July 15, 2010
Music students experience European culture, perform in historic venues
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Fourteen Northwest students, their conductor and accompanist recently spent nine days in Europe, performing classic works at some of the places where the music was composed.
The group, combined with the 34-member Iowa Wesleyan College Choir from Mount Pleasant, Iowa, was overseas June 15-24 as part of a choral study abroad program. They performed at Santa Maria de Ricci in Florence, Italy; Salzburg Dom and St. Ägydius in Salzburg, Austria; Melk Abbey Church in Melk, Austria; St. Stephen's Cathedral and Karlskirche in Vienna, Austria and Haydn Hall in Eisenstadt, Austria.
"So much of the music that we study here is western European music and this gave us opportunities to perform music that was written by some of these composers in the environments in which they wrote them," said Dr. Brian Lanier, associate professor of music, noting the combined choirs sang works by Franz Josef Haydn inside the Haydn Hall of Esterházy Palace where Haydn himself composed music. "We look at it, we look at pictures, we listen to recordings, but to stand in these places, it's just really a significant experience for everyone."
Lanier said many students were fascinated by the beauty of the venues, as well as their history.
"We were singing in churches that had their origins in the 12th century," Lanier said. "St. Stephen's Cathedral was built in those times. That's 700 years ago and these churches are still there."
Mallory Brown, a senior public and private accounting major from Hannibal, Mo., said the trip fulfilled her goal of visiting Europe. She said she appreciated the chance to experience a different culture and "the opportunity to sing in so many beautiful venues made it irresistible."
"I think it was definitely the trip of a lifetime," Brown said. "We got to see so many sites and sing in so many beautiful churches. Sometimes I can't even believe that I got to experience it all. There was so much beauty and history in these places."
Among other highlights was the choir's invitation to sing high Mass at the Salzburg Dom on Sunday, June 20. Four hired string players accompanied the choir.
"We were actually using players who are professional musicians in Salzburg; these are the top players in the town," Lanier said. "We got to work with them and sing with them, and it was just fascinating for the kids - and me - to have that opportunity to conduct such quality people."
Lanier said his motivation for the study abroad program stemmed from his experiences with choirs he led prior to coming to Northwest. Traditionally, the music department has not offered study abroad opportunities, aside from regular tours taken by Northwest's choirs and instrumental groups.
Lanier organized the trip with Jeaneth Puriel, Northwest's study abroad program coordinator. Students earned a one-hour elective credit and were expected to keep a journal. The Northwest contingent included music majors and minors, ranging from freshmen to graduate students.
Additionally, the group visited several museums, including the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, home of Michelangelo's "David" statue. They toured several cities with guides, taking in various historical sites and monuments.
Lanier said he hopes to continue the music study abroad program and explore possibilities for future trips. He praised Puriel and Dr. Charles McAdams, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for their proactive support.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity to do this and really encouraged by the support from the University," Lanier said. "There is quite a push to have more study abroad involvement for all the reasons that we know - the exposure to other cultures and just broadening horizons. It does make a difference in people's lives."
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