When in Rome: Kantorei tours Italy, performs at Vatican

Cara Maines, Online Editor

Kantorei stands in front of the altar at St. Peter's Basilica. Though the choir did not see the Pope, their performance was met with congratulations.
Kantorei stands in front of the altar at St. Peter’s Basilica. Though the choir did not see the Pope, their performance was met with congratulations. (Photo courtesy of Suman Atluri)

As the singers heard their voices resounding against the walls of the Vatican, many were moved to tears.

The students, members of Kantorei, finished their tour of Italy with a performance at St. Peter’s Basilica during Friday’s Holy Mass.

“The space is so huge that there is something beautiful everywhere you look,” member Elizabeth Elrod said. “It was an amazing honor to be able to sing in such an awesome space. Hearing that last chord ring out against the walls of the basilica felt like a great culmination of all the work Kantorei had put in during the year.”

Between June 7 and June 15, the 28 students and music teacher Scott Bonasso visited Venice, Florence and Rome on a tour bus, taking side trips to Padua, Pisa and Siena.

They performed at the small local church San Marco Evangelista in Camposampiero, a town in Padua, as well as St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, where they sang in the crypt during a small mass.

When the choir was not singing, the group split up to participate in activities around the town. Students admired Michelangelo’s David in Florence, floated down a canal in gondolas in Venice, posed for photos by the Leaning Tower of Pisa and sat on the famous Spanish Steps of Rome. As they traveled, they recorded their experiences on a blog.

“My favorite city was Rome because it was so ancient,” Kantorei member Carolyn Martin said. “Because throughout history so many millions had stepped on the same ground I did, including popes and emperors, I felt myself to be constantly on hallowed ground.”

The group gave several impromptu performances throughout the trip, performing at the Palace of Justice in Siena, the Baptistry in Pisa and the Pantheon in Rome.

“We sang Ave Maria, a very intricate piece with several parts. It was mesmerizing to sing in such a grand place with such great acoustics. Afterwards many of those in the church at any time came to speak with us and congratulate us,” Martin said, describing the group’s impromptu performance at the Orsanmichele Church in Florence.

Kantorei’s repertoire consisted of songs ranging in style from American and African folk songs to spirituals to classical music. The songs included “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Va Pensiero,” the twenty third psalm and “Jubilate Deo” along with crowd-pleaser “Ave Maria.”

In between museums and masses, the choir members found time to relax, eat gelato and bond.

“My favorite part of the trip was definitely bonding with the group,” Kantorei member Suman Atluri said. “I was one of the youngest kids on the trip, and the older singers really took me under their wing. Connecting with my fellow choristers made the experience of singing at famous landmarks even more amazing.”