of refuge and inspiration. Run by the Franciscan Order, the atmosphere is of elegant and refined simplicity. For the final concert, Oneness-Dream sang uninterrupted for one hour, almost the entire repertoire of the tour. A small though very supportive audience indulged our singing and expressed their wholehearted appreciation afterwards. We finished exhausted, elated and overwhelmingly grateful for 10 days of profound, transformative blessing.

From Lucca to Florence, 2017