While most Brandeis students were catching up on homework, applying for internships and lounging around during February break, 25 students from Brandeis Chamber Singers toured Italy. The group not only traveled to Italy, but also performed in the Pope’s own home.
Brandeis Chamber Singers has not gone on a tour like this for a while, however, Associate Professor of the Practice and Choral Conductor Robert Duff collaborated with a professional tour company and colleagues in Italy to bring this tour to life. Although Duff is only in his first year as Associate Professor of the Practice of Choral Music, he has already made his mark in the music community at Brandeis. With Duff’s expertise and his students’ talent, the eight-day trip was a success.
“On any tour program, it is important to include repertoire by composers of the area, as well as introduce music from the U.S. to audiences,” Duff explained. For that reason, the group performed original works by Italian composers such as Claudio Monteverdi, Giacomo Carissimi and Giovani Luigi da Palestrina, along with American composers like Alice Parker, Moses Hogan, Stephen Paulus and Thomas Dorsey. “The pieces were chosen to challenge the singers, and to bring the audiences on a journey through music of different periods and styles,” Duff added.
With a repertoire as expansive as this one, much rehearsal was needed. The group is an auditioned-ensemble and rehearses twice a week, according to Duff. Although Brandeis Chamber Singers had been practicing since September, Duff had been planning the trip a year in advance, reaching out to companies for proposals. “After receiving initial proposals, student leaders of the Chamber Singers reviewed these proposals and collaboratively we fine-tuned the itinerary to include performances in historically important venues and specialized sightseeing opportunities,” Duff said. In terms of funding, students paid for 50 percent of the trip and the remains were covered by donations from the Brandeis Music Department, the Brandeis Arts Council and private donors, according to Duff.
The group performed at the Oratorio del Crocifisso in the early evening on Saturday, Feb. 18. The next day, the Chamber Singers sang in the Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City, also in the early evening. Additionally, the group performed at Sadum Hall for the Florence Jewish Community.
One highlight of the trip was the Chamber Singers’ joint performance on Thursday, Feb. 23 in Florence, which was not rehearsed beforehand. The performance took place in Il Conservatorio di Luigi Cherubini, a renowned institution that is connected to the Accademia dell’arte and houses Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture. Some students’ families even flew out to Rome and Florence for the performances.
“My favorite place to sing was the conservatory, also known as ‘the pink palace,’ since all the seats were pink because it was the last performance, and it seemed like everything just came together,” said Chamber Singer member Kaylee Wallace ’19.
Chamber Singers visited numerous attractions throughout the trip: the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Coliseum, the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, the Synagogue of Florence and Giotto’s Bell Tower, to name just a few. “Several of the performance venues were chosen in coordination with the repertoire, as the repertoire was first premiered in these venues,” Duff expressed. One of Wallace’s favorite moments was taking the classic tourist picture with the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
For pictures, more highlights and video clips of performances in Italy, check out “Brandeis Chamber Singers Italy Tour 2017” on Facebook.