|Chorale Will Express Its Joyful Noise Abroad With First Holiday Trip to Europe
November 02, 2010
Contact: Bill Giduz
| Professor Ray Sprague led the Chorale recently in a performance in Davidson College Presbyterian Church.
Davidson's finest voices will be heard afar over the upcoming holidays as the college's Chorale makes a first-ever performance trip abroad. Over the years, the college's top vocal ensemble has regularly taken a week-long bus trip after Christmas to perform in cities east of the Mississippi. But this year instead of celebrating the New Year in Baltimore or Memphis or Atlanta, the 30 young vocalists will enjoy fireworks over Prague!
Professor of Music and Choral Director Ray Sprague explained that it's another way the college can offer valuable international experiences to its students. "We're happy to be able to offer a trip abroad in the context of a love of music that these particularly talented students share," he said.
He noted that the itinerary is structured to present classical pieces by three great composers - Mozart, Haydn and Handl - in cities associated with their work-Prague, Vienna and Salzburg. Sprague said the trip should help students understand the historical context of the pieces they are singing. "They'll be able to see how the music matches the architecture of the churches in which it was performed," he said.
The trip will begin with a flight from Charlotte to Prague on December 29, with an initial performance in that city at the St. Simon and Judas Church scheduled for December 31. Performances in Salzburg (Müllner Church, January 3) and Vienna (Maria am Gestade Church, January 5) plus free time for sightseeing are scheduled before the group returns home on January 6.
The selections by European composers will comprise the first half of each evening's program, while the second half will feature an offering of American works. The Chorale will sing spirituals as well as a work by Professor of Music and department chair Jennifer Stasack. The performance will conclude with a high-energy spiritual, "Plenty Good Room."
Sprague said the American music should be well-received in Europe because this country's genres have always been very popular there. He commented, "We often separate classical music from jazz and gospel. But in Europe these artificial boundaries don't exist and they are all equally viable types of music. It will be good for students to see how these different cultures coexist there."
Chorale member Wilson Mericle '12 said the prospect of the trip is giving the choir an exciting goal and additional motivation for their 90-minute, twice-weekly rehearsals this semester. He also appreciates the diversity of the repertoire they'll sing. "We do mostly classical music, so this is different and fun for us. We'll pay homage to the classical composers who worked in the cities we'll visit, but also present some music that European audiences might not hear so often."
Rosy Harvey ‘11 said the trip will showcase the Chorale at its best. "We're better this year because of last year's influx of talented freshmen, who are now sophomores. Compared to years past, we're much closer as a group," she said. "Rather than just identifying each other as ‘other Chorale members,' we see each other more as friends and get together more frequently apart from our rehearsals."
Sprague said it's remarkable that just six of the 30 students making the trip are music majors. "For a school our size, we have a tremendous arts program," he said. "One reason I enjoy Davidson is because you get so many students who sing not for a grade or credit, but because they love it. That makes a heck of a difference in rehearsal."
A member of the Davidson faculty since 1999, Sprague relishes the opportunity to lead the inaugural international tour for a Davidson choir. He ranks this opportunity along with another first in 2006, when under his direction the Concert Choir sang in Carnegie Hall as part of its annual tour.
Arrangements for this year's trip abroad are being handled by World Cultural Tours. Participating students will pay $1,500 each, with the music department subsidizing the cost by about $1,000 per student from its regular budget. In addition to students, the Davidson contingent will include accompanist Michael Rowland and a half-dozen other friends of the program.
The Chorale has warmed up for its trip with several performances this semester of its tour program. The group performed at Steele Creek Church in Charlotte in mid-October, and on campus at both its fall choral concert and a Family Weekend concert that it shares with the Davidson College Symphony Orchestra. In December it will be featured in the annual Davidson College Christmas Vespers.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,920 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.