The NOVA Community Chorus tour of Italy was an extraordinary success. The choir sang beautifully and represented the College proudly. This tour was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a great honor. The tour schedule was as follows:
Tuesday, June 25 at 6:30 p.m. (Concert)
Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice
This was the second day of the tour. Although a bit jet-lagged, the chorus quickly rose to the occasion. After a rehearsal in the church, they gathered in a piazza outside for an impromptu performance of a spiritual. It was fun to see people peeking from their balconies to see and hear the music. They had a full house for the hour-long concert. The audience response was overwhelming.
Wednesday, June 26 at 6:45 p.m. (Mass)
St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice
For choral musicians, San Marco is mecca. The chorus sang music by Gabrieli and Monteverdi in the place where the music was first heard. During quiet moments in the service, Dr. Mark Whitmire, director and professor of music says, ”I could imagine their faces peering out from behind the organ.”
Friday, June 28 at 2:00 p.m. (Performance)
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Il Duomo), Florence
In Il Duomo, the chorus stood in a large circle and sang Gabrieli’s eight-part motet “Jubilate Deo.” The sound was awesome as it reverberated through one of the largest domes in the world. Just before their indoor performance, they had given an outdoor flash mob-style performance of two spirituals. Over the course of the tour, the NOVA Community Chorus gave a dozen of these outdoor performances to the apparent delight of large and enthusiastic audiences along the way.
Friday, June 28 at 7:00 p.m. (Concert)
Chiesa di Santa Maria dei Ricci, Florence
Just blocks from Il Duomo, this church proved to be a little-known jewel. Since the logistic requirements of every space are different the choir had to be extremely flexible. They began with a haunting Gregorian chant sung by eight singers as the rest of the choir processed to the front of the church. Singers joined the chant resulting in a glorious “Alleluia.”
Sunday, June 30 at 5:30 p.m. (Mass)
St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome
There is nothing that can prepare one for singing at St. Peter’s. As Whitmire walked in the west doors to see the light streaming down on the Bernini altar, he felt as though his “breath was taken away.” The chorus gathered in a side chapel to prepare for mass while a vespers service was taking place, allowing them time to take in the awesome beauty of the setting. They began with Britten’s “Hymn to the Virgin” and the choir immediately responded with music that was thoroughly transcendent.
Monday, July 1 at 12:00 p.m. (Concert)
The Pantheon, Rome
This concert was a wonderful dessert to the aesthetic feast at St. Peter’s. The choir sang a 40-minute program in a large space that allowed a double-choir arrangement.
This was the sixth international choir tour by members of the NOVA Community Chorus. On previous tours, they sang at World’s Fair in Seville (1992), Gloucester Cathedral (2002), Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey (2006), Leipzig Choral Festival (2006) and Chartres, Rouen and Notre Dame Cathedrals (2010). Each tour has provided unimaginable educational and musical experiences for NOVA students.