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After hours of rehearsal over two days with guest conductor Simon Carrington and two other choirs, the Southern choir finally held its first performance Wednesday evening.

Simon Carrington directs SCSU choir in Athens, Greece.

“The choir was superb,” said Southern President Mary Papazian. “I know how hard they have been working, and it paid off. They sang with great emotion. Their love of music and joy of song came through loud and clear. It was a thrill.”

The 52-member Southern choir was joined by the University of Alberta (Canada) Madrigal Singers, and the East Lansing (Michigan) St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Choir. They sang three pieces: Missa Brevis, Moonlight Music, and Aesop’ s Fables. The Southern choir by itself also performed a traditional Greek folk song, The Kalanta of the New Year (St. Basil’s Day); “Lullaby” from Three Nocturnes; Go Tell it On the Mountain; and I Believe. The haunting lyrics from the last piece were found etched into a basement wall in Auschwitz after the holocaust.

I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.

Choir director Terese Gemme complimented the group on all their hard work. “When we sing we give our gift to the audience. Tonight we sang with love.”

“Working with Simon was such an amazing experience,” said choir member Rosalie Coriolan, ’14. “I am so very grateful for this incredible opportunity.”

Top: Southern choir director Terese Gemme addresses the audience.
Above: Guest director Simon Carrington leads the Southern choir.

 

Athens Trip

After a second rehearsal at the Literary Club Parnassos on Tuesday, we sat down to a festival welcome dinner at the hotel’s rooftop restaurant, The Olive Garden (not to be confused with the Italian restaurant chain of the same name).

SCSU choir in rehearsal in Athens, Greece.

Fun fact: Greece is the third largest producer of olive oil, after Spain and Italy.
While helping ourselves to the sumptuous buffet, we enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Acropolis glowing in the distance. All were in great spirits, anticipating their first performance Wednesday. The romantic atmosphere even inspired two couples to announce their engagements! Geeta and Matt, left, and Nick and Ashley, center, pose with choir members after sharing the happy news.

Members of the SCSU choir at the hotel in Athens, Greece.

Top: Maestro Simon Carrington directs the choir during rehearsal.
Above: Choir members atop the hotel at the festival welcome dinner.

Tuesday dawned sunny and warm, perfect for a trip to the ancient city of Corinth. We boarded our motor coaches at the hotel entrance for the hour-long ride, guided by our Athens-based historian, Yannis, who provided colorful commentary on everything from the number of taxis in Athens (16,000) to the four pillars of the Greek economy (shipping, agriculture, industry, and tourism).

On the way were groves of olive, cypress, and pine trees; mountains disappearing in the mist; car dealers and auto parts stores; oil refineries; and highway signs in a mix of English and Greek. We passed a number of small, ornate roadside shrines, marking the sites of car accidents. Friends and relatives construct these as a thank you to the saints for sparing the lives of those involved in the accidents.

Corinth, Greece

Located on the isthmus that connects mainland Greece with the Peloponnese, and surrounded by natural springs, Corinth was the biggest city in ancient Greece. Ancient Corinth became a center of early Christianity, following visits by Paul the Apostle, a Christian leader who is credited with several chapters in the new testament. The ruins, a few miles from modern-day Corinth, were first excavated in 1892 by the Greek Archaeological Service, and are dominated by the remaining pillars of the Temple of Apollo.

On the way back to Athens, we stopped for lunch and a visit to the Corinth Canal. Constructed in 1893, the canal shortened the trip between Greece and Italy. Now popular among “bungy” jumpers, the canal is four miles long by 70 feet wide, with a height of about 300 feet, and rock walls that are nearly vertical. Several bridges span the canal, offering a breathtaking view.

The Corinth Canal, Greece

Top: President Papazian and several choir members at the Corinth ruins;
the remaining pillars of the Temple of Apollo; the Corinth Canal; at the Corinth ruins.

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Southern’s globe-trotting University Choir, led by Director Terese Gemme, travels to Greece this Sunday, thanks to the vision and support of Walter Stutzman and the Stutzman Foundation.

The choir has previously traveled to Ireland, England, and Spain, working with internationally-known guest conductors such as Simon Carrington and Craig Hella Johnson. This year’s 53-strong choir will be made up of current students, SCSU alumni, and longtime community members, and will once again be working with Simon Carrington. Also traveling with the group through Jan. 4 will be students from the Honors College class “The History of Athens.”

By arrangement with host company KIconcerts, our choir will be performing in several venues around Athens, including, by special invitation from the city, a Gala New Year’s concert at Syntagma Square. On Jan. 2, the choir will perform as part of a special holiday program at the Piraeus Municipal Hall, a classic architectural gem.

In addition to a busy rehearsal and concert schedule in Athens, the choir will travel to the islands of Hydra and Aegina, Delphi, and Corinth. This exciting trip will once again enhance the students’ musical education and global awareness, while providing them with a life-changing experience.

“Being able to perform great music with new friends from around the world in historic venues is awe-inspiring, and these trips, with their combination of musical inspiration, cultural exploration, personal discovery, and community-building experiences have been life-changing events for everyone,’ Terese Gemme said. “As an educator and as a musician, I can’t think of any more worthwhile endeavor.”

And KIconcerts President Oliver Scofield added: “SCSU is a choir that does more than sing for the sake of singing; through performance SCSU engages its students with the larger world as ambassadors of peace, bridges between cultures and custodians of better futures for humanity.”