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Performing in Italy

The 2019 choral trip to Italy is now in the rear-view mirror and our intrepid traveling performers are back on campus. Here are reflections on the trip, written by Mrs. Beckman and students. They were sent to families in daily emails. Scroll down to see a photo gallery.

March 16
Dear Families, We began our cloudy but mild Saturday morning visiting the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel with some knowledgeable tour guides. We bussed to the city center in Rome, and just as we made our lunchtime arrival, the clouds began to clear. We split into pods for a sunny stroll to find a delicious pizza meal, and many of us finished with gelato. We readied ourselves for a beautiful concert in a remarkable venue, and ended the day with a spectacular three-course meal in a nearby restaurant. A domani!

From the student perspective...
Aidan: As a future classist, Rome has proven to be my personal Disney world. The Vatican museum contained a bronze statue of Hercules, marble masterpieces, and painstakingly woven tapestries. The experience of seeing so much beautiful art was so moving that I gasped when I saw the infamous statue of Laocoon and his sons being consumed by snakes. Within St. Peter’s Basilica, Latin and Ancient Greek lined the ceiling and beautiful mosaics covered the whole floor. This holy scene was truly humbling. After singing “Ave Maria” by the obelisk and a quick lunch, we made our way to the church where both Middle School and Upper School choir sang. To get more of an audience, the Traveling Men sang outside. This was my favorite part of the day. Nothing will beat the hilarity of Luke serenading random Italian girls who, by the way, asked for  encores. 

Rich: There’s a lot of energy on this trip. There is never a moment of silence. The church was gorgeous, and the hall’s sound was stunning, resulting in a holy mix of sound. St. Peter’s Basilica was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It served as a time to revel in art, as well as take a pit stop in faith to rethink things through. All of the food was delicious, I can’t wait for more!!!

March 17
Thomas: Throughout all of my life I have loved the rich history of Rome and Italy, and this trip has exceeded all of my wishes. Today we performed in the Pantheon, explored the Colosseum, and even strolled through the ruins of the Palatine hills. Each was special and magnificent in its own way, but I have to say that the highlight of the trip so far was when we were taken to the “backstage” of the PANTHEON. Even better, we were brought to see the oldest remaining wooden depiction of Jesus and Mary housed in the Chapel of the Pantheon. As an avid lover of history, this will forever remain one of the best experiences of my life.

Ben: Wow. Honestly, if there ever were a day to use as an advertisement for Gilman choral trips, today was that day. We started the day off singing the Mass at the Pantheon, which was just as amazing as one might imagine. As Ms. Beckman put it, today we weren’t tourists, but participants. Being able to share our music as a part of a service that has happened every Sunday for thousands of years gave a certain gravity to what could otherwise be routine singing. After the service ended we were shown a secret part of the Pantheon that contained the oldest Icon in existence!! After lunch it was off the to the Colosseum and Forum, where our tour ended with a beautiful view of Rome. The sun, the scent of honeysuckle in the air, and a perfect view of the city was a magnificent end to an amazing day. Buonasera a tutti!

March 18, Rome en route via Siena to Montecatini 
Armaan: Even though the rain was steady on our umbrellas and coats in Siena, today was a great day for shopping, fun, and touring. We started the day with a fun card game after a great breakfast (as usual). Though a surprising adversary, Mrs. Martin showed her skill at a card game called B.S. We played more card games on the bus, while students sang and enjoyed the most beautiful sights. In Siena students split up to explore. We ate great food, shopped, and saw a torture museum.  We saw a grand Lindt chocolate shop with so much chocolate that even the entire choral group could not finish the rows and rows of chocolate. I am happy with how much I did today and now eagerly awaiting the next step of this journey. P.S. The sun is coming out as we get close to Montecatini.

Alex: Italy is so so so pretty with adorable little towns on hills and orchards on the long bus ride to Siena (about 3 hours). Now, after stopping in Siena, we’re on the bus to our next hotel. In Siena our group went to three scarf stores because Thomas loves scarves. I wanna say a little more about the torture museum that Armaan mentioned because that was WILD. *read this next part in a Mae West voice* Who knew there were so many ways to die? *stop* We saw an Iron Maiden and a burning woman (not a real one). The T-Men sang “My Girl” in front of the beautiful white marble steps of the Siena Cathedral and we got a whole group of students from a different school snapping along with us. We also got gelato (which I have had every single day since we got here, sometimes twice). Our next hotel is 5 stars! A domani!

March 19, Florence, Academia and Uffizi Gallery
The prospects of singing in the Pantheon, walking under the awe-inspiring ceiling of Sistine Chapel, and hearing a beautiful Italian man named Stefano sing to me every morning in his heavenly baritone were all so absurd that I hadn’t even considered adding them to my bucket list. Now here we are, more than half of the way through our trip, having experienced all this and more. The tumultuous adventures to be had today were made evident when I woke up an hour after our morning call to see a 10 a.m. lunch on our itinerary. Our free time after lunch was spent eating gelato, browsing the shops in Florence and, for the lucky few, experiencing the magical connection between the perfect product and the paying customer. We waited in the especially long line at Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. Apparently we ran into a strike that the museum staff was having! The David was larger than life. Seeing works of art in person that you usually only see in text books is always an incredibly special experience. The experience continued as we walked to the Uffizi Museum to see paintings like the Birth of Venus and the Annunciation. I can’t wait for more! Buonasera a tutti!

Sean: So far, this trip has been filled with constant highlights: singing at the Pantheon, witnessing the Pieta, and today was no exception. Today's free time was spent bonding with my middle school friends. At the Academia, I had the amazing privilege to witness the legendary David by Michelangelo in person. Walking into the large hallway of the museum, there were many meticulously crafted sculptures but all of these melted away from my mind when I saw the David. The natural lighting in the building made the biblical figure look like a stationary god. With his unrealistically toned muscles he seemed like the Goliath instead of the scared, weak teenager portrayed in the Bible. What inspired me most was how the Italian tour guide recounted the story of how this masterpiece was made from a flawed piece of marble. Truly, seeing a picture of a statue on an art history slideshow is significantly different than seeing this in person. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

James: In Lucca we ate wonderful food, biked around the whole city, and went shopping. Afterwards we sang with a choir called Coro Arcobaleno, meaning rainbow choir. Afterwards we went to an after party which was a pot luck, put together by the choir parents. A lot of the girls there were excited to talk to the Americans even though they spoke no English. Two girls, both named Aurora, especially liked me and fought over me.

Anay: Lucca is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. We had four hours of free time to explore and it was well spent with bike riding, shopping, and eating lots and lots of gelato... We also spent some time strolling though the gorgeous alleyways. After Lucca, we drove to the church to sing with the Coro Arcobaleno (an Italian choir with amazing singers ranging from 5 to 25 years old. We performed our set and during the Middle School’s song, “Galop,” the crowd went crazy and it was awesome. At the end, we finished the concert with the finale of “Canzone delle Mani” I have to say, the Italian Choir’s performances of “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King and “Under the Sea” from the Little Mermaid were spectacular. After the concert, we had dinner with the choir, where we exchanged cultural references, ate delicious food, and tried to communicate in broken English and Italian. Google Translate is a life saver. We danced to interesting Italian songs and classics like “The Cupid Shuffle.” Only a couple days left and today was definitely one of the best ones!

Morgan: Today could easily be described as the most exciting day of the trip. In Lucca we had the option to either go shopping and explore or to ride a bike around the city walls. I did both, and the bike ride was very nice and peaceful. After our concert with Coro Arcobaleno, we were treated to a traditional Italian dinner, and we had a great party afterwards. We danced A LOT and everyone had lots of fun. I met a lot of people from the choir, and they were very excited to speak to the Americans, even though some of them even needed translators. I made a cool connection and hope to keep in touch. This is why today could be described at the most exciting day of the trip. Ciao!

March 21 Florence
Mrs. Beckman:
This trip has been amazing. Thanks to each of you for sharing your precious sons with us. We have  made memories that will last a lifetime. Please enjoy the entries of the four boys below, representative of the feelings of our whole group.

Dylan: Florence is one of the most cultured and historically dense locations in Italy. Despite the steep climb we had to take the reach the top of the Duomo, the extraordinary view of the maroon roofs ascending up the mountains was enough to make up for it. Charlie, Steven, and I purchased University of Firenze sweatshirts. I am very thankful for the opportunities that Gilman has given me. This is my second choral trip and these experiences – singing in amazing places and bonding with classmates – are memories that I will keep forever, and I can’t wait until the next trip! 

Jaeman: Wow, can’t believe that the trip is almost over! I’ve had such a great time in Rome, Lucca, Florence, and now, we’re leaving tomorrow! As a sixth grader I thought I would be left out of many things from the trip, but I was wrong! The high schoolers are friendly and the middle schoolers get along really well with them. Joon and Sky are always making me laugh in the weirdest of ways, and the other way around. I just want to take a moment to thank all the students for being wonderful, funny, and just overall awesome. Also, I want to thank the teachers for being very parental and always making sure that we are always safe and sound. They always took the safety up to another level, and I am truly thankful for them. Thank you everyone for making this a very memorable trip!

Grant: Well, today was our last day in Italy...and it started with a bright and early 6:00 a.m. wake up call. For the first time on the trip, we took a train. Once we reached Florence, we split into groups and climbed the Duomo. Climbing the 460 step stairs was certainly a struggle, especially because we ended up going the wrong way up. The interior of the Duomo contains one of the largest frescos in the world. It was truly awe inspiring to look at. Once we reached the top, it was one of the most spectacular views on the trip. Seeing the river and the entire city from this one point showed me the true beauty of the city of Florence. Going down the stairs was a bit more of a struggle because the hallways are very tiny and I could not walk through a few of them straight on. After our tour, we went to lunch at “La Prosuitteria,” and I had the best sandwich I had ever had...period. We then had free time to explore the city, which I did with Saad, Matt, Morgan, and Dylan. I was truly able to take in the city of Florence for all it had to offer. As a senior, this is my last trip with Gilman. I am so thankful to have traveled around the world with this school. One thing I have done, on every trip, is purchase a snow globe at every city, and now my collection will be complete. Having a record number of seniors on the trip also made me feel like a part of a special brotherhood we have made over the last four years. 

Mason: This trip was amazing! Can’t believe it’s over!!! I will be sad to leave Italy but the trip was worth it. Currently, I am a seventh grader and this is my first trip. It was amazing! I have done so many things others cannot do – climb to the top of the Duomo, sing in the Pantheon, and see the oldest wooden relic in existence – and I am very grateful. My favorite part about this whole trip is when we would pick a random spot in each town and sing our songs. I would like to thank everyone on this trip for making this a great experience and hope that I will go on another one!!!

March 22
Mrs. Beckman:
Dear families, we have arrived and are en route to Baltimore. Our estimated arrival time will be in the lower lot around 6:00. Can’t wait for the boys to see you and to share their stories about the wonderful trip.