The Harmonium Choral Society, a community chorus based in Morristown, New Jersey, returned in July from its third European tour with ACFEA. Having ventured to Italy on its first tour and Spain and Portugal on it second, Harmonium decided to go a bit further afield to Greece and Turkey. The tour began in Athens, followed by a visit to the idyllic island of Chios, then a ferry to Ephesus and Izmir, rounded out by a final stop in Istanbul. Adam Aguanno, a middle school chorus director and veteran touring member of the group, offered the following thoughts about his experiences on this tour, and traveling with a chorus in general:
To an outsider, the Harmonium Choral Society is just a talented group of singers, and rightly so: our director of 25 years, Dr. Anne Matlack, chooses an interesting and diverse repertoire to keep both singers and audiences engaged. What the outsider doesn’t see, however, is that this group is a family. The musical and cultural experiences that we have shared on these past three tours with ACFEA have created memories that continue to make our family stronger and our choir better. For example, our first concert in the Ionic Centre in Athens was a joint concert with Oi Melodoi Choir, a newly-founded Athenian chorus.
Where words fail, music prevails, and that’s exactly what happened as our two choirs performed for one another. Language barriers and cultural differences were struck down by our mutual love of singing. Together, we performed “Samiotissa”, a Greek folk song from the island of Samos, only to have the audience clap in perfect compound meter and join two of our members in traditional dance. It’s experiences like these that make touring with a music group unlike any other travel experience. Our Facebook pages have provided an outlet to stay connected and share our positive experiences with one another. It seems that the Greek choir equally enjoyed having us.
Visiting Greece isn’t complete without some beach time, and there was no lack of stunning coastline on the scenic island of Chios, the primary place in the world where the Mastic-producing tree grows. So, where does one perform here? On the outdoor stage of the Citrus Museum, of course, accompanied by the sounds of nature and the cicadas. The unexpected bonus was that our concert was used as a benefit to support athletes with disabilities! Speaking of unexpected bonuses, we’ve never had such gracious hosts as the ones of Buca Baptist Church in Izmir, Turkey. After a traditional meal of meatballs and vegetables, we were thrilled to find out that the mayor came to enjoy our performance.
ACFEA better start on our next tour now if they want to top this one. It will be a hard act to follow!