University Choir experiences Italy through music

Faith Williams – Contributor

Although known for their and architecture, Italy showed a different side of its culture to Southern’s University Choir this past New Year.

Students in the University Choir and Chamber Choir went to Italy and traveled to share their music in major cities like Venice, Florence, Rome and Padua.

Social work major Benjamin Coombs, a senior, has been a tenor on the choir since transferring to Southern his junior year. He said the experience was life-changing and he was so grateful to be able to go.

“It’s one thing to go to another country and explore and hang out, but we also got to perform and share our love of music, and I think that was so special,” Coombs said.

The University Choir does not require auditions to join, but for the trip, the members of the choir were required to audition for the director of the choir, Terese Gemme and they ended with around 70 people in total. The University Choir is comprised of current Southern students, alumni and people from the New Haven community.

The trip to Italy had two components: music and tourism. The choir members were given tour guides for the entire time they were in Italy and as they traveled to different cities, they performed in basilicas and oratories. The choir also toured the Colosseum, the Mussolini estate and Vatican City.

According to Italy Magazine, in 2017 the decision was made to open the top levels of the Colosseum to the public.

The choir left on Dec. 27 and returned on Jan. 6. The choir sang Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and the Basilica of St. Anthony in Montecatini which were the two major performances. However, they also had smaller performances in other cities. Other songs the choir sang included “Unclouded Day” by Rev. J.K. Alwood and “Silent Night.”

This trip was made possible by the Stutzman Family Foundation according to Walter Stutzman, a former Southern student and the son of the foundation’s founders Geraldine and Jacob Stutzman. In 2007, the foundation began donating to Southern’s music department.

“This is our sixth choir we supported,” Stutzman said.

The money used to support the music foundation comes from his parents’ estate.

“The foundation is so generous with their donation,” Coombs said. “If they hadn’t subsidized it, I wouldn’t have been able to go on this amazing experience. I learned so much and I was able to share my passion for music and learn more about another culture.”

Though the musical educational experience was the main point of the trip, the choir was able to connect with each other on a different level than they normally would be able to. Bonds and new friendships were made among members which in turn will change the sound of the choir for the better.

“There are so many things that go into making the choir sound professional. One of the things are the unity and the cohesion of the choir,” Coombs said. “We all got a chance to connect with other people on this trip. That’s going to be so cool when we get back to rehearsal.”

The University and Chamber Choir prepared since the fall 2019 semester for their performances in Italy. They had long hours of practice before the trip and continued quick practices while in Italy in between traveling and performances.

“That was so cool to be able to share our music with people in Italy,” Coombs said, “and other people and have them like us.”

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