#DCYOIBERIA Day 3 & 4: ¡a España!

Still riding high from our triumphant opening concert at Ruínas do Carmo, we bid farewell to Portugal and made the long drive to our first stop in Spain: Seville, the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia.

Our first stop was a visit to the massive Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as Seville Cathedral. Competed in the early 16th century, it is the world’s largest Gothic cathedral and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite the sizzling temperature, many of us couldn’t resist making the ascent to the top of its magnificent bell tower also known as La Giralda. Reflective of southern Spain long history under Muslim rule, the bell tower was actually once the minaret of a mosque that stood on the same site before it was repurposed and augmented, with the final touch – the rotating sculpture known as El Giraldillo – added to the top of the bell tower in 1568.

Joined by our VIP tour, we finished our long travel day with a special evening at Tablao el Renal, where many of Seville’s finest flamenco dancers have performed shows for over 40 years. While dining on an incredible array of traditional Andalusian tapas, we were treated to a fantastic flamenco show featuring virtuosic singing, guitar playing, and dancing, of course.

Day 4 brought us to the main destination of our tour: the beautiful city of Málaga, located on the Costa del Sol along the Mediterranean. After a quick visit to the beach for a little R&R, we went to meet our new friends from Orquesta Promusica and jump right into the much-anticipated rehearsals for our joint concert at the Castillo de Gibralfaro. Led by maestros Evan Ross Solomon and Javier Claudio, our YO students joined forces with over 40 young Spanish string players for an exciting rehearsal of works by Verdi, Offenbach, de Falla, and Turina. Despite any language barriers, the students all did an incredible job of communicating with one another to create musical fireworks in the rehearsal room. We cannot wait to perform together at the Castillo de Gibralfaro tomorrow night!

#DCYOIBERIA Day 2: Music Under the Stars

Today was our day to really soak up lovely Lisbon in all its glory. We started with a walking tour of the Belém, a district of the capital city that is home to some of Portugal’s most iconic sites.

Our first stop was the Tower of Belém, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was built in the early 16th century to protect the global maritime trade hub of Lisbon. We then walked along the beautiful waterfront to see the dramatic Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries). Originally erected in temporary form as part of the 1940 Portuguese World Exhibition, it was reconstructed in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. Our last stop was the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, another UNESCO World Heritage site that is one of the greatest examples of classic Manueline architecture and took the entire 16th century to finish building.

In the evening, we made our way to the Ruínas do Camo, the site of a 14th century convent that was almost completely destroyed by the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake and is now home to the Museu Arqueológico do Carmo. Here we performed our first concert of the tour as part of the Lisbon International Youth Music Festival. We were honored to perform as one of the featured ensembles in the festival’s return after two years of pandemic delays. Our musicians played their hearts out to a crowd of over 250 attendees who enjoyed a program of works by Antonin Dvořák, Kerwin Young, Aaron Copland, and Giuseppe Verdi under a cloudless night sky. We couldn’t have asked for better weather in a more gorgeous setting for the evening’s outdoor concert, and can’t wait to continue our tour in Spain this week.



#DCYOIBERIA Day 1: Bóm Dia, Lisboa!

Greetings from beautiful Lisbon! After a very long day and a half of travel via Frankfurt, we landed safe and sound in Portugal, where our tour officially begins. 

After meeting our tour guides, Sónja and Beatriz, we kicked things off in style with a welcome dinner at Casa do Alentejo. From the outside, Casa do Alentejo looked like a plain building that blends right into the busy cityscape. But once we entered the doors, we were suddenly welcomed into a tranquil Moorish-style courtyard with more surprises to follow. 

Originally known as the Palacio Alverca, Casa do Alentejo was built in the 1600’s and served as the home of the Paes de Amaral family until the early 1900’s. Over one hundred years later, it serves as a cultural center celebrating the heritage of Portugal’s southern Alentejo region, including a restaurant that serves many of its traditional dishes. This multipurpose space hosts everything from book talks and art exhibitions to cultural afternoons and social events.

We were treated to a spectacular welcome dinner in the former ballroom of the house, an ornate room decorated with crystal chandeliers that cast a warm light on the gilded wood panels and mirrors that cover its walls along with ornate frescos.

During the course of our meal, we enjoyed a truly special performance of fado, a very special traditional form of Portuguese music that is usually sung by a solitary singer or fadista accompanied by classical and/or Portuguese guitar. Named to the category of  Cultural and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO , Fado can be difficult to explain to people who are not familiar with its long history and unique place in Portuguese culture. “The way to understand fado is to feel the music,” our tour guide, Sónia, told us. Everyone in the room definitely felt the incredible singing of fadista Yola Dinis, who was accompanied by both Portuguese and traditional guitarists. The entire orchestra gave her a standing ovation in appreciation of the special gift she shared with us, and enthusiastically agreed with Ms. Dinis that they would love to come back and play with her sometime!

After dinner, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around downtown Lisbon, taking in the Arco do Rua Augusta and the Casa dos Bicos, an early 16th century house known for its unusual spiky facade that also houses the José Saramago Foundation. Some of the ashes of the Nobel Prize-winning author, who was born in a small village northeast of Lisbon, are buried under a beautiful olive tree in front of the building.

Tomorrow, we stay on in Lisbon for a little sightseeing as well as our first tour performance that will take place outdoors at the Ruinos do Carmo as part of the Lisbon Music Fest. Stay tuned for more updates!