LMU Choir Tours Italy, Sings at the Vatican

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In a tour of Italy, the Loyola Marymount choruses sang six different engagements in three Italian cities this summer, culminating with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and a private concert in the Sistine Chapel. Led by Mary Breden, director of choral activities and chair of the Department of Music, the 100 members of the LMU choruses performed free concerts for the public in Lucca and Venice, where they also sang a second Mass in St. Mark’s Basilica.

The private concert in the Sistine Chapel took place in the evening of Saturday, June 20. Earlier in the day, the LMU choruses had performed in St. Peter’s along with singers from two Bay Area preparatory schools. After dinner, the LMU singers, parents and guests returned to the Vatican Museums and were taken to the Sistine Chapel, where they were alone with the Michelangelo fresco. The sun was just setting, the moon was rising; and then they sang.

“It was a huge honor to sing a Mass in St. Peter’s and the private concert in the Sistine Chapel,” said Rachel Van Houten ’03, who has been a member of the choir for 10 years and graduated with a degree in art history. ”It was the most perfect way for me to experience all that amazing art and to perform music in this historic setting, at the same time. It was amazing. For me, it was unforgettable; the experience of a lifetime.

“As I was there singing, I was very aware I of the Michelangelo in that space. I felt that there was another presence in that room.”

The concerts were part of a nine-day tour that included climbing the tower of Pisa, touring the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs in Venice, and a trip to the Accademia museums in Florence to see Michelangelo’s David.  In each of those cities there were choral rehearsals, as well as a performance open to the public in historic churches, including the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice where Claudio Monteverdi was buried in 1643. There, the LMU choruses sang his “Quel augellin che canta.”

“Touring has always been a most valuable annual event for the LMU Choruses,” said Breden, adding that performing in new venues builds “consistency in performance quality and helps the students grow artistically into more mature and sensitive singers.

She described singing music that ranged from the 15th to the 21st century  “in venues older than any of the music as truly a magnificent experience. The singers’ reactions – listening to the never-ending echoes, interacting with the gracious audiences will always lend a most special quality to the memories.”

The LMU choruses include students, staff and alumni; about three quarters of the choruses are comprised of students.

Barbara Busse, dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, who was on the tour, called it a unique and special experience for the students. “This was not just the experience of singing in another location,” said Busse. “These were sacred places, was well as special acoustical environments, that were created to give the voice its most sublime realization…. In every way, this is an experience that gives the students the opportunity to learn about the power of the music that they have created.”

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