The St. Ambrose University Chamber Singers will close a unique, full-circle educational experience with an international tour in May, designed specifically to connect what they have learned to place and performance.
From May 14-23, the Chamber Singers will travel to Italy and Austria and perform in some of the most historic cathedrals in Milan, Venice, Salzburg and Vienna.
It will be SAU's first international music tour in 28 years, but not the last. The Music Department has set a priority and goal to offer students an international music experience at least every four years.
This opportunity to tour abroad is even more unique because the Chamber Singers represent a variety of academic majors, including theatre, psychology, early education, biology and music education. Touring internationally is a high-impact educational experience and at SAU, it is open to all, said Nathan Windt, PhD., associate professor and director of choral activities.. Most universities reserve international tours for music majors or only the most elite singers.
Windt said the students will experience world culture and musical history in a wholly Ambrosian manner. Music Department Chair William Campbell, PhD., has composed five choir settings of ancient hymns originally written by St. Ambrose of Milan, the university's patron saint. The Chamber Singers will perform those hymns in Milan, where St. Ambrose is also the patron saint.
"We will be performing these in the same place where Ambrose likely wrote and conceived the words," Windt said.
Chamber Singers also will perform works by Mozart in Vienna, and visit sites in Salzburg where his early work was conceived. "I was recently telling a student that we get to sing Mozart's music in his hometown, where he lived, where he worked and where he died," Windt said.
"We are offering a substantial educational and musical experience that connects our identity as an institution with the music education our students are getting, whether they are a music major or not," Windt said.
Campbell said those connections will bring the music education they are providing to these students full circle. "St. Ambrose writes this music in Milan," he said. "I rearranged it for the choir, and we are taking it back to Milan. Mozart writes this music in Austria. Nathan is teaching the students the music, and we are taking it and performing it in Austria."
The 22 members of Chamber Singers have been preparing for the tour since August 2016. "The music they have learned and will perform is at a fairly difficult, yet rewarding level. These students are some of the best singers at St. Ambrose and sound incredible," Campbell said, adding the campus and community can witness that talent and hard work on April 27 during the Chamber Singers International Tour Concert, which begins at 7 p.m. in Christ the King Chapel.
Gifts from the offices of Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, PhD., the president of St. Ambrose University; Paul Koch, PhD., provost and vice president for Academic and Student Affairs; and the SAU Music Department covered half of the cost of the international tour. "Those internal gifts helped our students a lot and demonstrate how much the university supports an international tour," Campbell said.
Last year, the Chamber Singers toured in the Twin Cities. Windt said the Music Department's goal is to continue to tour regionally and offer an international tour at least every four years.
"What is most important is the experience the students will get," Campbell said. "This tour is about the same length as other study abroad experiences and it accomplishes all of the things a student would have on a checklist for a study abroad -- touring, events, four concerts, and free time to explore," he said.
"To be a musician in Northern Italy and Austria will be a unique and fun experience," he added.
The SAU Music Department strives to give all students in its vocal and instrumental music programs extensive performance experience and share their hard work and talent with the greater community. The April 27 International Tour Concert is just one of four public performances that will showcase SAU singers and musicians. The other three performances are: