The Princeton University Chapel Choir, shown in front of Prague Castle, performed in the Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary. (Courtesy Will Harrel ’13)
Almost as soon as they boarded a plane en route to the Czech Republic Jan. 22, the Princeton Chapel Choir already was performing. Flight attendants, upon learning that the group was a choir, invited them to provide “pre-flight music” to replace the classical music typically played on board.
“Everybody from first class and everything came up to watch and listen to us,” Will Harrel ’13 said. “That was really cool.”
Several hours and one connecting flight later, the Chapel Choir landed in Prague, the first destination in the choir’s performance tour of Eastern Europe. The tour, comprising the Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary, took place over the Intersession break and combined choir performances with visits to sites of historical and musical significance. Close to 50 members of the Chapel Choir took part – and former choir members Jennifer Borghi ’02 and Margaret Meyer ’05, who have both achieved prominence in the vocal arts, joined the group in Mozart’s “Laudate Dominum.” The group also performed pieces by composers such as Gustav Holst, Eric Whitacre, Moses Hogan, Rosephayne Powell, and Pavel Chesnokov.
Singing in Eastern Europe, choir members said, was a hugely valuable experience – musically and otherwise.
“I loved every part of being in Vienna,” Irene Lo ’13 said. “The whole city … [is] really passionate about beautiful things, beautiful architecture, beautiful music.”
For Michael Yaroshefsky ’12, the trip meant a “real bonding experience” between members of the Chapel Choir that was unlike anything he had experienced on campus. “It’s a completely different dynamic when you’re halfway across the world together, spending pretty much day and night together,” he said.
A highlight of the trip, according to Harrel, was singing in the St. Stephanson Cathedral in Vienna on Mozart’s birthday.
“I don’t know the exact attendance numbers, but it was probably 300 or more people – all paying 10 euros apiece to see us,” he said.
Members of the Chapel Choir rehearsed regularly for the performances in Europe over Reading Period – including the day before Dean’s Date – and the week of final exams. While it was “a big time commitment,” the rehearsals were necessary for establishing a bond between group members, Lo said – and for learning the various songs that were sung in Czech or Hungarian.
Director of Chapel Music Penna Rose said the trip was very special, but after a week in chilly European cathedrals, she joked that the group is “thinking warm places” for future tours. St. Stephanson, in particular, was freezing. “You could see your breath when you sang!” Rose said.