The University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Music’s Concert Choir has returned triumphant from a once-in-a-lifetime European summer tour, which included winning gold and silver medals in three categories at the eighth World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia.
While on tour July 5-28, the choir performed more than 20 public concerts in six countries. There were 64 travelers in all, 56 students and eight faculty and staff, including the UAB Faculty Brass Quintet. The experience was a first for UAB and one that will be remembered for years to come, says Choir Director Brian Kittredge, DMA.
The choir began its journey with a farewell concert July 3 in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. The first stop on the European tour was Prague, Czech Republic, where the students sang their first major performances at St. Nikolaus Church and St. Vitus Cathedral. The concerts were filled with appreciative audience members from around the world, Kittredge says.
The choir’s second stop was Berlin, Germany, for public performances in the Berliner Dom and an evening performance in the Kaiser-Wilhelm Memorial with the Kammerchor der Berliner Singakademie and The Cape Town Youth Choir from South Africa.
“Both concerts were overwhelmingly positive experiences for the UAB students,” Kittredge said. “Serendipitously, the choir performed in Berlin on the same night that Germany played Brazil in the World Cup Tournament. It was memorable to visit Berlin on such a special occasion.”
The next stop was Riga, Latvia, for participation in the World Choir Games. The Concert Choir performed in three categories: Youth Mixed Choir, for which they earned a gold medal, as well as Musica Sacra with Accompaniment and Spiritual, for which they earned two silver awards. The judges included conductors, composers and choral experts from at least 15 countries. In addition to the choir’s outstanding representation in competition, they participated in friendship concerts with choirs from the United States and Slovakia, Czech Republic.
“Perhaps one of the most memorable experiences was performing for the Crescendo Chorus from Basque country, a piece in their native Basque language,” Kittredge said. “The exchange brought both choirs to tears.”
From Latvia, members of the UAB Concert Choir then headed to Kappl, Austria; Verona, Venice and Milan, Italy; and Cologne, Muenster and Munich in Germany. The choir performed public concerts and masses in some of the most prestigious venues in Europe, including St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, the Frauenkirche in Munich, and St. Nikolaus Church in Muenster. Among the many sightseeing visits, students got to hike to Switzerland across the Alps, take in the rich histories and architecture at the many destinations, experience European culture by staying with host families, and visit the Dachau concentration camp.
The UAB students shared remarkable accounts of the trip:
Next up for the UAB Concert Choir are auditions for the choral program, which will be held from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, in the Hulsey Center, Room 246, 950 13th St. South. Auditions by appointment also are available; contact Kittredge at email@example.com or 205-975-2599. Interested students may also simply register for Chamber Singers MUP 320.
- “We just finished our Spiritual set, and wow! We left it all on that stage! So proud to be a member of this choir and to be able to represent, not only Alabama, but the United States as well. GO, BLAZERS!” — Madison Harris, senior criminal justice major
- “Dreams and wishes can come true! After studying about the Cologne Cathedral in art history and being mesmerized by its beauty, today I actually got to visit. Not only did I get to go inside, but we were also blessed with the wonderful opportunity of singing inside. This was a life-changing experience and something I will never forget.” — Kenya Thomas, senior health education major
- “I have literally had the best 10 days of my life and have made memories that will last a lifetime with some of the most amazing musicians and friends I could ask for!” — Lydia Knight, freshman music education major
- “Dreams came true yesterday. We got to sing in the Cologne Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. There were many tears in the choir as well as tears in the audience of mostly strangers. An indescribable and unforgettable experience.” —Mary Katherine Whatley, alumna and music education graduate student
- “I have had some of the best times of my life the past 23 days with some amazing people. Shout-out to Dr. Brian Kittredge for giving me the opportunity to have so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences with my new friends. This isn’t a goodbye but a ‘see you later’ to Europe!” — Raktima Datta, freshman neuroscience major
The choir is now preparing for an exciting year of concerts, festivals and performances, including an upcoming regional tour and a collaborative performance of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and Samford University.
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Next up for the UAB Concert Choir are auditions for the choral program, which will be held from 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, in the Hulsey Center, Room 246, 950 13th St. South. Auditions by appointment also are available; contact Kittredge at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 205-975-2599. Interested students may also simply register for Chamber Singers MUP 320.