Students learned a little bit about ancient choral music, and even more about themselves, on the Chamber Choir’s trip to Italy.
Ohio Wesleyan’s Chamber Choir, a select group of students from the Choral Arts Choir, spent spring break performing and sight-seeing in Venice, Sienna and Florence, Italy as a travel-learning course.
Sophomore Brianna Robinson said she could not believe she had the chance to go to Italy and was grateful for going on such a musical trip.
“We sang everywhere we had the chance to,” she said. “(We sang) in the churches and even in the St. Mark’s square at midnight.”
Sophomore Calla Loadman said she had always wanted to go to Italy, but had never been out of the country before.
“I’ve always enjoyed choir trips,” she said. “They are always the best ‘vacations’ I have been on.”
In between performances, the group also had chances to stop and experience Italian culture authentically.
“We went to several different churches, cathedrals and museums,” Robinson said. “We were able to learn a great deal about architectural and artistic history in Italy.”
Loadman said she was able to pick up interesting details of Italian history while on the trip.
“I learned random pieces of Italian history from specific cities,” she said. “Venice used to be ruled by a doge (chief magistrate) and I learned why people say ‘put their life in your hands’ from Siena.”
Loadman said the Chamber Choir also had the chance to visit specific places choral music was written for.
Some composers created musical pieces for churches that had double choir space – a choir on each side of the church – so the choirs could sing to each other during the performances.
“I expected to learn a lot more about why the music was written for what specific purpose it was written for, and I did learn that because we went to the places (it) was written for,” she said.
While the students became more knowledgeable about culture and history, Loadman said she also learned more about herself during the trip, especially because she has never traveled out of the country before.
“I learned to be more confident in myself while traveling and that I can be more adventurous and I can handle it better than I thought I could,” she said.
Robinson said the trip exceeded her expectations in the best way.
“On this trip I expected to learn a lot about music,” she said.
“I ended learning a lot about myself. I learned how to feel an indescribable connection to my roots, as the Italian people feel towards theirs. I have come back to OWU with a love for this community that grows every day.”
As the choir was traveling through Italy, the new Catholic Pope was being chosen in the Vatican City.
Loadman said one of her favorite parts of the trip was witnessing the white smoke emerging from the conclave.
“We sang at a Catholic monastery for one of their masses, and at the end when we were singing, the bells started going off and we didn’t know why,” she said.
“At the end, we asked the people why the bells were going off, and they said it was because the Pope had been decided.”
Among the various times of scheduled singing performances, Loadman said they also had some spontaneous performances.
“A group of us went to St. Mark’s square, that was flooded, and we started randomly singing in the middle of it and people started watching and videotaping us which was really cool and a good bonding experience,” she said.
Robinson said her favorite moment is one that she will remember for the rest of her life.
“My favorite part was in Sienna while we were singing ‘Ubi Caritas’ in a church,” she said.
“The priest starting singing with us. The sense of connection with someone who is so important to the religious community on the other side of the world was the best feeling I had the entire time. It brought me to tears.”
Loadman said the Chamber Choir plans on going on the trip again in a couple of years, but until then, they will be performing on campus several times this April, as well as performing with the Columbus Opera.