Concert Choir Tours Spain and Portugal
Five days after summer break began, students in the Hopkins Tour Choir convened to leave for their trip to Portugal and Spain from June 11 to June 20.
There, they performed with local choirs across the two countries while exploring cities in between concerts. The Tour Choir goes on a trip every other year and includes students from rising freshmen to graduating seniors.
While the list of songs performed in each concert varied, the choir came with ten songs prepared. The Tour Choir also practiced pieces to sing with the host choirs of each concert. One of the favorite songs of the group was an Irish folk song, “Loch Lomond”. Meggie Czepiel ’20 loved singing it “because the nostalgic tone works so well with the melody and [she] loves the way it builds.” Kenny Lu ’19 added, “Listening to Sam Jenkins ’19 solo on ‘Loch Lomond’ was always a pleasure.”
At every concert, the Tour Choir collaborated with a local choir. Both choirs would perform a set of songs on their own, and then would sing a set of songs together. Leah Miller ’20 said, “It was a special treat to be able to sing their pieces alongside [other choirs]; for me, that was the most culturally immersive part of the tour.”
The Tour Choir’s performances improved from the send-off concert to the final performance in Madrid. Czepiel commented on the progression: “I think our sound improved over the course of the trip as we got more comfortable with not only the music, but also singing in such resonant spaces.” Tour Choir Director Erika Schroth agreed: “If you could hear our send-off concert the day before we left (which already sounded good) and our final performance in Madrid, you would definitely notice the increased expression, unity of sound, and energized musicianship on display.”
While most students were part of Concert Choir, some students who joined Tour Choir did not sing with the choir during the school year. Connor Hartigan ’19 said, “As someone who doesn’t do Concert Choir year-round, I thought I might be a bit of an outsider, but the regulars took us eight newbies in, and treated us like full comrades.”
Hartigan reflected on how the choir adjusted to singing as an unfamiliar group: “Our first concert, in Lisbon, was done well, but there were a few spots where our sound could have been more coherent. By the time of our fourth concert, in Granada, we had fixed all of that and we had a unified, soaring sound.”
The choir bonded and improved their synergy by spending time together outside of concerts. The choir spent days together touring cities, eating dinners, riding on the tour bus, and performing in concerts. Czepiel said, “getting to know each other better helped us feel more confident and united when we sang.” One of the choir’s favorite places to visit was the Mezquita de Cordoba. Lu explained why it was his favorite stop: “Our tour guide pointed out a lot of small details in the building while explaining the history, and it was a genuinely engaging experience.”
Another standout moment in the trip was El Caminito del Rey, a walking path that follows a gorge in Malaga. Prairie Resch ’21 enjoyed the path: “the scale and the beauty made it an unforgettable experience for me.” Schroth also loved the trail, saying it “was staggeringly beautiful - worth waking up before dawn to get there.”
The Hopkins Tour Choir’s Trip to Portugal and Spain was an opportunity for students to gain concert experience while becoming closer with the people they performed with through exploring new places. Reflecting on the trip, Hartigan said that he “formed a lot of fond memories on this trip that [he will] have with him for quite a while, and it would be hard to think of better people to share the experience with.”