After the Islamic State bombed an airport and subway in Brussels, Schola Cantorum choir officials decided to reroute the group’s upcoming trip to Belgium to exclude Brussels, the Schola Cantorum director said.
Forty-two Schola Cantorum members are signed up to attend the choir’s May 16-26 trip to Belgium, Schola Cantorum Director Stephen Caldwell said. The students were supposed to spend three days in Brussels and perform at the European Union headquarters.
“Given recent events and the magnetism towards the quarter around the European Union we decided it was probably not in our best interest to do that right now for safety concerns,” Caldwell said.
The Islamic State’s two attacks March 22 killed 35 people in Brussels, according to the Belgium Crisis Center. Terrorists planted bombs in a suitcase and with a suicide attacker at the Brussels airports, according to the Associated Press.
There were two suicide bombers at the airport. A third man, who is thought to be involved in the attack, is still at large, according to AP reports.
Forty minutes after the first attack, the Maelbeek subway was bombed, according to AP reports.
The Islamic State has inspired 16 attacks and conducted or been linked with 63 attacks worldwide, according to a New York Times article last updated March 22.
“The European bombings get a lot of playtime, so there’s a lot of focus in our media about it,” Caldwell said. “Not only do our students see it, but the students’ parents see it and our administrators see it, so it was a good decision to change that.”
Schola Cantorum member Michael Seck said he thinks that the recent attacks combined with riots in Brussels are good reasons not to visit the city.
“I understand people’s concerns, so we addressing those concerns by avoiding the city of Brussels,” Caldwell said.
Seck said that he is disappointed because performing at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Brussels was going to be the “big crowning event” of the trip. The choir will perform at the cathedral in Koln, Germany instead.
Because the choir will not spend the three days in Brussels, members will instead travel to the Netherlands and Germany, Caldwell said. The group will sing in castles and churches throughout the Rhine Valley. Officials did not originally plan for Schola Cantorum to go to Germany or the Netherlands.
“Luckily, in Europe, distances are a lot closer than they are in America, so instead of us thinking about having to go to Canada or Mexico to get to the next country, it’s more akin of us visiting a neighboring state,” Caldwell said. “The distances are that close, so going from Belgium into Germany is really like going from Fayetteville into Tahlequah, Oklahoma.”
Caldwell said that rerouting the trip does cause some problems because the choir has not been preparing to sing for a German and Netherlandish audience. The majority of the music the Schola Cantorum members have learned is French and Flemish because they planned to sing to a Belgian audience.
Because the choir will now be going to Germany and the Netherlands, the members might learn additional songs in German and Dutch, Caldwell said.
If the choir does have to learn additional songs, Seck said that learning songs in German would not be too challenging because most singers have performed compositions by Bach, which are in German.
Learning songs in Dutch might be more challenging, Seck said.
“I’m glad that we’re still going in the face of all the stuff that’s happened,” Seck said. “I think that it’s really important that we still go even though it’s a little scary.”
Caldwell said that even though the trip might inspire some amount of fear, he thinks it will be safe.
“If you’re looking for absolute safety in the world, I’m not sure you’re going to find it,” Caldwell said.