Volume 43 | Number 1 | Fall 2012
Photos submitted by ISU Chamber Choir
Fall 2012 Issue | By Andrew Taylor
"It was incredible. I have no words to explain it," said Luis Rodriguez, Idaho State University Chamber Choir president, who was one of its 22 members that sang in St. Peter's Basilica this May as part of a singing tour. "We were in the home of (composer) Palestrina (who died in 1594) and he composed for the space we were singing in. It was a fantastic experience."
Members of the ISU Chamber Choir completed a two-week singing tour in Europe this May. The majority of the tour was spent in Italy, where the choral group performed at other concerts, Masses and recitals in Rome, Siena, Florence, Lucca and Venice. The trip ended with four days in Innsbruck, Austria, where the choir participated in a choral festival.
One of the biggest highlights of the trip for most choir members, however, was performing at St. Peter's Basilica. Freshman John Punt, 19 of Idaho Falls, added his take on this performance.
"I've never performed in a setting on the scale of St. Peter's Basilica," he said. "Being in such a great hall like that was amazing."
There were about 1,000 people in attendance at the Mass, according to Scott Anderson, Chamber Choir director and director of ISU Choral Activities, who said, "Only a handful of choirs get to sing Sunday Mass at the Main Altar in St. Peter's Basilica. It's very significant, and I could honestly tell the students on the tour that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Before the tour, Anderson had to submit recordings of the ISU Chamber Choir to the Vatican, which then approved the performance.
"I enjoyed that venue (St. Peter's) the most because there was such historical significance there," said Princess Young, a graduating business major from Mountain Home. "St. Peters is an epicenter for the Catholic religion, which has shaped a lot of the history in that area."
Not all of the group's concerts were on such a scale. An unscheduled performance in an 11th-century church in San Gimignano, a small medieval town outside of Florence, was also one of the tour's more memorable experiences, according to both Anderson and Punt. That performance was as intimate as the St. Peters concert was grand.
"We had not even planned singing there, but the guide spoke to the priest and we sang a song," Punt said. "Then the priest gave us a tour of the church, speaking Italian the whole time that was translated by our guide. It was something you can't pay for. It was a unique experience."
Although the choir performed only for the priest and a few tourists in the ancient, fresco-decorated church, it was still special.
"It was an overwhelming moment for me," Anderson said. "The sound of the choir in that 10th Century church was incredible, it was a rarified moment. There were only a few people in the church, but that didn't matter."
The choir finished its tour with a four-day stay in Innsbruck, Austria, to participate in the "Eph Ehly, The Passion Within Choral Festival," which featured four other U.S. university choirs touring Europe. The 75-year-old Ehly who the festival was honoring, was a mentor and teacher of Anderson when the ISU director was pursuing his doctorate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Ehly was also a close friend to Anderson, and to the other choir directors who were participating in the festival. This gave the ISU Chamber Choir's participation in the festival an especially personal twist for Anderson: Ehly could not attend the festival because he was dealing with the serious illness of his wife Jan. Only four months before, the Ehlys had lost their home and possessions to a fire.
"He couldn't make the trip. There was a lot of heavy emotion surrounding the festival, because of all Ehly was going through," Anderson said. "My students had never met Ehly, but they got to know him through the synergy between the other directors and me. There was an extra sentiment at the festival, especially at the final concert."
Tour highlights were many for the ISU contingent, from enjoying the canals and wonders of Venice to strolling around Florence and seeing the statue of David. And then there was the view of the Alps from Innsbruck. And too many other highlights to list.
"It was one of the best experiences of my life so far," Punt said. "Particularly in terms of understanding other cultures and where we come from. The whole thing in general was a unique experience."
Young expressed her gratitude at having participated.
"I am very thankful I got to go on this trip," she said. "I'm thankful the music department and ISU offer these kinds of opportunities."
Rodriguez perhaps spoke for many of the other participants when he said, "There was no favorite part for me; it was all just so amazing. I just wish it didn't end and I want to go back."
Scott Anderson with ISU music graduate Abbi Clark and Choir President Luis Rodriguez.