Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Évora, Serpa, and More-- Oh my!

Évora: exploration & exchange performance

Yesterday, Monday, May 23, the UGA Chamber Choir checked out of Hotel Roma in Lisbon and made their way to the town of Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its University, Roman ruins (including the Temple of Diana), and several unique churches, like the St. Francis Church, a work of Franciscan origin.After a guided tour of the town by a local, registered, and extremely knowledgable guide, the choir enjoyed a few hours' free time to wander the lazy streets and buy local artisan souvenirs of cork, a product heavily produced in the region. The town has over 1,000 uses for cork, including cork purses, neckties, wallets, lunch boxes, and jewelry.

Following free time, the group enjoyed lunch at local restaurant "Mr. Snob," where the waitstaff brought trays of pork, clams, and potatoes along with other local delicacies.
After lunch, the choir arrived at the University of Évora and met with representatives of the Choir of the University of Évora and participated in a musical exchange with the University of Évora "Tuna Academica." A tuna in this case does not refer to a type of fish, but rather a type of collegiate musical ensemble native to the Iberian peninsula. Evocative of medieval troubadours, university tunas feature string instruments, drums, and voices (usually male, although there are co-ed tunas) dressed in "trajes" of tunics, boots, and cloaks embellished with patches signifying members' hometowns, majors, etc.

Standing in an open sunlit courtyard in the university complex, the UGA Chamber Choir took turns with the University Tuna, each performing two or three songs for the other group. UGA began with an early music component of Egressus Iesus secessit and portions of the Victoria Officium Defunctorum, and then moved through musical styles to showcase the eerie overtones of Past Life Melodies, the cool vocal jazz of When I Fall In Love (solo credit: Joshua Elder), and finally ending with an African American spiritual. Truly a gamut of repertoire!

In turn, the Tuna wowed and entertained us and many passersby with fun, upbeat, and rhythmic songs, many of which are native to the Alentejo region and to Portugal. In particular there were flag twirlers and acrobatic tambourine players! After the exchange, members and leadership of the Choir of the University of Évora and a few tuna members accompanied us to a gelato treat to cool off!
Serpa: local gastronomy and bellas vistas!

Culminating the Portuguese portion of our Incantato Performance Tour 2011, the choir traveled to the southern town of Serpa for dinner and overnight stay, at Hotel Estalagem de San Gens. As we soon learned was typical of the southern Alentejo region, the choir was warmly greeted at a beautiful hotel overlooking a sprawling valley, with olive groves, fruit trees, and an endless expanse of terrain. Set on a hilltop with each room affording marvelous views, it was truly a treat to spend the evening and night in Serpa.

For dinner, Tour Manager Stefania led us into the center of town where we found restaurant Molhó Bico eager to accomodate a spontaneous and very hungry group of 27. In lieu of individual ordering, the choir opted to eat "family-style" and tried all manner of local delicacies, including the famous Serpa creamy cheese, wine tastings, perfectly grilled steaks, ribs, pork, salads, and an unbelievable dessert tray. This family-owned restaurant enabled unforgettable experiences that night, with the choir and our non-singing members bonding over a truly wonderful meal.

Off to Sevilla, Spain and the Andalucía province on Tuesday. Looking forward to our next performance at the Conservatorio Superior of Seville on Wednesday!

¡Adeus Portugal, y hola España!

Photo credits: Sara Katherine Braucher, James Sewell, and David Okun

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