By Richard Pryor III and Suzanne Herrin
Over Spring Break, more than half of the members of the University Choir participated in the Choir’s first domestic tour in four decades. The choir, directed by Dr. Geoffrey Harris Ward, made stops at the Cathedral of St. Philip in Atlanta, Georgia; Grace Church Cathedral in Charleston, South Carolina; Trinity Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina; Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia; the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Washington, DC; and Trinity Church in Asheville, North Carolina.
The choir previously only toured in England during the tenure of Dr. Robbe Delcamp, the previous University Organist and Choirmaster, and Ward’s choice to go domestic was a new direction. The choir also sang Evensong at Washington National Cathedral, the first time the choir sang there since the 1974 installation of John Maury Allin as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Allin previously served as a regent and as Chancellor of the University.
The tour stops were divided by performance types: four worship services with two Eucharists in Atlanta, Evensong in Washington, and Eucharist in Asheville, and three recitals in Charleston, Columbia, and Alexandria. The repertoire for the services and recitals comprised pieces the Choir previously sang over the course of the academic year, but new pieces were added, including a setting of the Annunciation hymn “Nova, Nova!” by John Scott, as well as six pieces from The Messiah oratorio by Handel.
The tour also featured the Washington National Cathedral premiere of Robert Lehman’s setting of “There is No Rose,” specifically written for Dr. Ward and the Choir by Lehman, whose daughter is a current freshman. The piece premiered at Lessons and Carols in November 2016.
With only part of the tour dedicated to performing and rehearsing, there was time for fun and fellowship over the eight-day tour. “Traveling was fun!” said Marissa Lingaitis (C’20), who noted that she loved “getting to drive with the group to all the different spots, being in all of the historical cities and trying local favorites to eat was great!”
Jocelyn Sanders (C’19) said her favorite part was having a free day in Washington, DC and getting to sing at Washington National Cathedral. Maddy Hitel (C’20) said that singing in the National Cathedral was “magical. The combination of wonderful music repertoire, outstanding acoustics, and topnotch choir/conductor made the service a completely transcendental experience.”
The senior chorister on the tour, MaryBeth Yancey (C’17), summed it up by saying, “I was expecting it to feel like kind of a send-off, which is what the last tour felt like for those seniors, but the placement in the middle of the semester made it really energetic and forward-looking, more like a beginning.”
The choir continues to sing at the 11 a.m. services in All Saints’ Chapel for the rest of the academic year as well as at the Good Friday and Easter Vigil services during Holy Week. They will sing one last Evensong on May 2 and will perform at Baccalaurate on May 13. Their spring recital alongside the Sewanee Symphony Orchestra can be seen at 7:30 on April 28 in All Saints’ Chapel.