SICILY ORCHESTRAL COURSE 2024
There is a Facebook group for the course, which you are welcome to join if you have signed up to come, or have been in a previous year:
Refer to the Cost page for details of the amount to pay. Please note that your place is not secured until you have paid the full course fee.
The course dates are Monday 19 to Sunday 25 August, with the first rehearsal being 18.45 on the Monday, and the concert being on Saturday 24 August in Scicli. Most people tend to arrive on the Sunday and leave on the Sunday. However, you are welcome to arrive earlier and to stay longer should you wish. If you want to do that, and also want to take our accommodation, then please contact us about your proposed dates as soon as you can so that we can secure the required accommodation for you. It may be possible to arrive after 19 August – please enquire.
Mon: 18.45-21.00 rehearsal (rehearsal venue is tbc)
Tue: 09.00-11.30 rehearsal / late afternoon excursion
Wed: 09.00-11.30 rehearsal (sectionals) / afternoon excursion / 18.45-21.00 rehearsal
Thu: 09.00-11.30 rehearsal / afternoon excursion / 18.00-20.15 rehearsal at concert venue (tbc)
Fri: 10.00 Excursion (tbc)
Sat: late afternoon rehearsal then concert in Scicli (venue tbc)
Players of large instruments are eligible for help with the cost of transporting their instrument. As an alternative, we may be able to hire an instrument for you in Sicily, therefore avoiding the challenges involved in transportation (for example, we own two cellos and a double bass). There would be a small hire charge. A limited number of such instruments is available so please enquire early about this.
There are no music shops in Scicli, nor in any of the neighbouring towns. Therefore please ensure you come with necessary ‘accessories’ such as spare strings, reeds etc.
If you are bringing an instrument with you: does it contain a rare material that could be restricted? For example, a bow with some ivory. If possible it’s best to avoid these materials entirely, but if you can’t then take with you some sort of proof of purchase and ownership, and have a look at this webpage:
https://musiciansunion.org.uk/working-performing/working-overseas/travelling-with-a-musical-instrument/musical-instruments-made-of-rare-materials (it’s detailed, and written for professionals, but is still relevant).
It’s very unlikely that you would have a problem, but it’s not impossible …
We have worked for a number of years with the proprietor of Scicli B&B, Massimo Borgese, who has provided many orchestra members with accommodation in local flats. Rates for this accommodation, which includes breakfast, are on the Cost page. You are welcome to book your own accommodation should you prefer (we can make suggestions).
If you choose the in-house shared accommodation we can find you a sharing partner (this could be, for example, a small flat with two bedrooms) or you can come with your own. The accommodation is in flats which have self-catering facilities and are within walking distance of the town centre. You will also get a substantial breakfast each morning in Caffè Sicilia.
There are some flats and small houses which can accommodate more that 2 people, so if you want to come with family members or to stay with several friends that may be possible. Please enquire.
If you have mobility problems please let us know. Scicli is not a very flat town and has a good number of cobbled streets and we would want to ensure, for example, that your accommodation is easily accessible to you.
NB You must book and pay for your own travel.
1. By air
NB1: Most airlines are offering flights to Sicily a long way ahead.
NB2: Please ensure you know what your airline’s restrictions are on carrying musical instruments. Many airlines now charge extra, for example, to carry something the size of a violin.
Booking early is always the best money-saving option, but one other way of flying cheaply is to change at somewhere like Milan or Rome.
You will be informed if there are other participants on the same flight as you.
Comiso and Catania airports are both within reach of Scicli. Please note that you can reach each airport by a variety of airlines (especially if you are prepared to change planes). Car hire is possible at both airports.
PLEASE NOTE: There are no longer direct Ryanair flights to Comiso; the only Ryanair option would be to change in Rome or Milan.
Comiso airport is about 45 minutes by road from Scicli. For transfers to Scicli see this webpage: https://comisoairport.com/comiso-airport-transfers/
(under Comiso Airport Transfers, and in particular the link to Local Bus Lines). A taxi is likely to cost about €50-60 (see, for example, Scicli Taxi Service). Let us know if we can help you with that.
Catania airport is larger and is served by a number of airlines directly from the UK and other countries. There is a coach (run by the company AST) which goes straight to Scicli from just outside the airport terminal. Click here for the timetable. (That webpage is only in Italian – do ask if you want help with it, but the main times are printed below).
To find the correct bus stop: exit the arrivals terminal to the right (as you come out of the bagage hall), walk about 50 yards and you will see small bus shelters next to the road. Click here for a picture of one of those shelters. The last one of the shelters has a sign for AST, and there will be an AST timetable attached to the shelter or to a post. People wait for several different buses at that shelter. When the bus arrives (usually a single-decker white coach) you need to put your bags in the under-bus compartment. You pay the driver in cash (c.€10). Journey time is about 2.5 hours or a little more. You will first see Scicli as the bus negotiates one of a number of hairpin bends down into the town – you get a spectacular view! Get off at the main bus stop in Corso Mazzini, which is close to Caffè Sicilia. Click here for a picture of the bus stop. Walk down the tree-lined avenue that you see in that picture and you will find Caffè Sicilia (our meeting point) on the right after a couple of hundred metres. See the bottom of the page for info about Caffè Sicilia.
Coach times from Catania airport to Scicli (as of October 2023 – please check in case there have been changes):
Mon – Sat: 9.15 / 11.15 / 12.45* / 16.15* / 18.45 / 20.45
Sun: 11.15 / 17.45 / 21.45
Coach times from Scicli to Catania airport:
Mon – Sat: 5.00 / 6.20 / 12.20* / 14.20 / 16.50
Sun: 7.20 / 13.50 / 17.50
* = change at Modica
These coaches start (and end) in the centre of Catania (outside the railway station). Trains are also possible from Catania airport (the station is called Catania Aeroporto Fontanarossa). You have to change at Siracusa, it takes about 3 hours and costs about €11. Unless you’re particularly keen to do it by train I’d recommend the bus, which is generally more reliable. A taxi from Catania airport to Scicli is in the region of €130, if booked in advance, for example, through Scicli Taxi Service (NB that may now be more, given the recent increases in fuel prices). An airport taxi will cost a good bit more than that.
Please note: as you will see from the timetable above there aren’t a lot of coaches to/from Catania airport (especially on a Sunday). You may therefore be wondering how, for example, to get back to the airport on Sunday 31 July (the day after the concert). You could get the early coach (07.20 arriving 10.00) but you might have ages to wait before your flight. Before, when there have been several people in this type of situation, it has been possible to hire a large taxi / people carrier to go at a more convenient time. It’s a bit more expensive than the bus but it makes the day much easier. So don’t let that leg of the journey put you off – there are ways round such problems!
2. By train
I’ve done the journey from London to Sicily by train three times – it’s wonderful and well worth it if you’re not in a hurry! You get to go across the Messina Straits on the ferry (the train is shunted on to the ferry and then off again on the other side!), and the ferry has great arancini! All the information you will need can be found here.
If you are taking our accommodation then when you are an hour or two from arriving in Scicli please text Norma and Massimo to let us know your expected time of arrival. You will be given their phone numbers in due course. When you actually arrive in Scicli go to Caffè Sicilia where you will be met and taken to your accommodation. See note at the bottom of the page for the whereabouts of Caffè Sicilia.
For those taking the ‘in house’ accommodation you will have breakfast al fresco at Caffè Sicilia on Piazza Italia in the town centre. It’s quite substantial! If you are vegetarian or vegan or have any other dietary requirements please let us know so we can advise the café in advance. Aside from breakfast there are lots of good restaurants, and it’s possible to get a good meal for less than in the UK. Please ask for recommendations. Many of the in-house flats have a kitchen, where you could cook for yourselves.
There are some local delicacies that you really should try while you’re there: arancini, granite, cannoli, Nero d’Avola wine …
See the schedule above for details of the rehearsals. The venues for the rehearsals and the concert are currently to be confirmed. We will meet on Monday at 18.15 in front of Caffè Sicilia to walk to the rehearsal en masse (see note at the bottom of the page about the location of Caffè Sicilia).
If you are not at Caffè Sicilia on Monday at 18.15 we will assume that you know the way 🙂
Please note that music stands are provided. The main concert will be out of doors so clothes’ pegs will also be supplied.
Your music will be provided too, although you are welcome to bring your own printed copies if you have markings which are useful for you. Details of the music to be played will be sent to you by the end of April, and the parts will be available to download/view.
There will be a space where you can play chamber music and/or practise. It may be possible to arrange some chamber music coaching – please enquire.
Concert dress code is all black. Men: no ties or jackets required; women: short or long dresses or trousers are all fine. The programme is tbc, but here is the list of what we played in July 2023.
2023 concert programme:
Rossini: Barber of Seville overture
Puccini: O mio babbino caro (Gianni Schicchi)
Bellini: Casta Diva (Norma)
Peter Warlock: Capriol Suite (version for full orchestra)
Puccini: Vissi d’arte (Tosca)
Puccini: Quando m’en vo’ (Boheme)
Schubert: Unfinished Symphony (including the 3rd movement!)
Encore: Mozart: La ci darem la mano (Don Giovanni)
For the wind and brass: the orchestra size will probably be 3222 2200. Some doubling, swapping, sitting out etc may be needed but this will be kept to a minimum.
There will be several excursions organised during the week. Details will be sent to you in due course. Norma Fender is in charge of these. Previous trips have been to Donnafugata Castle, Punta Secca Beach (near Montalbano’s house), a working farm, Ragusa … We will let you know in advance what trips are planned this year. Everyone is invited, whether or not they are playing in the orchestra.
Please note that these trips are on an opt-out basis: because we need to book coaches in advance we need to assume everyone is coming, so please let us know if you don’t want to come to one or more. There will be an extra cost to cover transport which will be collected in cash during the excursion. The exact amount will depend on the number of people going (and therefore the size of coach required) but it is likely to be in the region of €10-15 per trip. You would also need to pay other costs such as castle entrance fee or lunch.
The beach is a short bus or taxi ride away.
If you are taking local buses or trains you will need to know where to buy tickets. Ask one of us during the course.
If you are going anywhere by train remember that you must validate your ticket in a special (usually green) machine before you board. You may be fined if you forget.
It is, of course, likely to be hot! However the heat tends to be dry, and so it doesn’t usually feel nearly so sticky as it does in the UK when it gets very hot. You may feel the need to sleep in the afternoon on occasion as do many of the locals!
There could be some mosquitos (although we’ve not previously encountered them in large numbers) so a bug spray of some kind is recommended.
We usually have some Italians playing with us, so rehearsals will probably be in both English and Italian. It may be possible to accommodate German and French speakers – please enquire.
If you speak any Italian the locals will be delighted! Certainly not everyone will speak English but enough have a smattering to make standard interactions possible. There are always a few of the orchestra who speak passable (or better) Italian, so rope in their help as needed and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Any problems with your accommodation (if it has been booked through us) please contact Massimo.
For anything to do with trips please contact Norma.
For anything to do with the musical side of the week contact Peter.
You will be given their phone numbers in due course.
If you have an emergency call 113 for the police, 115 for the fire brigade and 118 for a medical emergency. If you need help that is not quite that urgent then please contact Peter, Norma or Massimo and we will try to sort things out for you.
We will ask you for your mobile phone number, in part so that we can create a group messaging system. This is really useful for getting information out to everyone quickly.
Scicli is a town of about 25,000 inhabitants, and there are all the usual amenities (shops, cashpoints, post office, pharmacies, etc).
Caffè Sicilia is very much a meeting point (and it’s also a good café). Here is a picture. Its address is 11 Corso Garibaldi (next to Piazza Italia). If you get lost just ask, locals will know the names Corso Garibaldi and Piazza Italia, and probably the café too.