Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
The 2019 Summertown Singers trip took us back to Spain, to another wine region but this time, instead of the slightly cooler northern Spanish area of La Rioja we were in the deep south west, in the sherry capital, Jerez de la Frontera.
A group of 15 or so singers from SCS were joined by our regular summer singing friends from London, Bristol, Manchester, Scotland and France and enjoyed a week basking in the hot Andalusian sun, sampling the many delicious sherries from the numerous Bodegas in the town and, of course, singing a wonderful repertoire of sacred and secular music.
The sacred programme included Simile est Regnum Caelorum by Francisco Guerrero, Vere Languores by Victoria and Salvator Mundi by Tallis. The secular songs, unsurprisingly, had a fair number of alcohol-related themes including a new composition by our Musical Director Duncan Saunderson of the poem At Jerez by Carol Ann Duffy.
The words of At Jerez reflect the technique for making sherry, in particular, the fine Fino sherries where a yeast (flor) separates the fermenting wine from the oxygen in the barrel, leading to the archetypal pale, dry wine of Jerez.
We sang our concert to a full house in the beautiful church of San Dionisio, where we were warmly welcomed by the Parish Priest. Afterwards we were feted at a wonderful after-show party at which the sherry (and beer) ran freely.
Extracurricular activities included a group visit to the Bodegas Tradicion, where we sang Francisco Guerrero’s motet Simile est Regnum Caelorumn in front of El Greco’s beautiful painting of “St. Francis in Meditation” in the bodega gallery. Members of the group undertook various other expeditions including to the Gonzalez Byass Bodega, to the two other towns that form “the sherry Triangle”, El Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda, and to the nearby historic port city of Cadiz. Jerez itself boasted a castle, cathedral, and Turkish Hammam, enjoyed by various members of the choir, and many tapas and sherry emporia, enjoyed by all.
As always with the Summertown Singers trips the week passed by in a flash of music-making, fun and friendship in a beautiful and interesting part of Europe.
Thanks as always to Duncan for his musical leadership and to Diane for her discreet yet precise organisation of us all.
Roll on Porto next year.
Written by Amanda Saville