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Where they went

Where They Went: Umbria, Italy

Email|Print| Text size + By Diane Daniel
Globe Correspondent / May 16, 2004

WHO: Alice Solorow, Watertown

WHERE: Umbria region of Italy

WHEN: Three weeks in July

WHY: ''My sister and I had already decided to go to Italy because my nephew was playing in Spoleto," the annual arts and music festival. ''Then a friend in Halalisa, a world music group I'm in, sent out an e-mail about her spot in 'The Tuscany Project' because she had to drop out. I'd heard of it before and wanted to stay in Italy longer anyway." The project, which started in Tuscany, is a two-week workshop and performance of voice and song led by an international faculty at a villa in Umbria. (Call 781-599-4718 for information.)

FOR A SONG: ''This year, the project was based on cabaret. It changes every year." One of the instructors was Belle Linda Halpern of Boston. Her accompanist, Ron Roy, was the accompanist for the group. ''Everyone works on just one song." Solorow's choice: ''What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life" by Michel Legrand. ''I've always wanted to sing that piece and I've always wanted to work on it. It has some wonderful musical changes in it, so I find it challenging to sing." She not only sang; Solorow, a photography teacher, also shot 45 rolls of film.

COLLECTIVE VOICE: ''There were 24 of us, from several countries. The range of experience was far reaching, and that's one of the things I loved. People were coming to explore their voice," she said. ''We all loved to sing. I thought, this has to be a dream. It was so idyllic." Because the program is run from the Boston area, about a quarter of the singers were from New England, Solorow said; they already have had two reunions.

HARMONIOUS ENVIRONMENT: ''We had the villa [La Locanda del Gallo] to ourselves and were overlooking an unbelievable vista. There was an infinity pool, where you can't see where one end goes. I went swimming at least once a day." The 12th-century villa is near Gubbio and not far from Assisi, which was the destination for a group outing one day.

THE DAY TO DAY: ''After breakfast, we all took a movement class, run by a woman from Germany, Anja. Then we'd break up into groups and we'd either work with one of the singing teachers or with Anja, or work on our song privately. Ron Roy, he's amazing. He could do anything on the piano and could help you interpret your song."

FOOD AND FUN: ''Lunch is the biggest meal. They have an incredible chef. I took a lot of pictures of food. It's so colorful. Fresh vegetables, fresh fruit. And of course they would serve wine. After a break, there would be another afternoon class, and then group sing right before dinner." After dinner, they would talk, dance, ''or drink wine into the wee hours."

THE BIG NIGHT: For the performance at the end, ''all of the people who work at the villa come, all the teachers, and some townspeople. You're also the audience for all your comrades. What a wonderful audience to have. I felt my song had transformed. You really do dissect it in so many ways. It makes it very personal." As for her time on stage, ''I was both incredibly nervous and at the same time I didn't want it to end. I really was sad when it ended. I love it so much."

To see reader vacation snapshots, visit www.boston.com/wheretheywent. Send your story suggestions to ddaniel@globe.com.

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