The UA Schola Cantorum choir will tour Belgium for the first time in May, as part of a biennial program within the choir.
The Schola Cantorum, Latin for “School of Singers,” was founded in 1957, by Richard Brothers, a professor of music. It is comprised of 32 male and female singers, both in undergraduate and graduate programs on campus, according to the UA website.
The choir will tour the country, performing in various cities along the way. In the last trip, the choir went to Puerto Rico, said Stephen Caldwell, director of Choral Activities.
Part of his job is to reach out into the greater international community, he said.
These trips are treated in the same way as study abroad trips, however, they are not for credit. Nevertheless, they are organized through the Study Abroad Office.
“Each of these tours are concert tours; it is the primary reason why we do this,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said he has been working for the past two years to schedule concerts in Brussels, Antwerp, Bruges, Ghent, Flanders and Maastricht.
For the 10 days they will be there, they will have six formal concerts scheduled, and a variety of smaller, more informal singing opportunities, he said.
Because the Tournai Cathedral is undergoing renovations, the choir cannot perform there, he said.
“Instead, we’re going to give a concert in a church across the town square, but we are going to sing informally in the church amongst the construction,” Caldwell said.
The choir will do this “for the opportunity to sing in that space, to sing some music that was written for that space,” he said.
Additionally, the choir will perform at the World War I Monument in Flanders. This not a formal concert, but members get together in a nice space and will sing a few pieces for that space, Caldwell said.
“Every time we do this, passersby stop and listen to us sing one or two pieces and everyone goes on their way,” he said.
Additionally, the Schola Cantorum will be performing at the universities in Antwerp and Maastricht.
For each student in the Schola Cantorum, the total written cost is about $3,000, and students pay a variety of amounts. Students going on the trip do some fundraising, Caldwell said.
Students did a silent auction Dec. 10, 2015 as part of the last concert of the year, in which they raised about $500.
“It all adds up over the course of a year’s worth of student fundraising,” Caldwell said.
The university department picks up as much as it can. The cost for the whole trip for 38 people is almost $110,000, which is not a cost the university can absorb entirely, he said.
At the end of the year, the choir ends up with several thousand dollars that can help decrease the overall cost per student. Another option is to start adding things to the trip such as more meals or group activities, and the students will decide how they will distribute their own fundraising that they did this year, Caldwell said.
Senior member Zachary Winn said he is looking forward to singing in unique performance spaces.
“We have several Renaissance pieces written by composers who lived in what is now Belgium, and the churches which they composed the music for are still standing,” he said. “While we are in Belgium we will have the opportunity to perform certain pieces.”
Winn also went on the trip to Puerto Rico in 2014, when the choir traveled to San Juan and Ponce to perform in churches, universities and schools.
“I remember that the locals loved our rendition of their national anthem, ‘La Boriqueña’,” he said.
The Schola Cantorum participated in fundraising events at Zaxby’s last fall, held bake sales in the music buildings and sold Schola Cantorum merchandise, Winn said.
“Personally, I’ve been working for the churches as a freelance vocalist and doing odd jobs to get the money together,” Winn said.
Junior member Erin Horner said she is looking forward to singing in cathedrals and visiting the Bastogne War Museum. This is her first trip abroad with Schola Cantorum, and the first time in 10 years the choir will visit Europe.
“Dr. Caldwell picked Belgium because the country itself is divided into different language regions; it’s like visiting a couple of countries in one,” Horner said.