Over spring break, the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point Concert Choir enjoyed the fun and food of Europe as they performed in Italy.
28 choir members and their professors experienced Italian life and culture as they toured Rome and Florence. This was the first time in over 25 years that a choir toured overseas.
“The trip could not have gone better,” said Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities, Lucinda Thayer. “All of our flights were on time, no one got lost or hurt, and nothing was stolen. It really was amazing luck.”
The group went from Chicago to Zurich to Rome, where they performed in four shows, which were part of the Festival of Peace and Brotherhood.
In preparation for the festival, the Concert Choir learned a few songs that they would sing with other choirs from around the world. They met a few choirs from Italy, as well as two from the United States. The mutually learned songs were performed at the end of the concerts.
The group performed during a mass in a town outside of Rome on Sunday.
In addition to the scheduled concerts, the choir had a few opportunities to sing impromptu shows. One occurrence was in the Parthenon, when a tour guide asked the choir if they could sing for the group.
“If you don’t know much about the Pantheon, it’s basically a large dome, and the center of the domed ceiling is open,” said senior vocalist Molly Vechart. “Not to be too nerdy, but the acoustics and reverberation in the Pantheon are amazing! Our final chord echoed off the walls to the top of the dome and out the opening in the roof. How lucky we were to have that experience.”
Another spontaneous performance occurred when a flight attendant on their flight to Zurich learned of the group. The flight attendants gave out chocolates to the choir in exchange for a performance for the cockpit crew.
The same thing happened in a cathedral in Florence.
“There were a lot of tourists hanging around, probably a couple hundred people. That was pretty cool.” Professor Thayer said.
The repertoire consisted of 13 pieces by Italian, English, German and American composers. One piece, performed in Palestrina, was composed by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, which translates to “of Palestrina.” The choir saw that as a great honor to perform where the composer was from.
Preparations for the trip began in September, when the choir had to send in a recording of their sound to be accepted into the festival. Rehearsals began the first day of spring semester. Aside from a few graduated seniors, the choir is relatively the same as fall semester.
Singing was not the only event on the agenda for the students and professors. They also toured a lot of Rome and Florence, visiting the Sistine Chapel and Vatican museums.
“The entire trip was unforgettable,” Vechart said. “Many of the upperclassmen saw this trip as a ‘last hurrah’ before graduating or leaving for student teaching, and it was the perfect ending to a fantastic four years at UWSP.”
“It was through singing and being in a different culture that I saw what Italy was like and what my experience was meant to be,” said choir member Jonathan Smith. “Singing was the vehicle that got the choir to go to Italy, but the experience was much more than that.”