Mission Peak Chamber Singers 2015 Concert Tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland

an interview with Michael Morris, Director, Mission Peak Chamber Singers

What was the goal of the tour?

This is an interesting question and one that the Mission Peak Chamber Singers actually discussed throughout the discernment, planning and development of the tour. It really comes down to the desire of the MPCS to constantly grow and develop in skill, repertoire and experience both at our home base of Fremont, California as well as the greater San Francisco Bay Area. A tour challenges the ensemble to strive for its best, perform in unfamiliar situations and to become a better choir. In addition, the chance to share cultures, traditions and our art through music are very powerful goals.

Why did the group pick the United Kingdom and Ireland?

MPCS developed three potential tours. We then asked ACFEA to prepare tour concepts for each of these possible tours. MPCS then voted on which tour we preferred and a tour of England, Wales and Ireland won by an overwhelming margin. There were several deciding factors – it was a region of the world that many of our singers had not traveled to, the desire to see the lands of our heritage with its history and fabulous churches and museums, the opportunity to perform in amazing venues, and it didn’t hurt that the native language was familiar to us!

Was there a favorite performance on tour? What made it so special?

This is a difficult question because I can literally say that each and every performance was truly special and amazing! We had a total of six formal concerts and one service participation at St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork, Ireland. The audiences were all kind, attentive and gracious and we were very well received by all attendees. We even received three standing ovations. All in all, each performance was special and unique!

The very first concert of the tour was in Chester, England in St. Mary’s Centre, a former church that is now a community performance venue. The venue is rather new, and, as it turns out, we were the first choir to perform there! The audience was more than twice as large as expected, there were at least three local choirs in attendance, and the audience was extremely enthusiastic. One of the community choirs was so excited that they asked if they could sing for us after the concert was over. They were delightful, we felt very honored and a very special and memorable cultural exchange took place.

Mission Peak Chamber Singers perform in St. Mary’s Centre in Chester, England

Did you depart from your normal programming at home for this tour?

We did not depart from the kind of choral music that we perform at home, however, the music was chosen with three goals in mind: 1) A shared musical heritage. I chose music for the first half of the concert that was from the British Isles, including William Byrd and Philip Stopford, with the music for the second half all by American composers; 2) Music that had both organ and piano accompaniment (our staff accompanist, Janet Holmes, is an exceptional organist AND pianist!) mixed with some a cappella selections; 3) We have many outstanding composers who live in the San Francisco Bay Area and so we were delighted to present Henry Mollicone, Lothar Bandermann and David Conte in the American music section.

You collaborated with a Welsh men’s chorus, including joint singing. How would you describe that experience?

We had the fortunate opportunity to perform a joint concert with the Penrhyn Male Choir (Côr y Penrhyn) in St. Mary’s Church in Betws-y-Coed, Wales. It was an amazing evening of song, cultural exchange and visceral audience reaction. This was one of our standing ovations and it was rousing! I was very surprised to find out that the MPCS is the first SATB mixed choir to perform at St. Mary’s in the long memory of the church staff and music director.

At many of our concerts we discovered that we were unique with our repertoire, the refined caliber of MPCS, the fact that we are an independent, community choir and that we are a mixed SATB choir. This tour was amazing, and I look forward to the day that we can go back to these beautiful, remarkable and gracious countries. 

If you would like to learn more about the United Kingdom as a possible concert tour destination for your ensemble, please visit our United Kingdom destination page, or contact us.