The Birmingham-Southern College Concert Choir began its annual tour with a performance on Thursday, March 13 at Historic Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, attended by George Washington when he was president. From there, they went on to perform at the Washington National Cathedral School Chapel Service on Friday, March 14. They then began a round of patriotic performances – beginning with a concert at Vinson Hall for retired American Veterans, also on Friday, March 14, a performance at the National World War II Memorial Centennial Plaza to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and a performance at the National Museum of the Marines Corps on Saturday, March 15, and rounded out the tour with a worship service performance at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church – attended by Abraham Lincoln during his tenure as president.
Dr. Lester Siegel, the choir’s director, had this to say about the overall experience:
The Birmingham-Southern College Concert Choir has a long tradition of annual tours in the US, and less frequently, internationally. In my 21 years as director of the choir, I had always booked our domestic tours, with help from able student assistants. In 2007, Music Celebrations International planned and executed an outstanding individualized concert tour in central Europe, including special performances “off the beaten track” where we had personal connections. Based on that, I decided to try MCI for a domestic tour to Washington, DC in March 2014 – again, an individualized itinerary specifically to meet our needs as an undergraduate collegiate choir that puts an emphasis on performances in schools and in formal concerts. My real concern was the balance of performance and touring opportunities, as most of the choir members had experienced Washington in the past.
I needn’t have worried. My wishes, which (I am told) exceeded the usual demands in terms for performance opportunities, were very well-satisfied. The schools MCI chose were ideal for the kind of student our college seeks, and each public concert venue was musically satisfying, in terms of acoustics, accompaniment instruments, time, and audience outreach. One of the most memorable performances was, ironically, the “toughest” musically – but touched all our hearts: a ‘public service’ performance at Vinson Hall, a retirement community for military officers and families, as well as those in the “Wounded Warriors” program who are residents there. The interaction of our students with this older, “greatest” generation, was unforgettable and delightful.
The touring items in the itinerary were well-chosen, flexible in nature, and allowed our students excellent choices in how best to spend their time. Finally, the guide on our trip was especially outstanding – a true “professor” of American government and history, who was as effective as the best academic I’ve known in making the history around us come alive, and in engaging in lively discussions with our students. Every staff member from the on-site coordinator to the bus driver was terrific, and together they helped create a most successful and unforgettable experience for all of us.
Joseph Hugh Thomas Professor of Music