A LOCAL choir is celebrating a successful landmark trip abroad.

As the Priory Choir gears up for the next singing term, staff and members of the group are reflecting with great pride and pleasure on their triumphant first overseas tour to Venice and Padua.

The trip included performances in three prominent churches, a spot of sightseeing, as well as singing together at every opportunity.

Colin Bacchus, project support officer at Christchurch Priory, said: "Our visit to Venice and Padua exceeded our wildest expectations, and most of the choristers have already told their parents they are definitely going on the next tour in 2019.

"As one of the singers, I have to say what a privilege it was to work with the youngsters.

"They knew they were representing both Priory and town, and did they step up to the mark.

"They gave of their very best the whole time we were there, and our director of music, Simon Earl, is so proud of them."

"An enormous thanks must go to Simon for pulling everything together and making it run like clockwork."

For a parish choir the prospect of singing Mass in St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, one of the most iconic church buildings in the world, would seem an impossible dream – but the group gained this exact opportunity at the start of the trip.

The congregation burst into spontaneous applause at the end of the service, which took the party by surprise.

On the Saturday evening of the trip, the choir travelled to Chiesa Santa Maria dei Miracoli to perform a late-night concert.

By the time the concert was due to start the extreme heat was beginning to tell, so the first half was performed in cassocks – and, to the bewilderment of the audience, the second half was in mufti.

After appearing live on Radio Solent on Sunday morning to discuss the performance at St Mark's, the group made the 80 minute bus journey to Padua to lead the main Mass of the day in the Basilica del Sant’Antonio.

The service provided a fitting end to the tour, performing to more than 1,000 people and again concluded with unexpected warm applause.

The group received a certificate of performance which will take pride of place on the rehearsal room wall.

Attention now turns to where will the choir go on their next tour, already pencilled in for 2019?