Morehead State University’s Chamber Singers were awarded two gold diplomas during the awards ceremony of the Musica Roma Eterna International Choir Festival and Competition on July 4. Competition on July 4th. The group competed in the compulsory and sacred categories of the four-day competition
Their Fourth of July celebration started July 3 when the choir presented an outdoor American concert for high-ranking All-American and Italian diplomats at the U.S. Embassy library courtyyard in Rome. On July 4, the choir also sang five choral selections as part of mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
The nine-day concert tour was a dream come true for the 20-voice choir. Members of the choir included:
Nick Barron, Covington junior; Broderick Dale Floyd Beighle, Williamstown junior; Charlie Day, West Chester, Ohio, junior; Ashlyn Denney, Jackson, Ohio, sophomore; Eliza Eaches, Portsmouth, Ohio, sophomore; William Matthew Hammond, Louisa junior; Tristan Chandler Hinkle, Barbourville freshman; Michael Andrew Jarman, Lexington junior; Jorian Johnson, Troy, Ohio, senior; Aaron Keeling, Elizabethtown junior;
Summer Lighthall, Burlington freshman; Kaitlyn Osborn, Louisa junior; Tag Sadler, Portsmouth, Ohio, sophomore; Olivia Scholl, Shelbyville senior; Ariel Snider, Cynthiana junior; Reagan Dawn Stamper, Hazard sophomore; Rachel Wade, Morehead junior; Jasmine Wheeler, Morehead junior; Christina Marie Wherthey, Louisville senior; and Nicholas Wolford, Jackson, Ohio, junior.
“I’ve always wanted to travel the world and this tour has made that dream a reality,” said Hinkle.
The choir’s time was divided between five days in Rome and two days in Pompeii. During the tour, the group presented seven performances—a pre-competition evaluation performance for the judges, two competition performances, two friendship concerts with other international choirs, an All-American concert and a mass. The final friendship concert was with a choir from the Philippines in the most important Shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary of Pompeii. The cathedral contains the famous painting, “Our Lady of the Rosary.” This was the only time a concert was allowed in the church and the Chamber Singers were quite honored to be selected for this special performance.
“It was absolutely breathtaking singing in the beautiful cathedrals for our friendship concerts and competitions. I believe that singing in these places improved our musicianship because we were overwhelmed with their beauty. I will always remember making beautiful music with our wonderful group in St. Peter’s Basilica. Being Catholic, that opportunity was immeasurable to me,” said Osborn.
“Having the opportunity to sing in so many unique and beautiful places alongside so many incredible choirs from around the world is a memory I will cherish forever,” said Denney. “Sharing American music with Italians on the eve of Independence Day at our All-American concert and seeing the reactions of the people was an especially awesome experience.”
Singing was not limited to concerts. Everywhere the choir went there were opportunities to sing. “I enjoyed singing in random places such as the Pantheon, the steps outside cathedrals, and restaurants. Every time we did so, we drew a very large and appreciative audience,” said Wheeler.
Denney added, “My favorite memory was singing in the two theatres in the ruins of Pompeii. Even after thousands of years and being nearly destroyed by volcanic eruption, the theatres still sound so beautiful.”
Preparing for the competition, the students were focused for the entire spring semester. The students organized extra rehearsals throughout the semester and held two summer retreats before leaving. The choir competed in the compulsory category and the sacred category of the competition.
Dr. Greg Detweiler, conductor, said going into the first day of competition that “he felt like the luckiest man in the world to be able to conduct such a wonderful group of singers in Rome”
Five judges scored all the international choirs’ performances using a complex international system in which each piece received individual scores for intonation and interpretation, and the entire performance received scores for difficulty of the program, program design and dramaturgy, sound of the choir and overall artistic impression. In the compulsory competition, MSU received 23.05 points achieving a level III Gold and in the sacred competition MSU received 22.01 points achieving a level II Gold.
Sightseeing was a big part of the trip and much of it was done on long hikes. By the end of the first two days, the choir had walked about 19 miles to see Rome’s most beautiful piazzas and sights including the Trevi fountain. Touring the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican museums were also big on students’ lists of top memories as was the tour of the beautiful Amalfi Coast with a relaxing two-hour dip in the Mediterranean Sea.
Along with Dr. Detweiler, Eric Brown, professor of voice, was the assistant tour coordinator and also sang solos with the group.
“The trip experience helped members grow closer to each other, building friends for life. The students were able to accomplish things they could not accomplish individually. The trip experience also opened their eyes to other cultures. They found Italians to be friendly and welcoming and they enjoyed meeting and hearing other choirs. One great way the students had to break the cultural ice with other international choirs was sharing MSU trinkets and T-shirts. The gifts always brought smiles to faces. The trip itself will provide a lifetime of smiles and will be a memory no one will ever forget,” said Dr. Detweiler.
Additional information is available by calling Dr. Detweiler at 606-783-2480.