Australia Day in Rome
I was delighted to be one of the Rome-based Aussies to be invited by the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, to a concert by Australian school student wind and vocal ensembles “West of the Divide”. The group’s opening night performance was held in the beautifully restored Chapel of St Peter Chanel at Domus Australia, the Australian National Church and boutique pilgrim hotel in Rome. The school students sang and played their hearts out, doing all the Australians proud who came to celebrate Australia Day (26 January) a little early. The students, teachers, their families and friends arrived in Rome only a day ago, but it was all smiles during and after the performance, which was also enjoyed by several Ambassadors to the Holy See and to Italy (including our Australian representatives, H.E. Ms Melissa Hitchman and H.E. Dr Greg French), dignitaries and even a princess! The ensembles’ renditions of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and ‘Advance Australia Fair’ brought down the house (videos below). We were then treated to the traditional Australian fare we’ve become accustomed to at Domus Australia for these special events. It’s a joy to be welcomed by the Domus team and especially by Rector, Msgr John Boyle.
Pictured above with celebrated artist Princess Niké Arrighi Borghese and David Dodd from the Australian Embassy to the Holy See; It’s not Australia Day without lamingtons!
The “West of the Divide” wind and vocal ensembles combine 72 high school students from 39 different public schools. The students live on the western side of the four large mountain ranges which divide the Australian state of New South Wales. Though the western side covers more than two-thirds of the state, only a third of the population calls it home. Some of the students live up to 800km apart. The music for this tour was emailed to them and many students practiced on their own since their own schools seldom have a concert band. They will sing in the choir at Mass at St Peter’s in the Vatican tonight, and then take the tour to Florence, Venice, Bled and Zagreb. This is the fourth ‘West of the Divide’ overseas tour, providing a unique opportunity for many students who have never left Australian shores.