Emmaus Chorale sings in Italy
Gathered on a mountaintop in Montecatini, Tuscany, Italy, members of the Emmaus High School Chorale found themselves in tears against the backdrop of a setting sun.
The group had just finished performing the composition "Stars" by Eriks Esenvalds. Tourists and others visiting the site were equally moved.
"It was such a profound moment," Anthony Roncolato, who sings bass in the choral group, recalled.
Chorus members rode a funicular to the top of the mountain and the performance was one of several unscheduled and informal performances the chorale gave.
"It was so beautiful, it gives you chills," Kevyn McConlogue, who sings alto, said.
The performance was part of a recent tour featuring stops in Venice, Florence, the Cinque Terre, Rome and The Vatican.
For the students, the tour also included singing in the streets, including on the Spanish Steps in Rome, for appreciative bystanders, delicious foods from pasta to seafood to gelato and a promposal on a gondola in Venice.
Andrew Ferguson asked Victoria Reichelderfer to prom aboard a gondola he hired for the occasion.
"I wanted a good last hurrah for asking," Ferguson said.
She said yes. Wouldn't you in one of the most romantic cities in the world?
"No one is going to ever top it," Rita Cortez, a member of the music faculty at Emmaus High School, director of the Emmaus Chorale and the organizer of the tour, said of the invitation.
Several of her singers felt the same about the nine-day tour.
"It's like a dream," McConlogue said of the experience.
The tour started out less than auspiciously with a nine-hour layover in the Frankfurt airport in Germany when bad weather delayed flights. Easter Mass at The Vatican later in the tour was soggy as well.
"My umbrella started leaking," Margaret Gehman, an alto in the Chorale, recalled with a smile.
And there were moments of beauty like on the mountaintop in Tuscany.
At one stop Daniel Amankwatia and a few friends started harmonizing while looking at the ocean on the horizon.
"I wish I could take a picture but it won't do it justice at all," Amankwatia recalled thinking at the time.
Cortez and the Emmaus Chorale prepared a repertoire of songs for the tour. Practices in Italy often came in informal performances on the street. Bystanders stopped to listen. Some took pictures. Some asked for pictures with members of the group.
Formal performances included an early evening Mass in the St. Peter's Basilica at The Vatican, a concert in a church in Florence and a Mass at Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.
"She makes us sound good enough to sing in those amazing places," McConlogue said.
But the tour was not all song and no play. The singers visited the Cinque Terre, part of the Italian Riviera, rode gondalas in Venice, tasted delicious pasta, seafood and gelato and, at least in the case of Matthew Johnston, who sings tenor, shopped for an authentic Roman Centurion helmet. Johnston collects hats and the helmet, weighing in at at least 10 pounds, almost did not make it back to the States. Johnston was stopped by a customs official who had to ask a supervisor about the helmet's fate.
"My boss says no but you can take it home," Johnston recalled the customs official saying. The helmet is now the centerpiece of Johnston's collection.
On returning home, instead of doing homework, Johnston began researching another trip to Europe.