Choral Travels: Oh, the Places We’ll Sing!

I was recently catching up on some reading on the new Chorus America website and came across an article titled “When It’s More than Just Singing–Choristers Share Their Most Memorable Experiences.” The piece is a compilation of quotes from singers about their “mountaintop” choral experiences. Reading about life-changing choral touring experiences reminded me of the year before college when I was singing with the Royal Choral Society in the U.K. That summer, I was among more than 100 singers loaded on buses and driven to Lyon, France, where we performed in the Berlioz Festival. Three decades later, I still remember the thrill of performing in the festival and exploring the city with fellow singers–definitely a seminal mountaintop choral experience.

Every season, Melodia’s Artistic Director Cynthia Powell and I talk about the places we’d like to take the group to sing. Favorites on our list include a visit to one of the great cathedrals in England to sing evensong while the regular cathedral choir is on summer vacation; or a trip to Mexico to sing a commissioned piece by Allison Sniffin on poems by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz; or participation in the International Choral Festival in Havana, Cuba. All seem to us to be very exciting, appealing prospects, but they remain on our “dream” list as we ponder the dauntingly high costs and administrative burdens of such a trip.

I’m encouraged to see that despite the economic struggles of the last few years, choirs are still managing to transport themselves to festivals and performance opportunities all over the world. A notice just dropped into my email box this week about New York’s Collegiate Chorale’s scheduled tour this summer with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Zubin Mehta and Riccardo Muti conducting. The tour includes two concerts in Israel and three at the Salzberg Festival. Repertoire includes works by Naom Sheriff, Schoenberg, Bruckner, Bloch, Mahler, and Verdi. New York Virtuoso Singers, with Artistic Director Harold Rosenbaum, is going to Denmark and Sweden in early June. The trip is sponsored by Roger Davidson’s Society for Universal Sacred Music (SUSM), and the choir is singing selections from past SUSM festivals, plus a collection of choral works written by Davidson, sung in Danish.

Many choirs that do not have sponsorship for their trips rely on a choral travel company to arrange the accommodations, travel, and performances. Recognized companies include KI Concerts, ACFEA Tour Consultants, and TRC’s Performance Tours. For these tours, a per-singer fee is calculated and members of the choir who can come up with the fee are on their way. While these trips are great for the choirs with enough singers who can pay the fee—which is often upwards of $3,000 depending on the destination—for many choirs, like Melodia, few singers can find the funds or take the time from other commitments and jobs. Some choirs are able to focus fundraising efforts on touring while others can’t afford to take the focus away from their regular seasons.

However you tour and wherever you go, planning for rest and music preparation in addition to some gentle sightseeing are additional ingredients of a mountaintop choral experience.

What are your experiences of choral touring?

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One thought on “Choral Travels: Oh, the Places We’ll Sing!

  1. Frank J. Oteri

    Of course, one of the best things about a chorus touring to another country (or any other ensemble for that matter) is the possibility for that ensemble to introduce the audience of that other country to music and to composers that the audience has probably never heard before and probably would never have heard otherwise. The programming of new music by many ensembles is still very focused on local composers and as a result many listeners’ sense of new music is deeply influenced by where they live despite the widespread availability of recordings from everywhere as well as all of our 21st century online inter-connectivity. (Which is why despite being online all day and being a voracious record collector, I try to travel as frequently as I possibly can so I can hear music I otherwise might not hear.)

    While indeed it is extremely important to focus on local composers in all of our communities, if there is any hope for the music of our time to gain a significant following and be music that is cherished beyond our time, new music must also be done from all over the place. Of course the best of both worlds is when an emsemble from somewhere brings the music of where they are from to another community. Choruses on the road are ideal ambassadors for such music, if only the finances could be worked out for travel etc. After reading your post, I know that I am extremely interested in hearing the piece your chorus commissioned from Allison Sniffin and I imagine it might have piqued the interest of other readers as well. Would that her music could be performed in Mexico, Cuba, and other destinations you mentioned here.

    Reply

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