Berkeley First Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir 2015 Concert Tour of Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Greece
Berkeley First Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir performs in SvetaSofija Cathedral in Ohrid, Macedonia
The Chancel Choir from Berkeley’s First Presbyterian Church, directed by Mitchell Covington, redefined off the beaten track on their 2015 tour. Of the five countries they visited (Croatia, Montenegro, Albania,Macedonia and Greece), three (Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia) didn’t exist until the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990’s, and Albania was effectively unvisitable (unless you were Chinese or North Korean) until 1991.
This was Berkeley’s third tour with ACFEA, and the previous two demonstrated their proclivity for the unusual: Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany on the first, and Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland on the second. They are always looking for ways in which their performances can be expressions of their faith as well as simply concerts, and the repertoire is carefully conceived to achieve this. This time, they sang a Mass in Dubrovnik and concerts (three of them joint with local choirs) in Dubrovnik, Kotor, Ohrid, Veles and Katerini – yes, you may consult an atlas! They also participated in an outreach program in Skopje, arranged through the church.
Let’s let the group describe the experiences they had. Mitchell Covington wrote from Skopje:
“It’s hard to believe that we are already on the final days of our tour. Words cannot express what a fantastic trip we are having. Accommodations, tours and meals have all been superb. Performance venues have been stunningly beautiful, and concerts have been extremely well attended with standing room only for all of the evening performances. The cities we have visited have been lovely and interesting. [Couriers] Dragana and Savvas are the best! Professional, efficient, thoughtful, very much in control, yet kind, friendly and flexible. My choir members simply adore both of them. Thank you so much.”
Janice Kolberg, the group’s tour coordinator, wrote after the tour:
“I just wanted to let you know that we had a wonderful time on the tour. I was surprised by the beauty and interesting history of all the places we visited. Each of the venues in which we performed was quite different and interesting with enthusiastic audiences at each concert. Our couriers, Dragana and Savvas, were great and took wonderful care of everyone. Given the busy schedule and complicated logistics in some places, I think things went very well. All of the accommodations were very good.”
After the main tour finished in Thessaloniki, a smaller group of about 20 went to Istanbul for four days of sightseeing in that fabulous city. We learned before the tour that Mitchell Covington was to leave his position at the church to allow more time for composing and teaching.
We are honored that this tour was the last major project of his 24-year tenure and grateful for all the business that he has given us, and we wish him much happiness and fulfillment in the next phase of his life.