Rome, Italy, 1998

Monday morning 16th of November a group consisting of 25 young men and our conductor was ready to start expedition of conquest to Rome. We were going to participate in the international choir competition of P.L. Palestrina as a male choir, so only the older members of our choir were on tour this time. Our journey began with a bus drive to Vaasa airport. The airplane seemed a bit too small for flying across the Gulf of Bothnia, nevertheless we got safely to Stockholm in Sweden. From there we continued with another plane to Frankfurt, where we had to make another switch before arriving to Rome later that evening. From the airport it was a short bus drive to hotel Mariano, which was located conveniently right in the heart of the city.

In Pantheon we sang Archadelt's Ave Maria Next day was mostly spent on a sightseeing tour. The bus drove us to the most famous sights and our guide gave us detailed information e.g. of Coliseum, Forum Roman, Navano Square and the temple of Pantheon. There we also sang one song to test the acoustics, which was absolutely amazing. Our guide also told us a lot about the period of the Roman Emporium, the history of various buildings and the current state of the Italian society. So, we got a quick look at the history of the city and saw many places, which we had read about in school.

Forum Romanum ...and the guys Later in the afternoon, after eating a goof lunch it was time to retire to the hotel, where we spent the evening by practicing our competition songs for a few hours.
Early Wednesday morning we took the subway to Vatican, where we participated the Pope's reception. After the security check, we were guided to a huge auditorium, capable of holding many thousands listeners. We got very good seats in the front row and it was a full house there. There were many musical groups in the auditorium and they each played a song or two and so did we. When we were singing our last song, the Pope walked in. The crowd calmed down and His Holiness started to read prayers in various languages. At the end he gave his blessing to all the people, who were present.

The Pope's reception After the ceremony we walked to the St Peter's Cathedral. When had walked around in the church and sang one song, it was time for us to climb to the tall tower of the Cathedral. From there you could see the whole Vatican and the enormous proportions of the surrounding city. So, it was definitely worth it to climb those million steps, or at least it felt like a million. In the afternoon, we returned to our hotel to practice our songs for a couple of hours, before walking to the St Ignatius' Cathedral. The opening concert of the choir competitions was held there that evening.
Thursday morning we returned to the same cathedral. It was time for some real action. But first some last minute preparation, which seemed no good, probably because of too much excitement. But as our turn became, everything went really well. Or at least we felt quite good about our performance. After a quick visit to our hotel, we came back to listen to the other choirs. For the rest of the evening we had no preset schedule, so it was time to relax a bit.

Competition situation in St. Ignatius Cathedral There was a mass in the St Peter's Cathedral the next morning and some of the choirs participating in the competition performed there. In the afternoon, we listened as the rest competing choir sang their songs in the St Ignatius' Cathedral. For the evening a joint evening party had been arranged for all choirs. The event began with a dinner and progressed to a very nice music show as each choir sang a few songs from their more entertaining repertoire. The most memorable thing, at least for us, was the Finlandia Hymn, which we sang together with a Croatian girls' choir. And of course, later in the evening the dance floor was open for everybody. And all too soon, it was time to return to our hotel. It was definitely an enjoyable evening and we made some important connections to other choirs and most importantly new friends.
The next morning it was time hear the results of competition, so returned once again to the St Ignatius' Cathedral. Our choir won the B-series for male choirs. We were rewarded with a silver medal and a certificate of honor. In addition, it was nice to know that we had received more points for our songs than the choir that won the A-series. The rest of the afternoon was free and in the evening we were as listeners in the concluding concert, where all the choirs, which had received a gold medal, sang few songs each.

On Sunday, we sang a few songs as a part of the catholic mass in the cathedral of San Sebastians Monastery. Afterwards, father Julio, who had conducted the mass, showed us the catacombs, which were beneath the church. In those old tombs, there were all together 15.000 people buried. The walls of the tunnels were covered with old prayers and text captions from the Bible. Later in the afternoon, we returned to our hotel to make plans for our last evening in Rome. We took a last look at the city and stopped e.g. on the fountain of Fontana di Trevi and at the Spanish Steps, where we sang a few ballads for the crowd that gathered to listen to us.

Monday morning was the saddest day of our trip, we had to say - Arrivaderci Rome. Everyone was quite silent but happy, as the city walls were left behind on the way to the airport. We flew back the same route as on the way to Rome. In Vaasa, there was a surprise waiting for us, a small welcoming committee had come to the airport and they took us home to Veteli.

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Photos from the trip