HIGH POINT, N.C., April 27, 2017 – The places that inspired Bach and Beethoven to compose some of the world’s most revered music serve as the backdrop for an immersive learning experience for High Point University students this spring.
From January through May, HPU’s Chamber Singers are touring Europe as they study abroad and perform in venues more than 800 years old. The tour includes five countries – Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Austria and Hungary – and features sites such as the church where Johann Sebastian Bach was music director until his death and the palace of the family that commissioned Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.
Led by Dr. Marc Ashley Foster, chair of the music department and director of choral activities, the 16 students also take courses at Anglo-American University in Prague, as well as voice lessons, music theory and music history.
“Bringing an HPU choir to Prague for the semester to study in this magnificent place and perform all over Europe is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event,” says Foster. “Our students are rehearsing daily in a facility that was first constructed in the 1100s and is within sight of the building in which Beethoven stayed during his Prague visits. The fact that we’re in the shadow of the same tree where he sat as he composed his seventh symphony is truly awe inspiring.”
Study abroad experiences at HPU are designed to enlighten, challenge and prepare students to live lives of significance in a global context. Shannon Howard, a junior music and theatre major, says performing in centuries-old churches and cathedrals with others who are passionate about music has been a life-changing experience.
“Being able to do what I love all around Europe has been a dream come true,” says Howard. “I am beyond thankful to everyone who made this trip possible and for opening our eyes to what music can do all over the world while being able to experience different cultures and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings. High Point University, the Study Abroad office, Dr. Foster, my family and the other 15 talented students here with me have made this the best experience of my life. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
The choir’s performance schedule included a standing room only concert at Muzeum Hudby on Feb. 18 in Prague, Czech Republic, and a concert at Ignacy Loyola Church on March 25 in Wroclaw, Poland. During Spring Break in April, they took a nine-day tour through several countries. Stops included St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany; Dorfkirche in Jühnsdorf, Germany, where they were the first American choir to perform in the church’s 600-year history; Basilica St. Michael in Mondsee, Austria, site of the wedding scene from “Sound of Music”; and sell-out concerts with multiple encores at St. Michael’s Church in Budapest, Hungary, and Minoritenkirche in Vienna, Austria. They will wrap up their tour May 19 and 20 in Prague by performing at Lobkowicz Palace and St. Wenceslas Church Zderaz.
“Sometimes we study music history and the places and people that have shaped our art, and then other times we find ourselves immersed in it – walking, living, singing and learning amongst the very sights and sounds that have inspired people for millennia. This is what it means to study abroad,” Foster says.
Chamber Singers is the premier vocal ensemble at HPU. The auditioned choir, which is open to students from all academic majors, has toured extensively throughout the United States and abroad. International performances have included St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Duomo in Florence, Italy, and St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy. Each spring, the ensemble tours nationally, including its first-ever West Coast tour in 2016.