As this blog goes live I will most likely be sitting at a bar on Via Marconi, sipping an espresso macchiato and munching on some kind of guilt-inducing pastry as I kill time before flying back home, trying to put my thoughts in order about everything that has happened over the past few days because, in case you missed the big hints, I have been in Rome for the Parliament Choir’s performance (with many guests) of The Dream Of Gerontius in the astonishing building that is San Paolo fuori le Mura. Not what you would call a normal few days of work, and definitely something that, in the fullness of time, will sit up there alongside the experiences at Notre Dame and the Bundestag.

Rome – always with the ancient and the modern

Rome remains Rome, of course, utterly beautiful and achingly historic, something of extraordinary value around every corner. I spent three weeks here as part of my trek around Europe back in the late 80s, so know it very well from that and other visits, but still I will suddenly find myself face to face with a two thousand year old building or, as happened on Friday night, a Roman aquifer in a garden. I will admit that it was a rather exclusive garden, that of the ambassador’s residence, but it was still remarkable.

The basilica is beyond words. In a good way.

We had a reception at the Hotel de Russie on Thursday evening, which is more or less the only way that I will ever be let into a place like that, and I bonded with the husband of a baroness over our shared love of heavy rock and, bizarrely, people we both knew from Cheltenham in the 1990s. It turned out that not only did we have several folks in common but we most likely were drinking in the same bars at the same time, not something I had expected to discover when I sat down.

Good to go. Note the illumination of the current Pope in the row of portraits.

Friday evening, after rehearsal, was the do at the ambassador’s residence (no, there was no Ferrero Rocher, alas…), and then Saturday was the concert itself, packed with dignitaries, including no fewer than three cardinals, another ambassador (or two), sponsors, supporters, and, to my delight, my Roman relatives, which gave me enormous pleasure. We performed Gerontius spectacularly well in a difficult acoustic while cameramen swirled around, Simon and the soloists leading with aplomb, orchestra and choir lithe and sensitive, and at the end received a deserved standing ovation.

The VIPs.

I spent Sunday with my aunt, uncle and cousin in the countryside, and was pleased to hear that my aunt thought the the choir was the best thing about the concert, which tells you something about the commitment and verve with which they attacked the whole thing. I try to persuade them to give of their best and think that they did an amazing job, hope that they are proud of what they have achieved. At the moment everything is still a giddy whirl, a mixture of emotions and thoughts and coalescing memories, but soon it will feel as if it actually happened, which is good to know, because as far as I can tell it genuinely did.

Sage advice.