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Not your usual summer choral program
by Holly Phares and Paulo Faustini for Vocal Area Network
Posted January 2, 2006

Umbrian SerenadesThe day begins with a steaming, frothy cup of cappuccino, accompanied by fresh baked Italian pastries and an assortment of fresh fruit offerings, as you sit in the sunny breakfast room of your hotel studying your music for rehearsal, which begins in an hour. After breakfast, you walk through the winding cobblestone streets to your rehearsal space, in a rather unassuming 13th century "palazzo." Yet once inside, you are astounded at the collection of art that greets you -- a collection of which is reputed to be one of the finest in the region. This unassuming palazzo, converted into an art museum in the late 90s, serves for a few brief hours a day from July 30th to August. 8th as the central rehearsal space for the Umbrian Serenades choir. To come together each day to sing beautiful a cappella choral repertoire amongst such historical pieces of art is just one of the many unique components of an exciting new summer choral/cultural program taking place this coming summer in Spoleto, Italy.

Many people know of Spoleto as the home of the world-famous arts festival, the Festival dei Due Mondi (Festival of Two Worlds), begun almost 50 years ago by world-renowned composer Gian Carlo Menotti. This magnificent arts festival is still part of the ever-expanding rich tapestry of artistic and cultural offerings in the Umbrian region of Italy, a region resplendent with acres and acres of fertile land bringing forth some of the most exquisite culinary delights and wine vintages known throughout the world.

It is because of this unique marriage of music, the arts and Umbrian culture that inspired the dream that has manifested into Umbrian Serenades: Choral and Cultural “Tastings” in the Green Heart of Italy.

It was over twenty years ago that we first experienced the magic of this medieval Italian hill town known as Spoleto. We were singing as members of the Westminster Choir, the choir in residence for the Festival, and over the years continued to do so as either Westminster Choir members, or years later as members of the professional Spoleto Festival Choir, in which we also served in the capacity as managers for several seasons. Our combined experiences in Spoleto over those years had a dramatic impact on us, transforming us into who we are today as people and as professional musicians. We began dreaming of combining our passion for singing, Spoleto and the abundant buffet of sensual gastronomic experiences this verdant and land-locked region has to offer into a unique choral and cultural program, a program unlike any other program presently offered to the American choral singing community today.

A typical day will begin with an hour and a half of choral rehearsal, to prepare for the culminating concert in the 13th century Church of San Domenico, and for our participation in a Mass in the main cathedral at the end of the week. The morning will conclude with a choice of a 90-minute class on Ensemble Singing techniques or Vocal Diction, after which you will enjoy an Italian pranzo in one of the local trattorias or ristorantes. After lunch you will have an opportunity for a private voice consultation. After some time to yourself for relaxing or exploring the many enchanting walks throughout this medieval village, you will gather with others who will embark on a bus ride to the nearby town of Deruta, where you will observe how the famous ceramics of Deruta are manufactured and have the opportunity to purchase some for your own collection (at amazing bargain prices!). For dinner, we will travel to a villa on the outskirts of Perugia for a full-course meal prepared by an award-winning Umbrian chef, accompanied by some of the finest Umbrian wines of the region. After a long and luxurious meal, we will travel back to our “home” of Spoleto for a good night's rest.

We believe that this balance of experiencing song in community and immersion in the passionate Italian Umbrian culture will enable each singer to experience a powerful personal transformation that will continue to not only inspire their own future musical experiences, but their daily lives as well.

We invite all passionate choral singers from across the United States to join us on this unique musical and gastronomic adventure this coming summer of 2006! Please visit our colorful and informative website at www.umbrianserenades.com for complete application information.

Holly Phares and Paulo Faustini are the founders and directors of Umbrian Serenades.

Content Contact: Holly Phares and Paulo Faustini.
Revision Date: January 2, 2006.
Technical Contact: Steve Friedman.

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