Choir Updates from Concert Tour in Europe

Sunday, March 4, Barcelona, Spain to Manchester, N.H.
After three nights in Barcelona we pack up in the morning and head for the airport to come home. The students arrived late on Thursday and got an orientation to the city from our tour guide Ciaran Moss. On Friday they had the entire day free to plan their own sightseeing and activities. Most took advantage of the day to sleep-in and then packed in as much adventure as they could. They shopped and ate along La Rambla, a mile-long pedestrian walkway through the heart of Barcelona lined with shops and cafes. They spent time down on the water admiring the Port of Barcelona (one of Europe’s largest) and looking at the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Almost everyone visited both the Barcelona Cathedral as well as Gaudi’s famous Basilica Sagarada Familia (Church of the Holy Family). At night I am sure they explored the nightlife of Spain!

On Saturday we took an early tour of a Benedictine Monastery high atop the mountains just outside of Barcelona – Montserrat. Home to just under 100 monks it is also where you can find the Virgin of Montserrat, one of the black Madonna’s of Europe depicting the Virgin Mary and infant Christ. A beautiful train ride to the top of the mountain with breathtaking views both inside and outside of the abbey’s church. Following the visit, Fr. Bede celebrated a private Mass for the group in a local church prior to our final concert and a farewell banquet.

At the farewell banquet it was announced that plans are already being made to continue the choir’s tradition of traveling to Europe every other year. A preliminary itinerary is being drafted for the group’s 6th European Concert Tour in 2014 to Budapest (Hungary), Bratislava (Slovakia), Prague (Czech Republic).

Wednesday, Feb. 29, Avignon to Perpignan, France
It is hard to believe but this morning when we boarded the bus to travel from Avignon, the trip was half over! Five days down, five days to go.

Today was a travel day so we left Avignon early and headed for the walled city of Carcassonne. After about three hours on the bus, the students enjoyed some free time for lunch and then a guided tour of the castle and cathedral of the city. A day with no performing but yet full of rich history. After spending the afternoon in Carcassonne, we were back on the bus to spend the night in Perpignan, a city just in from the Mediterranean Coast, just short of the Spanish border. A very low key night. Everyone is very tired and I think it will be an early night for most as the students are resting up for the final leg of the trip in Barcelona!

Tomorrow is our longest travel day as we are off to Saint Martin Abbey located high atop the Pyrenees Mountains. In fact in order to perform the choir will hike up a steep one-mile mountain path to the top of the mountain where the walled-in abbey awaits. The Abbey was constructed in 1009 as a residence for Benedictine Monks! They inhabited the abbey continuously for almost 775 years. Following the communities dissolution in 1783 the abbey fell into disrepair until it was restored in 1902 by the Bishop of Perpignan. Today it is home to the Community of the Beatitudes. When planning the trip it has become custom that the choir performs in a Benedictine Monastery while in Europe, something we have done since our first trip in 2004.

Following our visit and performance at Saint Martin we cross a border and are off to the town of Figueres, Spain. Best known as the home of surrealist painter Salvador Dali. The students will have an opportunity to spend some time exploring the city and visiting the Dali Museum. After our afternoon stop in Figueres we are off to Barcelona where we will spend the next three nights – our last stop on the tour.

On the road with the EuroChoir: The college choir is currently performing in churches throughout Europe and assistant to the choir director, Bobby Aldrich '01, is sending updates on the group's whereabouts.

Saint Anselm College's choir with 32 students, 2 alumni, and Fr. Bede Camera, O.S.B., are touring Europe during this week's spring break. Singing unaccompanied, they're performing 18 pieces of sacred music in churches throughout southern France, Monaco, and Spain. See photos of the choir's travels on the college Flickr site, courtesy of Bobby Aldrich, assistant to the choir director.

Tuesday, Feb. 28, Avignon, France

The choir will perform twice today. A morning of sightseeing. The group traveled to the Pont du Guard this morning just outside of Avignon, France. It is the home of one of the few remaining in-tact Roman Aqueducts. Just short of 2,000 years old the students had an opportunity to visit the site and actually walk across the structure above the river. We posed for these pictures below. Everyone is having a wonderful time.

This afternoon we will actually get a chance to perform at the Papal Palace and tonight will perform a concert at a local church – the Church of Saint Agricola. There are posters all over the city promoting our concert.

The Papal Palace in Avignon was the home to 7 popes from 1305 to 1377. Six popes were elected here in Avignon, including Pope Urban V, a member of the Order of Saint Benedict. We performed in the grand hall of the palace where the papal conclaves were held when the popes of Avignon were elected; a wonderful and spiritual experience for the students.

Another concert tonight at The Church of Saint Agricola, named after Agricola of Avignon, a bishop of the city of Avignon who was a monk at a nearby Abbey and is most well known for building a convent for Benedictine nuns near the city. Ah, another Benedictine connection… Just wait until my update for Thursday!

A wonderful concert with a great turnout. The parish and the tour company did a wonderful job promoting it throughout the city. We probably had between 75 and 100 people show up and a standing ovation at the end with an encore. Performed for well over an hour. Father Bede spent a considerable amount of time talking to the audience in French. He is very much enjoying being able to speak the language. It has been a long time since he taught French up on the hilltop!

Big travel day tomorrow. On the bus all morning to the walled city of Carcassonne (just over 3 hours from Avignon). We have a tour of the city with a local guide and lunch. Then back on the bus to Perpignan where we will spend the night. No performances tomorrow; a day off.

Monday, Feb. 27, Cannes, France

Yesterday (Monday) was a travel day. After leaving Cannes we stopped in Aix en Provence and Arles on our way to Avignon. Avignon is a beautiful walled city and the students enjoyed free time last night after our arrival to explore it on their own. Avignon is often referred to as the “City of Popes” as it is home to the Palace of the Popes where popes and antipopes took up residence from 1309 to 1423.

Sunday, Feb. 26, in Monaco

This morning (Sunday) the choir performed for the 10:30a.m. Mass at the Cathedral in Monaco. Following Mass we performed a 30-minute concert for an audience of parishioners and visitors to the cathedral. They have quite a lot of tourists coming in and out due to the burial site of Princess Grace Kelly. It was a wonderful experience in a beautiful venue!

Following a day in Monaco the choir performed its first performance tonight in Cannes, France at the Church of Our Lady of the Pines.

About Laura Lemire