Thursday, July 24, 2014

Château Vaux-le-Vicomte a top destination not just for Belcanto travelers

The long anticipated 2014 Enchanting Europe Tour with Belcanto directed by Mr. Bruce Koliha came to an end.
The group arrived safely back home in California, visited vibrant European capital cities such as LondonParis and Rome and made wonderful experiences along the way.

One of their top destinations during their tour with Incantato Tour was the privately owned legendary Château Vaux-le-Vicomte located in Maincy, France where they had a wonderful concert on Saturday July 5, 2014 in the stunning Grand Hall. This surely was a royal experience. If you are interested in the wonderful acoustics the château has to offer, please have a look at one of the Belcanto performances here on our Facebook page.

The baroque château was built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV. It was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th-century Europe. 
At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the "Louis XIV style" combining architecture, interior and landscape design. 

It is no wonder why every year many visitors travel to the château, which is located 1.5 hours outside of Paris, or why celebrities travel here for their destination weddings. When you step onto its grounds, you get an immediate royal feeling. It is almost like you are the living character of a fairytale. Where ever you look there is something interesting and incredibly beautiful to discover.
Even high-end magazines such as the Jetset Magazine, which is the number one affluent lifestyle print and online resource writes an article about this magnificent place as you can see here.

Incantato Tours recommends everyone who is traveling France to take the time and visit Château Vaux-le-Vicomte. You will not regret it!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wishing all of you flying on Sunday a safe and smooth journey - Welcome to the tour start in London on Monday

Dear Belcanto Travelers,
we wish you a safe and smooth flight tomorrow and hope you look very much forward to this journey. Below are some pictures from Saturday's final meeting at the Château Vaux Le Vicomte.
More impression and live coverage of the journey, please visit our facebook pages.
Bon voyage, auf Wiedersehen, your Incantato and Inside Europe Tours team.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Let's have a look at the weather forecast...

Since the Enchanting Europe Tour is going to start this week on Sunday, June 29, 2014, we thought it would be a good idea to have a look at your weather forecast for London, Paris and Rome. It might increase your anticipation and also helps you to figure out what to pack in your suitcase.
In case you have not seen it yet, please have a look at our blog entry regarding what to pack and how to pack for your tour.

LONDON - Weather forecast: UK's capital city welcomes you with plenty of sun, highs in the low 70s and lows in the low 50s. On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 there is some sun with a few showers possible (only a 30% chance of rain). Temperatures are very nice, highs in the mid 70s and lows in the mid 50s.

PARIS has steady temperatures in the 70s and welcomes you with lots of sun. And ROME has temperatures in the mid 80s and a mix of sunshine and some light showers.

Incantato Tours will also post pictures, videos and updates during the tour on our Facebook page, so please tell you family members and friends at home to have a look there.

How to display travel mementos?

It is summer time and vacation time and it always seems like a great idea to purchase souvenirs on your vacation, until you are home and do not know how to display them properly.
Unpacking from a trip often includes trying to find places to store or display random keepsakes you have picked up along the way. If you are a sentimental traveler, you may be trying to find a way to keep your trip memories alive in your home with the ideas below:

A shadow box is a great way to show off those mementos in an clean and classy way. All you need is a 12x12 Shadow box which you can purchase at Ikea, Hobby Lobby, Target etc., a selection of keepsakes, double sided tape, craft supplies such as clothespins, masking tape, decorative labels, hot glue gun etc. Source: Design Aglow

Or put your favorite souvenirs into pretty glass jars. Display these memory jars on your mantel and treat it as a living arrangement — continue to update or rearrange items as you see fit. Source: Martha Stewart

If you are interested in other ways to display your holiday keepsakes, please have a look here

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Travel Tip: Frequently asked questions and answers

What is the size limit and number of items for a carry-on?
You may have 1 carry-on bag - it must be able to fit either under the seat in front of you or in the overhead bin. We highly recommend something simple and easier to use such as a backpack. 

What are the airline carry-on container regulations?
No containers holding more that 3ozs of liquid are allowed in the carry-on luggage. They also must be in a plastic zip-lock or another transparent bag. Please also have a close look at the 311 rules by TSA (Transportation Security Administration).

Do I need to carry my passport with me all the time?
Ideally, your passport should be with you at all times because you are generally required to have some form of identity with you at all times. Please be “street-smart” and take care of pickpockets. Photocopies of the passport should be packed in your suitcase, available in your e-mail and Incantato Tours should also have a copy.

Do you have recommendations or suggestions on the type of power adapter needed and what voltage?
Electricity in Europe comes out of the wall socket at 220 volts alternating at a 50 cycles per second. In the US, electricity comes out of the wall socket at 110 volts, alternating at 60 cycles per second. Not only the voltages and frequencies, but the sockets themselves are different. Adapters and converters may be found at Target, Walmart and radio shack etc. Please also have a look at our blog entry regarding this matter.

Is tap water safe to drink in Europe?

Most European Union countries have implemented the EU Drinking Water Directive which makes it among the safest drinking water in the world. If you are unsure and want to be real safe, we would recommend to buy bottled water.

What is the average meal cost? How much money should you bring? 
As long as you are wise about your choices, meals can easily be 15 EUR or less. You don’t have to go to sit down at restaurants to find good food. But when you do want to sit down, you should check the menu outside to see if they have a "menu special" - you can get an entrée, dessert and a drink for a set price. 

What has the best exchange rate, using a debit card to pull money out or exchanging US currency?
By far, the best way to deal with money abroad is to use your debit or credit card. Most banks only charge around $2 per withdraw and they also take care of the exchange rate for you. Keep in mind that you need a 4 digit pin and also let your bank know in advance that you are travelling abroad. 
We do not recommend to bring Traveler's Checks with you. Please also have a look at our blog entry regarding money matters here

Do you know what the transaction fee is for withdrawing euros on my debit card at the ATM's?

This varies by debit card and cash machine used. Therefore we recommend to talk to your bank in advance.

What is the approximate exchange rate right now? 

It’s about $1.35 to 1 EUR (June 2014) 

Should I use a major credit card for all purchases in London or do I need a separate debit card for pounds?
You can withdraw pounds in England and Euro in France and Italy, so just one debit card will be fine. For major purchases a credit card will be best. Please note that you will be charged foreign transaction fees unless you have a card that covers those fees. Have a look at our blog entry regarding money matters here.

What happens if someone gets injured while in tour? Medical care and cost wise?Do they need a medical consent form for treatment?
It is mandatory to purchase travel insurance as indicated on your registration form. You can select any insurance provider you may like. However, due to good experiences in the past we recommend Travel Guard. Please find our blog entry regarding travel insurance here

Is there a dress code for non-singers/members of the tour for entrance into Notre Dame and the Vatican? 
A conservative dress code is just fine. We recommend to cover shoulders and knees and modest cleavage. We also dissuade to wear flip-flops.

What is your shoe recommendation for the tour?
We recommend no flip flops, closed toe is our personal recommendation, some light weight sneakers even or good sturdy sandals. Please have a look at our blog entry regarding packing tips here

Friday, June 6, 2014

Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli your venue in Rome, Italy

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, better known by its shorter name Santa Maria degli Angeli, is a unique Renaissance church in Rome.
It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, to the angels, and to Christian slaves who died building the baths.

In 1541, a Sicilian priest had a vision of angels in the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian. As a result, Pope Pius IV ordered that a church be built within the Baths. The church was designed by Michelangelo, who began work in 1563 but died a year later in 1564. His design was completed by Jacopo Lo Duca, a student of Michelangelo.

The exterior has a unique appearance for a church, since its outer walls consist in part of the brick of the Baths of Diocletian. Although the interior has changed considerably and the floor has been raised a few feet, Santa Maria degli Angeli is one of the places where you can best appreciate the size and splendor of the Roman imperial baths.
Like most churches in Rome, Santa Maria degli Angeli is filled with art and monumental tombs and also has some holy relics.

The Choir is going perform a highlight concert at this magnificent venue on July 7, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Travel Tip: Luggage Size

Since the 2014 Enchanting Europe Tour starts this month, many of our travelers asked about the suitcase dimensions and how heavy it is allowed to be. Please find the regulations for the two airlines below:

Air Canada:
  • Check one bag at no charge
  • Max. weight per bag: 50lb, maximum linear dimensions per bag: 62 inches 
  • Plus one small/normal size carry-on (measurements: 9 in x 15.5 in x 21.5 in, maximum weight 22 lb, including handles and wheels)
Here is an interesting link to double check the information provided above.

United Airlines:
  • Check one bag at no charge
  • Up to 62 linear inches L + W + H and 50lbs per bag
  • Plus one small/normal size carry-on (measurements: 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches, including handles and wheels)
Here is an interesting link to double check the information provided above.

Please keep in mind that if you max this allowance out already on the way over, then there is no room for souvenirs on the way back.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Ciao and welcome to Verona and Romeo and Juliet!

Based in Paris and Venice, Thello operates daily night trains from/ to Paris or Dijon and the major cities of North Italy such as Milano, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza and Padova.
The Belcanto Monte Vista HS travelers will arrive in the early morning at the Verona Porta Nuova Station, in the heart of the city where Rome and Juliet took place. During your night in the train, you crossed the Alps and the Po valley without any stress due to crowded airports and roads.

Take your dinner in the dining car and enjoy a pleasant and warm atmosphere.  The catering teams offer menus which suit every budget and taste. A selection of warm and cold dishes, tasty French and Italian Cuisine and a range of carefully selected wines are available. In the morning of your arrival, after you woke up, you can also buy fresh baked pastries and coffee to start your day.

Picture courtsey of

Have you ever crossed a channel with a train?

Eurostar is a high-speed railway service connecting London (St. Pancras) with Paris (Gare du Nord) and Brussels (Midi/Zuid). All its trains use the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France, owned and operated separately by Eurotunnel. The service is operated by eighteen-coach trains which run at up to 186 mph on a network of high-speed lines.

Eurostar has been hailed as having set new standards in international rail travel and has won praise several times over, recognising its high standards. The company won the Train Operator of the Year award in the HSBC Rail Awards and it was declared the Best Train Company in the joint Guardian/Observer Travel Awards.

Food and travel are important to Eurostar therefore every travel class has a special menu included. For the standard class for example, the company teamed up with Waitrose, UK’s favorite supermarket, to bring its travelers a fresh menu of delicious food such as sandwiches, salads, hot dishes and sweet treats.

If you are curious and would like to see a video of the Eurostar. Then have a look below:

Safe travels wishes Incantato Tours!

What to see and do in London in your free time?

Many of you might already have an exact plan of what to do during your leisure time at your 2014 Enchanting Europe Performance Tour with Incantato Tours. You will be able to see many of London's famous sights on your half day sightseeing tour on Tuesday, July 1, 2014 such as the Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.

The recommendations below are only suggestions and include things you might not think about and therefore we would like to bring it to your attention.

1. City of London Festival 2014
The annual City of London summer festival returns with a host of events in some of the capital's grandest settings. This year's program promises something to please every taste, from acclaimed comedy by the hilarious Richard Herring and Katherine Ryan to classical performances by the sensational London Symphony Orchestra, from jazz by Clare Teal and Julian Joseph to a whole host of free family-friendly outdoor performances which will be taking over the city streets from June 22, 2014 to July 17, 2014.

2. Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships 2014
The world of tennis descends on Wimbledon in South West London every summer for two weeks of tennis, strawberries and cream, and good-natured queuing. Wimbledon is one of four famous annual Grand Slam tennis tournaments held around the world. It's the world's longest-running and most prestigious tennis tournament. Games are still played on the original playing surface, grass, and there's a strict white-only dress code for players.

3. The Bowler Hat
See a series of comedy, theatre and cabaret performances within the quirky Bowler Hat venue in Paternoster Square. This unique venue in the heart of London hosts children's theatre, stand-up comedy, circus and cabaret events over three and a half fun-filled weeks.

4. London Eye
This giant ferris wheel is definitely worth a spin. Once you've boarded your glass-sided capsule (each capsule holds 25 people) it will be a half hour before you get back down. London Eye is a very slow ride but from the top of the 443-foot wheel you will be rewarded with gloriously views over London.

5. London Musicals
Why not enjoying an afternoon or night at one of London's great musicals? You can select between the award-winning adaptation of Disney's The Lion King, Andrew Lloyd Webber's epic musical Phantom of the Opera, the tribute to the music of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 named Thriller etc.

Dining with French politicians at Independence Day only at Chez Françoise

What a wonderful way to celebrate Independence Day. Your dinner on Friday, July 4, 2014 will be at Chez Françoise restaurant in Paris. It is located at Les Invalides in the 7th arrondissement and has been a Paris institution since it was founded right after the World War II.

Air France commissioned an elegant meeting place for its travelers, but with the politicians just across the street in the embassy, Chez Françoise rapidly became the canteen of parliamentarians, as well, and so it remains today.

It is a stylish and fine dining restaurant where the entire staff has a passion for gastronomy and a commitment to excellent service. It is set in the ground floor of the Aérogare des Invalides and boasts bright and relaxed terraces for both winter and summer.

pictures are courtesy of

Explore Paris, Dine at La Crémaillère 1900

Located on the Place Du Terte, in the heart of Montmartre, positioned at a small square behind Sacré Cœur is the restaurant La Crémaillère 1900, which literally means "housewarming party". The uplifting charm of the Belle Epoque lives on in this non-touristy cabaret restaurant.

It welcomes it guests decorated in a room dedicated to the 1900, with Alphonse Mucha style paintings of female dancers and 1900 inspired decor. Alternatively it also offers a private courtyard garden, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris, with its cobblestones, chestnut trees and and cast iron Wallace fountain, an iconic symbol of Paris. It specialized on traditional French cuisine and seafood. 

This will be your first dinner in the beautiful city of Paris on Thursday, July 3, 2014.

Have you ever eaten in a botanical garden?

Welcome to your third and last restaurant in UK's capital city London. On Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 6:30 pm you will enjoy your dinner at The Folly restaurant. 

The Folly is a stylish venue offering a variety of food and drink highlighting seasonal produce with a look that’s part industrial and part country living. 
The expansive venue is divided into separate areas including a deli and a flower shop during the day, which explains why you have the feeling of dining in a botanical garden. 
Upstairs, an open kitchen opposite an array of long picnic tables serves sharing platters, gourmet sandwiches, sea- and pub food.
The owners take pride in providing their guests with fresh, seasonal, delicious and beautifully presented meals throughout the day. We hope will you enjoy it!

Pictures are courtesy of

Dining like the knights did in London

This second fun and upgraded Incantato Tours dinner at the Medieval Banquet in London for Belcanto will be together with travelers from the Shadow Tour on Tuesday, July 1, 2014.

The Medieval Banquet is a theatrical dinner experience, situated in the beautiful location of Ivory House in St. Katherine Dock which is named after the hospital sited here 900 years ago. The hospital was dedicated to St. Katharine, a 4th century saint who was martyred by the Roman emperor Maximinus. She was particularly influential in the Middle-ages with her saint day celebrated on 25th November.

The restaurant's setting, decoration and details take you back to the old London where knights still existed and jesters entertained the king and the queen. 

The Medieval Banquet opened its doors 40 years ago, and is one of the most special dining experiences in London.

Pictures are a courtesy of

Belcanto Welcome Dinner in London

Since the 2014 Enchanting Europe Tour departs next month, Incantato Tours would like to share more news with the Belcanto travelers:
We managed to reserve The Counting House exclusively just for the travelers of the main Belcanto Monte Vista HS Tour for their welcome dinner in London on Monday, June 30, 2014 at 7:15 pm.

The impressive restaurant was built in 1893 as a magnificent banking hall, the aptly named Counting House. With chandeliers and high domed ceiling, plus plenty of the old fixtures and fittings still here, it's a stunning place to stop by for dinner, lunch or just a snack. 
The Counting House is famous for its great pie selection, which comes with a choice of mash or chips, including gravy and vegetables but also offers typical London dishes such as fish and chips. What will be on the menu for Belcanto? Join us for the tour meeting on Thursday, May 22 at MVHS in the choir room and you will hear all the details. 

Pictures are a courtesy of

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

2014 Belcanto Flight Schedule

1. Air Canada
Departure for Europe
Sunday, June 29, 2014
Air Canada flight AC758 leaves San Francisco (SFO) for Toronto (YYZ), Canada, at 8:50 am, arrival is at 4:45 pm local time. The group then connects from Toronto (YYZ) at 6:30 pm with Air Canada flight AC856 to London (LHR), England, with an arrival of 6:25 am local time on the next day (Monday, June 30, 2014).

Return to the US
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Air Canada flight AC891 departs Rome (FCO), Italy, at 11:20 am for Toronto (YYZ), Canada, to arrive at 3:00 pm local time. The group then connects from Toronto (YYZ) at 8:20 pm with Air Canada flight AC759 to San Francisco (SFO) with an arrival of 10:54 pm local time on the same day. 

2. United Airlines
Departure for Europe
Sunday, June 29, 2014
United Airlines flight UA930 leaves San Francisco for London (LHR) at 7:40 pm, with an arrival of 2:05 pm local time on Monday, June 30, 2014.

Return to the US
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
United Airlines flight UA041 departs Rome (FCO) at 9:50 am for Newark (EWR), to arrive at 1:45 pm local time. The group then connects from Newark (EWR) at 4:20 pm with United Airlines flight UA1284 to San Francisco (SFO), arrival is at 7:37 pm local time on the same day. 

Travel Tip: Electricity and Cell Phones in Europe

Dear Belcanto Monte Vista HS travelers, family and friends,

To charge your digital cameras, laptops, etc. in Europe during your 2014 Enchanting Europe Performance Tour, you will need an adapter.
The U.S. plug (2 or 3 prong here in the U.S.) will not fit in an European socket. In most cases the European socket takes a plug with 2 round prongs. The adapters allow an U.S. plug to plug in to the back of the adapter and the front of the adapter plugs into the European socket. You'll find adapters at stores like Radio Shack, Walmart or even online at etc.

Please click here for a detailed overview of all sockets types, here for a global map showing the spread of the different plug types used around the world and finally here for a detailed list of the countries of the world with their respective plug and outlet types, voltage and frequency.


Incantato Tours discourages their travelers to bring their cell phones to Europe because of the high costs for calls ($1/minute or more), text messages (50 cents and up) and data charges for online services.
Therefore Incantato Tours will supply a free local cell phone for the tour director to use with free incoming calls and allowance for emergency outgoing calls only.
If you would like to have more information on this subject, please check the "international section" of the website of your cell phone provider:

Your Incantato Tours Team

Travel Tip: What to pack for your Incantato performance tour?

Dear Belcanto Monte Vista HS travelers, family and friends,

Time for another travel tip. As your departure for your Enchanting Europe Tour 2014 gets closer and closer, Incantato Tours would like to provide you with some travel tips to make it easier for you to get ready for your upcoming tour.

Do you know anyone who absolutely loves to pack? Neither do we. We understand that for most people, packing for a vacation 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."

Two favorite ways to pack are the roll-up-squeeze (coiling your clothes for maximum space) and the layer-cake-technique of stacking your clothing items between sheets of tissue to prevent wrinkling.
The video below shows you how to pack like a pro:

Keep in mind, however, 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 to this code. And shorts should always go to your knees (both for ladies and gents).

Below 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. Please remember, airlines allow only one checked bag per person and a small carry-on.

A sample packing list (just a suggestion!):

  • Rain jacket, maybe with fleece insert (it is summer in Europe but it can sometimes get a little bit cold in the evenings)
  • Umbrella just in case it rains
  • An adapter plug and/ or converter (if you are bringing electronic devices, please check if they are compatible, most new devices are)
  • Camera and batteries or charger with adapter
  • At least two pair of jeans or 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 by TSA | Transportation Security Administration
  • All scissors, fingernail clippers etc. are better packed in your check-in luggage along with liquids over 3 ounces. Bring enough contact lens solution and prescription medication that you may need for the whole duration of the trip.

If you forget anything, do not worry, there are plenty of shops where you can by shampoo, toothpaste, etc.

Enjoy your packing and we are looking forward to start the tour with you.

Your Incantato Tours Team

Incantato's Travel Tip: Money Matters

Dear Belcanto Monte Vista HS travelers, family and friends,

We all know money is a delicate subject. The best way to use your money during your upcoming Enchanting Europe Tour 2014 with Incantato Tours is to have a debit or credit card.
Paying with these cards allows you to minimize cash needs and also allows you to withdraw money from any ATM machine with only being charged a small withdrawal fee. The fee differs 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 the bank have the compatibility of Visa, MasterCard. However, Visa is the most widely accepted card worldwide.

If you bring cash, you can exchange it but be aware that you will lose more money as they charge for their services. Please also keep in mind that most places in Europe will not accept traveler's checks anymore.
Also, be prepared to pay for water in restaurants and/or bars and sometimes a little fee for restroom use (usually 0,50 EUR).
We suggest you have some spending money available and our recommendation is around 20 US-Dollar (15 EUR) per day for meals not included, snacks, drinks, postcards, some souvenirs etc. It is not imperative that you have this amount of money, it is just a recommendation from our end and depends how much you plan on spending.

There are many ways to lower your expenses such as:
  • Most restaurants abroad have menus outside, so you can check their price range before you enter it.
  • Venture off the main roads to find a restaurant. These usually have more character, better food, and also better prices.
  • Bring your own water bottle because most places have safe tap water to fill it up with.
  • Buy food from the "convenient" stores (supermarkets). You don't have to sit down in the restaurant for every meal. It can also be very interesting to see the different products offered in a foreign convenient store.
  • Hop around for souvenirs if you plan on purchasing some because many stores have the same things on sale for very different prices. You just need to compare the prices. 
Please also keep in mind that there are no free refills on soft drinks in Europe which is why most Europeans ask for little to no ice in their drinks.

Last but not least, remember that your Incantato Tour Managers are with you pretty much 24/7. They are there to help you make the right choices abroad and answer all the questions you may have.

We hope you are looking forward to your upcoming performance tour with us.

Your Incantato Tours Team

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Belcanto Tour Meeting on Thursday, May 22 at MVHS now at 7:30 pm - Join our team and get more news about your upcoming journey with Mr. Koliha

We sure hope you have marked your calendars for the final Belcanto Tour Meeting at Monte Vista HS in the choir room on Thursday, May 22 now at 7:30 pm.

Two members of the Incantato team are coming to Danville to present the updated itinerary with already known highlights such as the performances at Southwark Cathedral on Wednesday, July 2 at 4:30 pm, the two Independence Day concert in Paris - Notre-Dame Cathedral at 11 am on Friday, July 4 and La Madeleine at 4 pm, the same day, the Highlight Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on Tuesday, July 8 at 5 pm followed only a few hours later by the Private visit to the Vatican Museum and exclusive recital in the Sistine Chapel - but also share news about the  the special Chateau concert on Saturday, July 5 at noon in the Grand Hall of Vaux-le-Vicomte and the extra Rome performance we were asked to include for Monday, July 7 with orchestra featuring Vivaldi's master work "Gloria" presented by the Belcanto singers.

In the true sense of a performance tour, there are many wonderful singing opportunities for the 100+ voices. An updated itinerary will also be presented and we sure hope to answer as many of your questions as we can during this visit and we hope you had a chance to read up on all the venues here on the blog, with the final Roman venue being presented on May 22 to keep a little secret in house.

Au revoir, arriverderci, we sure hope to see you there!

Notre Dame Cathedral welcomes Belcanto on July 4 at 11 am for a special recital

Notre Dame Cathedral, or Notre Dame de Paris, is for many the most important church in all of Paris, and it stands as the official chair of the Archdiocese of Paris. How fitting that the first performance in France's capital city for Belcanto will take place here on Friday, July 5, at 11 am. The 100+ voice touring choir under the direction of Mr. Bruce Koliha will be the featured guest performers for an exclusive recital at the main altar. 

The Notre Dame Cathedral is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothis architecture in France and throughout Europe. It was one of the very first Gothic cathedrals, and its construction spanned the entire Gothic period. Its sculptures and stained glass windows show a heavy influence of naturalism, unlike that of the earlier Romanesque architecture.

The cathedral suffered extensive desecration during the radical phase of the French Revolution in the 1790s, during which much of its religious imagery was damaged or destroyed. An extensive restoration project was completed in the 19th century, returning the cathedral to its original state.

Although several organs have been installed in the cathedral throughout its existence, many were inadequate for the size and acoustical structure of the building. The current organ, installed in the 19th century, is the master work of Aristide Cavaille-Coll. This organ boasts 7,800 pipes, 900 of them classified as historical, 111 stops, five 56-key manuals, and a 32-key pedal board. A two-year restoration of the instrument was completed in 1992, making the organ completely computerized under three local area networks.
The Notre Dame Cathedral bell towers house five bells. The great bourdon bell, Emmanuel, is located in the south tower, weighs just over 13 tons, and tolls to mark the hours of the day and various special occasions. On the night of August 24, 1944, as the Ile de la Cite was taken by an advance column of French and Allied armored troops and elements of the Resistance, it was the tolling of the Emmanuel that alerted the city that liberation was under way.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and

Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine: Belcanto's second concert venue in Paris on Independence Day at 4 pm

Belcanto directed by Mr. Bruce Koliha presents a special concert in the afternoon of July 4, 2014 at the wonderful Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (Church of St. Mary Magdalene or Madeleine Church) in Paris, which is a majestic work of art. It is a Roman Catholic church occupying a commanding position in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. The concert begins at 4 pm, but if you want to join the group for the rehearsal prior, you are welcome to do so.

The construction of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene began in 1806 by Pierre-Alexandre Vignon. It is built in the neo-classical style, was inspired by the Maison Carrée at Nimes, one of the best-preserved of all Roman temples,and is surrounded by 52 Corinthian columns embracing the church and each column reaches a height of 20 meters.
The building was intended as a monument to the glory of the Napoleon's Grande Armée. This commemorative role, however, was assumed instead by the Arc de Triomphe, and in 1816 the Madeleine was made a church by the restored Bourbon regime. Its interior, completed between 1828 and 1842 under the supervision of Jean-Jacques Huvé, was modeled on the Roman bath. After the fall of Napoleon, King Louis XVIII declared that the building would become a church and it was rededicated to Mary Magdalene.

Nowadays, the Madeleine Church has continued to be the church that the Parisian elite have flocked to for weddings and, alternatively, for funerals. One of the most memorable funerals was Chopin’s in 1849 when Mozart’s Requiem was sung.

What a lot of people do not know... There is a small restaurant in the basement of the church with an entrance on its flower market side. Here in the basement is La Foyer de la Madeleine open for lunch Monday to Friday, 11:45 am to 2:00 pm, except in August and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Incantato Highlight: Private Vatican Visit & Sistine Chapel Recital on Tuesday, July 8

What better place for the final performance of the 2014 Belcanto Performance Tour than the Sistine Chapel? On Tuesday, July 8, the 100+ voices under the direction of Mr. Bruce Koliha will be heard in this amazing venue during an exclusive private recital. 

Perhaps you have visited the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel once before and, like everyone else, had to endure the countless tour groups, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, the guards barking “no pictures”, the fight for seats, and the shove to move on to make room for the masses behind you. Afterward, perhaps you were left feeling more like you had just completed a sprint past 500 years of art and history rather than having actually seen anything. There is, however, a way to experience the place where popes are elected with all the intimacy and spirituality that one could hope for in order to truly appreciate its significance: a private after-hours visit to the Vatican Museums, culminating in a special recital in the Sistine Chapel. 

The Vatican Museums are indisputably one of the finest collections of art in the world. As seen today, the Musei Vaticani consist of 13 pontifical museums and galleries that began under the patronage of the popes Clement XIV (1796-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799). They were among the first to open collections of art to the general public for viewing and thus promoting culture among the masses. As time passed, more popes added to the already impressive collection of various art and artifacts on display in the Vatican. The museums include some of the most important sculptures from the ancient world, such as the Laocoon and the Apollo Belvedere. Moreover, papal patrons commissioned renowned works of art such as the stunning frescoes of Michelanglo in the Sistine Chapel and those by Raphael in his stance.

The Sistine Chapel, which takes its name from its founder, Pope Sixtus IV, is the main chapel in the Vatican Palace and has been covered with frescoes by some of the finest artists of the 15th and 16th centuries. There are 12 paintings on the side walls depicting episodes from the life of Christ and Moses by artists such as Perugino, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Signorelli. Completed between 1534 and 1541, the treasure of the Vatican Museums is the works by Michelangelo, including the fresco The Last Judgment, on the altar wall. His magnificent ceiling masterpiece depicts scenes from the Old Testament and is one of the world’s most famous works of art, attracting up to 20,000 visitors a day.

In order to fully be able to enjoy this truly magical and memorable place, you have the opportunity to take advantage of Incantato Concert Tours’ unique connections which make it possible for us to organize a special private visit, offering you the opportunity to see these works as they were originally viewed and contemplated by the Popes themselves. This after-hours visit is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It means that you will have the chance to admire this historical collection only in the company of your own group and not with the never-ending crowds that normally are part of the public viewing process. This private visit will be led by a specialized docent/expert guide and offers an exceptional opportunity for an intimate visit and lecture on the Vatican and its impressive collection. As a highlight of this private experience, your choir will be allowed to perform in the Sistine Chapel. It is only during these private visits that singers are granted permission to give a 25 minute sacred recital – a truly unforgettable experience both for the performers and the exclusive audience of fellow group members. 

Belcanto performance venue: Southwark Cathedral welcome the singers and Mr. Koliha on Wednesday, July 2 at 4:30 pm

The Southwark Cathedral is located on the south bank of the River Thames, close to the London Bridge. Nearby is the historic Borough Market and the Cathedral stands at the oldest crossing point of the tidal Thames. This was the only entrance to the city of London across the river for many centuries and a key point in the city infrastructure. Southwark Cathedral cordially welcomes Belcanto directed by Bruce Koliha for the first concert of their Enchanting Europe Tour on Wednesday, July 2 at 4:30 pm. There are no tickets for the performance, thus we recommend to come early for the best seats. 
It is believed that there has been a place of worship located on this site since around AD 606. However, there also may have been a church there earlier. Archaeological evidence suggests that a Roman pagan place of worship was located here well before. 

Nevertheless, the Southwark Cathedral is the oldest cathedral church building in London, having been "re-founded" by two Norman knights as a priory in 1106. While some parts of the building still date back to the 12th century, many of the original medieval features also remain. 
The Nave was re-built in 1895 to the design of Sir Arthur Blomfield. Beyond the Crossing in the oldest complete part of the building, the Choir and Retrochoir, dating back to the 13th century. Located at the end of the Choir is the Great Screen of 1520, filled with statues from the early 20th century. There is also a monument to Shakespeare, carved in 1912, and a memorial window installed in 1954.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Have you visited the Belcanto Photo Album on Facebook yet?

As the actual tour dates get closer, may we invite you to visit the Belcanto photo album on facebook?
Here is a direct link to it and we will soon share more information on the performances as well.

Belcanto Incantato Concert Venue in France: Chateau Vaux le Vicomte on Saturday, July 5 at noon

Just over an hour drive southeast of Paris you will find the stunning Chateau Vaux le Vicomte. With it's beautifully well kept gardens and fountains and statues placed throughout the grounds, you won't question why there have been movies and famous photo shoots taken here using the grand Chateau as it's background. 

The centerpiece of it's grounds and better known as the head turning optical illusion would be considered the large reflecting pools that are bordered by grottos and statues. A man was employed to work out the details in his design for this 'hidden distortion' in order to establish a different perspective for the people. The reflecting pools are narrower at the closest point to the viewer, (which would be from when you are standing at the rear of the chateau and looking out) than at their farthest point. This was deliberately done to make them appear closer to you. Once you are walking through the gardens you will then truly realize how large the premises are. 

Belcanto under the direction of Mr. Bruce Koliha will present a concert in the Grand Hall on Saturday, July 5, 2014 at noon. The 100+ singers have been cordially invited by the Chateau team and together with their families and friends will have a chance to also explore and enjoy this stunning place. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Your home away from home in the eternal city of Rome, Italy

The 4-star Atahotel Villa Pamphili, surrounded by one of the most beautiful parks of Rome, is situated in a strategic position close to the Vatican and will be your last home away from home from July 5, 2014 to July 9, 2014.
The hotel has 247 rooms overlooking the swimming pool open in the summer (from June to September) or the gardens, encircled by the green area of the “Valle dei Casali”. 
All rooms have balconies overlooking the park, garden or pool. General room features are magnetic locks, adjustable control air-conditioning, digital safe  and a direct telephone line. The rooms also offer a radio connected to television and satellite TV with premium channels and Pay TV.
It offers six tennis courts, a children's playground, a fitness center with equipment and a new SPA Wellness Center (including: swimming-pool with hydromassage; sauna and biosauna; Turkish bath;  emotional showers; relaxing area and beauty treatments rooms).

Pictures courtesy of


The new H10 Roma Città Hotel for your group's last few nights in Italy from July 5, 2014 to July 9, 2014. This 4-star hotel is located in the Marconi neighborhood just a short distance from the district of Trastevere and features all amenities travelers enjoy including comfy beds, solarium, national and international newspaper, ice machines, laundry service and also a rooftop swimming pool. Another great perk is free WIFI throughout the hotel - and even in high speed so you can upload all your pictures and videos.
The hotel has 181 rooms, which are equipped with flat-screen LCD TV with international channels, smart temperature control, pillow top , MP3 (audio) and PC connection, safe box and professional hair dryer.

Pictures courtesy of

Your first homes away from home with the Belcanto tour

From June 30, 2014 to to July 3, 2014 following two hotels will be your first homes away from home in Croydon, UK.

The Hilton Croydon Hotel, a 4-star hotel, was recently updated and is located in Croydon, which belongs to one of the eleven metropolitan centers in Greater London.

The hotel offers a fitness center, equipped with weights and cardiovascular machines, business rooms, as well as a British restaurant "The Larder Restaurant and Bar" and the "Hilton Croydon's Costa Coffee" café. Click here to take a look at the recent hotel restaurant menu. For families with children, it offers a special children's menu.

The guest rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows and offer internet access, a desk with chair, as well as a 32-inch LCD TV with on-demand movies.

Pictures are courtesy of


 The 4-star Croydon Park Hotel is centrally located and only a 7 minute walk away from Croydon town center. The hotel is family friendly and has its own restaurant, called Oscar’s Brasserie, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.

The hotel has 211 rooms ranging from standard and executive double rooms to junior suites. All rooms include free WIFI, 24 hour room service, flat-screen digital TV, tea/coffee making facilities, hair dryer, iron and ironing board.

Croydon Park Hotel also offers free use of the H2O Leisure center, which boasts an indoor swimming pool, with children’s pool, Jacuzzi, squash court, sauna, and gymnasium.

Pictures are courtesy of

Your home away from home in France

The 4-star Magic Circus Hotel, built in a manor style in the middle of a garden, is located right near Disneyland® Paris in Marne-la-Vallee and you will stay there from July 3, 2014 to July 5, 2014. It offers a fitness area, heated indoor pool, playground in the garden, and American-style air-conditioning among other amenities. The hotel will be able to accommodate all travelers on the main tour in their preferred rooms, so for two nights, everyone will be together here.

The 396 rooms and suites are reminiscent of the atmosphere of a circus. There are double rooms, family rooms and suites available. All rooms offer a view over the garden, the lake or the surrounding landscape and are equipped with high-speed internet access, flat-screen TV, cable TV with free children’s channels, coffee & tea making facilities, in-room safe, bathroom with bathtub, body care products from L’Occitane, hairdryer and beauty mirror and individually controlled air conditioning.

Breakfast and dinner are served in the restaurant l’Etoile. The restaurant serves traditional, seasonal cuisine and selected wines.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hotel Overview for the Belcanto Companion Tour

The Hilton London Wembley, is just yards from the world-famous Wembley Stadium and the historic Wembley Arena, located in northwest London. The hotel is only 20 minutes from downtown London and the theater district. It provides an indoor heated pool, whirlpool area, sauna and steam room. The rooms offer individually controlled air-conditioning, Hilton alarm clocks, wireless and wired high speed internet access and Satellite TV. The hotel also offers a laptop safe within the rooms. 

A recently transformed hotel the Pullman Paris Montparnasse, will be the home away from home in Paris. The rooms provide flat screen TV and wireless internet. The hotel is located considerably close to the main attractions such as the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and other city highlights. On the first floor located near the gardens, is the hotels own restaurant, called Justine. Also, there is a wine bar and a cafe where you can slip in for a casual meal or quick drink. 

Taking you back to the time of the Renaissance in Italy, this hotel is set inside of two ancient buildings in the center of Florence, which had belonged to noble Florentine Families. The hotel Boscolo Hotel Astoria is arranged by 98 different rooms, that range from a classic setting to more refined and larger rooms considered to be deluxe rooms. Throughout the hotel there are old frescoes on the walls, art and statues. There is a fine dining restaurant and wine bar, as well as on the 6th floor a panoramic view that gives a wonderful and different look at the Duomo of Florence. 

Modern with an elegant twist, Star Hotels Michelangelo is just a short walk to the Vatican in Rome. 179 rooms and suites, many that provide a look at the Vatican itself. Otherwise the hotel provides WIFI throughout the hotel, air conditioning in the rooms, a restaurant and bar, 24 hour room service and a personal safety deposit box in your room. In 2013 the hotel was given a Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor.