Sep 12 2020

How has a tour helped your group make a connection?

We believe tours are powerful tools for facilitating connection, be it to repertoire, audience, history, each other, or in many other ways. Here are some connection stories from recent tours:

“As the choir of an American Episcopal Cathedral, our 7 tours of England with ACFEA have forged a strong connection among us to our Anglican roots.  Singing services at Westminster Abbey, York Minster, St. Paul’s and Durham Cathedrals, along with so many others, have strengthened our bond to the Anglican Communion and its centuries old worship traditions.

They have also brought us a richer appreciation for the music we sing on a weekly basis. Though not exclusively English, a portion of our repertoire is by British composers from Weelkes to Weir. Singing it within England’s great houses of worship has deepened our understanding and appreciation of this magnificent sacred repertoire.  And perhaps most personally meaningful, we come back from each tour better friends, more grateful for each other’s gifts, and renewed in our commitment to our joint ministry.”

Robert Simpson
Canon for Music, Christ Church Cathedral, Houston, Texas

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“One of my most vivid tour memories is of a concert in Kwa Thema, a township just outside Johannesburg. It was winter there. Chilly, not icy cold, but cold enough that thick, choking smoke was pouring out of virtually every tin shack in the township. We descended from our buses to enter a cinder block church and wondered, how will we be able to sing in this smoke-filled environment?

My anxiety was amplified by the reality that this would be our first shared concert. What would they think of our singing? Would we sing well together? How would our “clicks” in the Xhosa pieces come off?

All that anxiety was for naught! Nothing could have prepared me for the sounds of ululation that poured through the room in the final measures of Moses Hogan’s “Great Day.” The joy that poured through that space was unlike anything we had experienced in nearly a dozen choir tours.

At the conclusion of the concert, we joined our voices with our host choir in singing Handel’s “Hallelujah”, quite possibly the loudest and exuberant performance of that venerable movement in history! What followed was quite extraordinary. The villagers had prepared a sumptuous banquet of food as a love offering for us.

Mindful of the extreme poverty, we were hesitant at accepting all this food. But, over and over, we heard, “we are so grateful you came to us, please eat.” “Thank you for your beautiful voices.”

This was the power of “connection” at the highest level. What started out as an evening filled with concern about smoke in the air, turned into an evening that was filled with love, made possible by the power of music and especially, human beings singing together.

Jeffrey Brillhart
Director, Music and Fine Arts, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church

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“A connection I’ve enjoyed because of a tour is with other ChoralArt singers, in wonderfully surprising and deeply satisfying ways. Thanks to pre-tour rehearsals, and to the gift of time that ACFEA built into our itineraries, allowing for leisurely conversations in hotel lobbies, unhurried dinners, and forays in the wonderfully fascinating cities we visited. The friendships that we forged on those two trips still delight us now.”

Breda White
ChoralArt tour participant

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“The Irish have a special affinity to connection with special places and people. The mystics among the Irish note that Ireland has many “thin places,” where the line between the normal world and the mythic is blurred. Connection, for me, goes beyond the pleasure of being somewhere beautiful or historic or significant. It is instead a feeling that extends beyond the limits of time and space; it speaks to my soul. In the words of William Butler Yeats, “I hear it in the deep heart’s core” (The Lake Isle of Innisfree, 1888). I felt this connection several times on our tour.

One was during a concert that we shared with Credo Vocal Ensemble, a well-known singing ensemble based in Trim, County Meath. We were hosted by the St. James Church of Ireland, Athboy, whose rector and parishioners could not have been more welcoming. The Ensemble, under the direction of Tracy Nagle, were equally engaging.

The connection started with this hospitality, and extended into the rehearsal time, for we had agreed to share four pieces of music, two selected by each conductor. One of those pieces was my arrangement of the American folk song “Shenandoah.”

In my introduction to the song, I mentioned, “This song is a lover’s lament from a French-Canadian fur trapper to his Native American princess, traveling the plains of America before it was a country, sung tonight by a combined choir of Southern Californians and an ensemble from Trim, in an Irish church. It doesn’t get much more international than that!”

As I was speaking, my words became, for me, much more that a humorous aside. I was acutely aware of the universal language of music, which calls people together in a way nothing else can. Songs of love, songs of longing, songs of travel, songs of home exist in every culture, and for that moment, a room full of diversity became united by the power of music.

This magic is very familiar to the Irish, and that magic touched all of us that night.

Frank Hallock
Director of Music, United Methodist Church of Vista

Read more about Frank’s tour here

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“The Northern Arizona University Shrine of the Ages Choir has taken international tours to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the Baltics with ACFEA, because of three important things: cost, communication & connection.

When working with Hugh Davies and his professional staff located in offices around the world, you receive in person meetings that will address every aspect of your specially designed tour.  ACFEA organizes special post-concert dinners with internationally known host choirs and educational tours with knowledgeable guides from each country.  This is a tour company that provides an outstanding level of customer service, attention to detail, and priceless educational connections to the people and places in singing cultures on every continent.”

Edie Copley
Director of Choral Studies, Northern Arizona University

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Do you have a story about a special connection you made on tour? We’d love to hear it! Email us at info@acfea.com

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