2019 Avila University Singers Choral Tour
A Musical Pilgrimage through France
The following is a personal reflection of the University Singer's tour of France written by Amity Bryson, D.M.A., who led the choir on this trip of a lifetime.
We arrived at Omaha Beach with five minutes to spare; after all of our preparation we were nearly derailed by a cancelled flight out of Atlanta! Yet, with very little sleep and a quick warm-up on route in the bus, the Avila University Singers group performed with dignity and humility on July 4—75 years after D-Day. Young men and women, very near the ages of our Allied troops, sang of peace and unity for the future.
(A video of the complete July 4th performance, including the National Anthem, wreath-laying, and TAPS is on the right)
Following our Normandy performance we joined 350 singers in Paris. Two quick days of rehearsal expanded upon our previous preparation of common literature. The awesome sound of so many singers with orchestra is as powerful as it seems! The Festival Choir sang “The Navy Hymn,” “Let Peace then Still the Strife” and “Homeland,” among other selections. The text of “Homeland” includes the following:
Humans fail, systems fail, shadows fall. . .
But the message loud is heard:
Homeland, renew your youth, restore your soul!
Homeland, the country that I love, hold out your arms to me
I strive for you and give you the best I hope to be.
These undergraduates represent the hope of our future. These young people sing of love, peace and unity—it is difficult to sing of such things and not be influenced to include such attributes in your daily life.
The University Singers group was one of thirteen choirs selected to perform in the Paris Choral Festival. However, as the top ensemble, it was the only group to perform an extended tour of France. This opportunity allowed us to perform in the birthplace of our CSJ founders, Le Puy-en-Velay, as well as Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Bas-en-Basset and Monistrol-sur-Loire. This heritage tour provided opportunities to meet and perform for Sisters of St. Joseph, Associates and European friends of the University. Our concert in the Le Puy Cathedral included a generous response from our audience resulting in three encores.
Traveling with 27 individuals is an adventure, but when united toward a common goal the result is transformational. Students reflected that the trip brought them closer to Avila and to each other. University Singers includes students from all three colleges at Avila: the College of Science and Health, College of Professional Schools and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. Singers include Social Work, Education, Business, Biochemistry, and Molecular Biology, Theatre and of course Music majors. The act of performance draws the “team” together with ambition and focus which allows for unity and reflection—this is a powerful combination.
I believe strongly that our work as professors and leaders is rooted in intellectual curiosity, thoughtful preparation, and passion. Each day included reflections of mindful and soulful travel—this was far more than a choir tour, but a profound immersion into our legacy, both the one we have been given as well as the one we will pass on.
-- Amity Bryson, D.M.A.
Professor of Music & Chair, School of Performing Arts