Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Exchange program: Orchestra, Director and venue: Auditorio del Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Córdoba

Dear friends,

Here you can see a video of the Youth Orchestra from the Professional Conservatory of Cordoba.
Maestro Manuel Pérez directs the ensemble, in their Auditorium, last year. Even when the ensemblewill not be the same, here you can find the Director Manuel Perez, and the venue were WRA Choir and Ensemble will perform a Joint Concert as finale for the Exchange Program, on March 16th, 2012. The Auditorium has 296 seats.

Concert for Piano and Orchestra, Tempo II Adagio, from E. Grieg, with Soloist Anton Dolgov, on October 28th, 2011. We hope you enjoy it!

You find the three videos of the concert at

Monday, February 27, 2012

WRA will be featured in the choir for High Mass at Iglesia Colegial del Salvador in Sevilla, Saturday March 17th, 8 pm.

The Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador (Collegiate Church of the Divine Savior), will host the WRA group to celebrate High Mass on Saturday, March 17th at 8 pm.
Iglesia del Salvador, as it is usually called, is the second largest church in Sevilla after the Cathedral and is considered on of its most important temples. This imposing church is among the most visited monuments in the city.
This very place was always used for religious purposes: as early as during Roman times there was a Basilica here which was substituted by a Christian church in the IV century. Later on, in the Arab-dominated times, the Great Mosque was built on its remains and becoming the main mosque of Seville. The Ablutions Courtyard and the base of the tower are remains from the ninth-century Arab building.
The reconquest by the Christians converted it back to a Christian church and by 1340 the Parish Church of the Saviour was settled here. That building was substituted by the one you see today.
Construction work began in 1674 with architect Stephen Garcia and ended in 1712 with Leonardo de Figueroa. The interior style is Sevillian Baroque. It is decorated with sculptures and paintings by famous local artists:
- The main altarpiece, dating back to the 1770s, was done by Cayetano de Acosta

- The Christ's Love sculpture, by the very famous Juan de Mesa, dates back to  around 1620
- Paintings of St. Christopher by Martinez Montañes, 1597
- Sculptures of the Passion of Jesus, also by Martinez Montañes, 1610
Martinez Montañes was a very important artist, among the best of his time. You can find his sculpture in the square Plaza del Salvador, by the church.
You can find more information at

WRA Concert in Córdoba, March 16th, at 7:30 pm, Joint Concert with the Orchestra of the Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Córdoba "Músico Ziryab"

As a great finale for their exchange program with the Conservatorio Profesional de Música de Córdoba, the WRA Choir and Ensemble will perform in a joint concert with the Orchestra of the Conservatorio "Músico Ziryab" in a wonderful venue: the auditorium of the new headquarters of the Conservatorio de Córdoba.
Just recently opened for this academic year 2011-2012, the new building of the Conservatorio hosts the most modern equipment of all of Spain's conservatories. The government has paid over 7 million Euros for the building, with over 7000 sq. meters, including 51 individual instrument classrooms, 24 individual study carrels, choir classroom, drums classroom, orchestra classroom, four music classrooms, a library, a sound library, and of course the administrative offices.
The Conservatory has some 1212 students this year: 546 in elementary music levels and 666 in middle music levels. The number of teachers is also high: 122 professionals are in charge of the teaching.
The new auditorium is also impressive: 296 seats in a very good acoustic venue will make a warm and brilliant concert possible for our musicians.
For more information, you can visit the Conservatorio webpage

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Incantato Tours presents: WRA first Concert Venue in San Pedro Mártir Church in Toledo

The Western Reserve Academy Choir and Ensemble, under the direction of Mrs. Margaret Karam and Mr. Edward Wiles, will perform at Toledo’s San Pedro Mártir Church on Thursday, March 14th, 2012 at 7:30 pm.
Located in the heart of the city of Toledo, the Convent of San Pedro Mártir's first stone was laid in the 13th century. Since then it underwent a large list of enlargements and renewals until the 17th century, now almost like a little city within itself. The Convent has become one of the most important and rich convents in the city of Toledo. Toledo was the capital of Spain for many centuries, and one of the most important cities in Europe during the Middle Ages. San Pedro Mártir convent was designed, painted, scarved and decorated by the finest artist of each century living by the Spanish Court.
The building is especially noted for its splendid mudéjar (Moorish) style tower, and its magnificent graves and praying sculptures, including the Counts of Melito that inspired the legend "The Kiss" by Gustavo Adolfo Becquer. Three different styles can be found in this important convent complex: mudejar, renaissance and baroque.
In its period of greatest splendor, the monastery extended along the streets of San Clemente and San Pedro Martir, and even jumped over the street. For this reason the church had to be open from sunrise to sunset in order to facilitate the passage of pedestrians. Even being so big, its size and importance cannot be grasped from the outside, as it is surrounded and limited in its facade by other buildings such as the San Roman church.
The building has three cloisters: the Silence cloister, the Royal cloister and the Orange-trees cloister. The Royal cloister, designed by the very famous artist Alonso de Covarrubias, has three slender levels. The lower arch is semi circular, with mirrored black stone in the spandrels, very typical of this architect. The upper galleries are dinteladas, using an Alcarria typical feature in its ionic capitals.
The current monastery church was started in 1605 under Nicolas de Vergara. The temple is built in a Spanish Reinassance style, Herreriano, as the most important building of that period. In 1607, after the death of Nicolás de Vergara, Juan Bautista Monegro took over the construction.

The church entrance was the last work to be completed: topped with shields from the Crown and the Order of Preachers, corresponding to a classical altarpiece scheme and heavily influenced by the El Escorial Monastery. Three sculptures by Jacques del Rey can be seen at the entrance: San Pedro Martir, as well as Faith and Charity in dialogue.

Inside the temple the main highlights are the altarpiece and the Choir, with Monegro influence and hand-carved by Giraldo de Merlo. The painting of the altarpiece was entrusted to Juan Bautista Maino. His exceptional work of the Easter-Nativity, Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost, and the figures of Saint John by the banks now belong to the Prado, although the Convent maintains its fresco Glory in the choir loft.
The building had various uses after the seizure as a Museum, a Pantheon of illustrious Toledanos and as a charity center. In 1969 the building started to be used as a University facility for the main Complutense University of Madrid at the time. Today the building houses the Faculty of Juridical and Social Sciences at the University of Castilla-La Mancha, the region of which Toledo is the capital city.
Nowadays the cloisters and church are used for many of the most important events and official ceremonies of the city of Toledo, for example for the visit of the Royal Family of Spain, the recording of the Buñuel film "Tristana", or the Three Cultures Festival, to name a few.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Travel Tip: The Weather in Spain and Portugal and What to Pack for your Trip

Dear members of the Western Reserve Academy Choir and Ensemble,
As your departure for your 2012 performance tour comes closer and closer, Incantato Tours would like to provide you with a couple travel tips.

For most people, packing for a trip is the most difficult part. The solution for many is to just pack as much as you possibly can into your suitcase and backpack, but as a colleague explains it: "You'll be thanking me later when you don't break your back from having to carry everything on your own. Don't do it!" Her advice: "Pack as lightly as you can. The best way to get it all to fit nicely into your suitcase is to fold it nicely and then roll it tightly. It can all fit into your bag like a puzzle."
The major factor is that you should bring only 1 suitcase, no heavier than 50 pounds.

Knowing the weather forecast can be helpful, keeping in mind that it is still too early to have a good prediction… However, here you have some examples of how the weather can be in the cities you will visit for the month of March. Remember it is still winter!

  • Madrid: Temperatures between 41 and 59 F, scarce rain, chilly wind from the snow-capped mountains. 
  • Toledo: Temperature average is 36, it is usually freezing at night and windy during the day. Sunny middays make the difference. Usually dry. It is like Madrid, but colder.
  • Córdoba: March temperatures usually vary between 46 and 64 F. It is never as cold as in Madrid, so you can expect mild, non-rainy winter days… being outdoors is nice!
  • Sevilla: Very much like Cordoba, average temperature in March is 58º F. It is a bit warmer, and it might rain occasionally.
  • Huelva: Between 48 and 68 degrees, scarce rain, seaside mild temperatures. Lisboa and Portugal: Well, this could be the rainy part of the trip – though you can always be surprised!!. Lisbon March temperatures run from 50 to 65º F, and there is a 47% chance of getting some rain!!

Even if you are used to lower temperatures and you feel these forecasts sound like summer, please keep in mind that many cathedrals have a dress code and will not allow you to walk in if you are wearing tank tops or shorts. A scarf is a good solution here. Shorts should always go to your knees (both for ladies and gents).

Now it is time for you to start planning your luggage! We hope the weather forecasts can help you to decide what to bring. Here are a few things that we think are essential to have to be comfortable with what the weather brings and with the weight of your bag - remember, we allow only one checked bag per person, (maximum 50 pounds) and one small carry-on such as a backpack. 
A sample packing list (just a suggestion!):
  • Rain jacket, maybe with fleece insert
  • Umbrella
  • Gloves, scarf, hat… if you tend to feel chilly!
  • An adapter plug/converter (if you are bringing electronic devices, please check if they are compatible, most new devices are – most……)
  • Camera and batteries or charger with adapter
  • At least two pair of jeans/pants, ladies may want to bring a couple skirts or dresses, too
  • A sweater or two, (or three, if you tend to feel chilly).
  • Plenty of shirts, including a polo or two and at least two dress shirts (Europeans dress much more formal than Americans)
  • Plenty of undergarments and socks for daily changes
  • A watch, make-up and jewelry if applicable (carry on any valuables at all times)
  • Choir music and attire
  • Don't forget shoes, we recommend a maximum of three pairs (tennis shoes, good everyday shoes, dress shoes). Bring nice concert shoes, but make sure that you will be able to walk long distances in them. Europeans do not wear flip flops other than to the pool or at the beach.
  • Put all liquids that are in your carry-on into a zip-lock bag. And remember the 311 rules: TSA | Transportation Security Administration | 3-1-1 on Air Travel
  • All scissors, fingernail clippers, etc. are better packed in your check-in luggage along with liquids over 3 ounces. Bring enough contact lense solution and prescription medication that you may need for the whole duration of the trip.
  • If you forget anything there are plenty of shops where you can by shampoo, toothpaste, etc.

You can also check more info on:
Little things to know about Spain and Portugal before packing
Travel tip: Money matters

Please do not hesitate to address us with any questions you might have about this or any other matter. We would love to help you!!

References for weather:

Little things to know about Spain and Portugal before packing

At Incantato Tours, we strive for you to enjoy every single step of your way. Here you have some info on little things you might want to know about Spain before getting on the plane. Maybe these tips are able to help you enjoy the trip better!

We have a saying that goes:
“one just-in-case is worth more than a hundred if-I-had-known”

- It is customary to always have some kind of picture ID. You can use your passport or your driver's license. It is a good idea to have a photocopy of your passport to be kept with the rest of your valuables.
- In order to use a credit card, you will need to activate it and get a pin number before coming. Let your bank know that you will be using it abroad so that the card will not get blocked!
- American Express credit cards are not accepted in many places.
- Any kind of Traveler Checks are not accepted. If they are, it can become very expensive.
- Please click here for more info on money matters.
- Food and clothing are generally more expensive in Spain than in the USA. Portugal is cheaper than Spain for most things.
- It is forbidden to smoke in all public places.
- Please bring a photocopy of your prescriptions in case you need medication. This is a just-in-case! The active ingredient is good to know too, as we do not always have the same medicines (though mostly).
- Old towns mean cobblestones and hilly streets, pedestrian areas, steps, stairs... Happy feet help to have a happy tour. Please bring flat, comfortable shoes.
- Flip-flops are definitely not comfortable in our old towns, but they might be in the hotels. We do not walk around barefoot! Remember that March maybe rainy, especially in Portugal!
- Showing your knees/shoulders is forbidden inside churches. We will be entering churches almost daily – concerts, art, history... Please bring appropriate clothing. Knee-long pants/skirts, girls can use a scarf to cover their shoulders. Men are not supposed to use scarves, so please do bring shirts with sleeves (short or long)
- Pocket-knives, scissors and sometimes drinks and food are not allowed inside some monuments and museums.
- Laundry service in hotels can be very expensive. Unfortunately there are only a few laundromats around the student areas of Madrid and Barcelona. Try and pack accordingly if you are able.
- Suitcase: 1 per person, NOT heavier than 50 pounds!!
- You can also see Travel tip: What to pack and Weather for Spain and Portugal, for more info.

If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. There are so many little things that we can tell you!
Hasta la vista!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Travel Tip: Money matters

Dear travelers,

Money is a delicate subject. The best way to use your money during your upcoming trip is to have a debit card; this allows you to withdraw money from any ATM machine with only being charged a small withdrawal fee. This fee will differ between banks. Be sure to call your bank before your departure to tell them where you are going and for how long so they won't freeze your account. The debit cards given by a bank has the compatibility of Visa, MasterCard, however, Visa is the most widely accepted worldwide.

Euro bills and coins.
If you bring cash, you can exchange it but you will lose more money as they often charge for their services. Most places in Europe won't accept traveler's checks anymore. Also, be prepared to pay for water and a small fee for restroom use. There are no free refills on soft drinks in Europe which is why most Europeans ask for little to no ice in their drinks.
We suggest you have some
spending money available and our recommendation is around $20/day for the meals not included, snacks, drinks, postcards and some souvenirs. It is not imperative that you have this amount of money. 

There are many ways to lower your expenses such as:
  • Most restaurants have menus outside so you can check their price range. 
  • Venture off the main roads to find a restaurant. These usually have more character, better food, and better prices. 
  • Bring your own water bottle. Most places have safe tap water to fill up with. 
  • Buy food from the "convenient" stores. You don't have to sit down in the restaurant for every meal. 
  • Shop around for souvenirs; many stores have the same things on sale for very different prices.
Remember that your Incantato Tour Manager is with you pretty much 24/7. The guide is there to help you make the right choices.

Home away from home: Rafaelhoteles Atocha, Madrid

The travelers of the Western Reserve Academy will spend their first night in Spain in the country's capital of Madrid. The night of Tuesday, March 13th will be spent in Rafaelhoteles Atocha, located conveniently near the city center. It is just ten walking minutes from the tourist attraction and train station Atocha, as well as a short walk from the famous El Prado Museum and Reina Sofia Art Center.

The 245 rooms themselves are decorated in a modern decor with an art flair. They feature a full bathroom, satellite TV and WiFi. The breakfast buffet is served in the Azafran restaurant, which otherwise features Mediterranean cuisine using only seasonal ingredients. A gym and terrace are also available for use.

Your home away from home: Hotel Maria Cristina, Toledo

After Madrid, the next stop for singers, musicians, their family and friends of the Western Reserve Academy Choir & Ensemble will be the Maria Cristina hotel in Toledo on the night of Wednesday, March 14th. The hotel itself is a historical building and located at the entrance of the city of Toledo. It is just twenty minutes from the historical cathedral, the monastery and the El Greco Museum.
Besides the in-hotel restaurant El Abside, which serves typical Spanish dishes of the region, as well as international cuisine, the hotel rooms also feature flat-screen TVs, WiFi, a telephone and WiFi. 
More photos can be found in the hotel's picture gallery

Home away from home: Hotel Selu, Cordoba

After Toledo, Incantato Tours takes you further south to the historic city of Cordoba. Here, the travelers of the Western Reserve Academy will spend the nights of Thursday, March 15th and Friday, March 16th in the three star Hotel Selu. Located in the commercial and historical center of the city, most of the sites the city has to offer are within walking distance. Moreover, many of this city's tourist attractions are not only famous around the world, but also part of an area considered a World Heritage Site.

Decorated in a classic style, the 104 rooms in the hotel itself offer air conditioning, direct dial telephone, cable TV, as well as internet access throughout the entire hotel. In addition to a terrace, coffee shop and restaurant, a breakfast buffet is also served.

Your home away from home: Hotel TRH La Motilla, Sevilla

Saturday, March 17th through Monday, March 19th will constitute the fourth stop in Spain for the Western Reserve Academy Choir and Ensemble. These two nights will be spent in the Hotel TRH La Motilla in Sevilla. Strategically located, the four star hotel is in a residential area yet still only five minutes from the center and fifteen minutes from downtown Sevilla. The rooms are outfitted to international standards with air conditioning, TV and a balcony. WiFi is available for free. Additonally, the hotel features a cafe and restaurant where breakfast will be served. 

Home away from home: Hotel Real Palacio

What better way to end your journey than by staying at five star hotel, especially when Incantato Tours offers this upgrade free or charge? The Real Palacio in Lisbon is our way of saying thank you to a special returning group of travelers from Western Reserve Academy for the two nights of Tuesday, March 20 and Wednesday, March 21. This deluxe and historical property is located in a quiet quarter right in the very heart of Lisbon. Originally a 17th century palace, Hotel Real Palacio has been converted into a modern hotel with a myriad of amenities, while retaining the original architectural elements and natural ambience. The beautiful patio is a great place to sit, read a book or simply relax. 

Individual air-conditioning, free internet services, cable TV, safe and even a magnifying mirror in the en-suite bathroom are some of the features. There is also a health club with exercise equipment. Spa treatments are available. Breakfast is served buffet-style in the Real Restaurant. Click here for a photo gallery.