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?