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Reaching beyond our voices

Reaching beyond our voices ... the first international tour of the cathedral choir of the Basilica of Saint Mary ... just shut your eyes and imagine their sound in churches of even greater beauty and an even greater past than our own.

The day after our arrival, we had hoped to sing at the Basilica of Saint Peter in Rome. Due to a scheduling error, we were not able to do so. Yet, we celebrated Sunday Eucharist at Saint Peter with hundreds of other pilgrims from all over the world and took delight in the singing by an American children's choir. Who knows what impact this event may have on their lives? On our way out, many of us visited the tomb of Saint Peter. At noon we prayed the Angelus with the Holy Father in person. Even some of our Lutheran guests seemed moved by the experience.

After this emotional morning our tour guides brought us to the Cathedral Church of Rome, the Mother of all Cathedrals, and one of the four major Basilicas : Saint John the Lateran. There the choir sang "Light Everlasting", a piece which would become our hallmark during the tour. Among the 20 tourists who were present, a music professor from Saint Olaf College. What a small world.

Due to our tight schedule we only had two days in Rome. Some of the highlights : in addition to the major Basilicas : a view of Rome from the top of the dome of Saint Peter, the Vatican Museums with the newly restored frescos by Michelangelo, the Forum Romanum, Coliseum, Piazza Navonna, Piazza di Spangna, Pantheon, Santa Maria in Cosmedin, San Clemente, Santa Maria in Trasteverde, etc. So much to see, so little time. There surely was no time for dilly-dallying.

From Rome we traveled to Florence. Our Hotel was located in the nearby town of Monte Catini Therme, an ancient Spa town. Our first night there, the choir delighted the other Hotel guests and passers-by - among whom another US Choir - with some piano bar classics. A good time was had by all, until it was discovered that said "passing-by choir" was scheduled to sing in the same place at the same time we were. Having obtained such information, we made sure that we were in place long before the Eucharist began. Our fears became true. After nearly ruining diplomatic relations with one of our neighboring states, we negotiated a semi-amicable solution. They sang at the Baptistery. We did sing at the Duomo in Florence for the Vigil of the Feast of the Birth of Saint John the Baptist, and what a thrill it was. Oh Italy, how much we love you.

After a brief stop in Sienna we traveled on to Venice, the Queen of all cities. Just picture the Cathedral of San Marco, covered from top to bottom with mosaics, installed over the course of some 1000 years. I had only seen these from a distance, now standing in the balcony from which the choir would sing, we could touch these glorious pieces of art. We sang at the Duomo in Venice for a large group of church goers. And no. this time there was not a second choir competing for the honor to sing. Moreover, upon exiting from the church we were received with grateful applause, which occasioned an impromptu concert in the Piazza in front of San Marco. I was moved by the tears in so many peoples eyes. Here we were, the cathedral choir of the Basilica of Saint Mary singing in one of Europe's most beautiful and most revered spots. How blessed we are.

With that we left Italy behind us and embarked upon Austria. Those of us who were tired of the Italian ways rejoiced in the more orderly and familiar Austrian ways. We celebrated this transition with a delightful lunch in Karinthie, the homeland of one of our tourguides.

June 27 was our most challenging days, at least vocally. We provided the music for the high Mass at the church of the prestigious Abbey of Melk which overlooks the beautiful Danube river. The abbot who presided was very pleased with our music. After the celebration of the Eucharist we indulged in a brief concert. It was reported to us that people very rarely stay for this sort of concert, yet, this time they did. Again, I noticed the tears in several eyes. Melk was special for many reasons, not in the least the lovely accommodations and the fabulous breakfast we had in a nearby village. We were invited to return and, God willing, return we will…some day.

A brown bag lunch sustained us during our trip from Melk to Salzburg. Knowing that Salzburg is one of the musical capitals of the world it was very important that we do well at the celebration of the evening Eucharist at the Franciscan Church. Thank God, the Salzburgers rejoiced in our music and want us to come back too.

Our stay in Salzburg was blessed in many other ways: a perfect tour of the Mozart House; chicken Florentine, instead of the ubiquitous pork roast: courteous and pleasant hotel service. One drawback, some people developed a slight cough in Salzburg. Luckily, there was only one singing engagement left: The Vigil Eucharist for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul in the parish church in Hallein.

You may know Hallein, because Franz Gruber, the composer of Silent Night is buried there. What a delight to see the joy, especially in the faces of the 20 or so nuns who were among the assembly. At the end of the Liturgy, the pastor mentioned how grateful he was that this choir, from the United States which sang in the great Cathedral churches of Rome, Florence, Venice; in the Abbey of Melk and in Salzburg would honor their little village with a musical visit.

We were grateful for his kind words, yet realized that ultimately, it does not matter where we sing, as long as we sing to the Glory of God and in the service of the Liturgy. This is the mission of the Basilica Choir. Doing so we will move people's heart, soul and mind and hopefully bring them a little closer to God.

To you who were on the trip, to our friends and benefactors and to you our parishioners, I want to say how profoundly moved I was, and not a little proud to see our music touch the heart and soul of church-goers and passers-by throughout Italy and Austria. It made me realize how blessed we are, here at the Basilica, to enjoy the quality music we have. It made me appreciate, again, the importance of quality music. It gave me renewed courage to continue the great liturgical tradition we enjoy, here at the Basilica of Saint Mary.

We have returned to our own beloved Basilica, refreshed and renewed in our commitment to reaching beyond our voices, even so far as the heavenly Jerusalem.

Peace, my friend.

Bridget McCarthy
Forward, Onward - from Amsterdam Airport to Roma.
Amsterdam arrival.
[07/31/99, 59k]
Johan and Teri arrive in Amsterdam.
Inbound thru Amsterdam
[07/31/99, 46k]
The Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain.
[08/03/99, 44k]
First stop in Rome.
Spanish Steps
[07/09/99, 77k]
Waiting - Roman style.
The bus stop in Rome.
[07/31/99, 62k]
Hi Pat!  Please, why don't you join us?
1st of many extended lunches.
[08/20/99, 44k]
Castle bridge in Rome.
[08/03/99, 49k]
Sister Pat prays that we get to sing sometime on our trip - this photo was taken during mass at St.Peter's.
Will we sing?
[08/11/99, 52k]
Guided tour of the Vatican Museum.
Vatican Museum Tour.
[07/31/99, 66k]
WWII versus Y2K minus one (1944 : 1999)
John Sykora.
[08/03/99, 47k]
John and Mark soaking up the sights at the fountain in front of the Pantheon - Rome.
Enjoying the Pantheon.
[08/03/99, 42k]
Yummm... Lowenbrau, the Pantheon and friends - Kay, Sandy and Patty at home in Italy.
Ricci must be Italian.
[08/03/99, 30k]
Farewell song to the first and last tour casualty.
Farewell Dwight and Susan.
[07/31/99, 51k]
Before bus assignments were in effect - Rome.
Roman tour via bus.
[07/31/99, 45k]
Kim and his personal organ tweekers.
The organ team.
[07/31/99, 34k]
Break time with Andreas and Irene.
Andreas and Irene.
[08/03/99, 42k]
Nice umbrella, Don.  Just what is Dave holding, anyway?
D.P. & D.P.
[07/12/99, 37k]
Rene's namesake - Florence.  Where are we supposed to meet before we sing?
Group coordination.
[08/15/99, 36k]
Boat ride to Murano.
Off to Murano.
[07/12/99, 57k]

San Marco Plaza, Venice
[07/31/99, 59k]
Ahhh... seafood delights in Venice. Kim and the second sopranos - an interview for new assistants.
Seafare luncheon.
[08/11/99, 76k]
Enjoying more great fare in Venice
Great fare in Venice.
[10/15/99, 33k]
Lee feeding some of the pigeons at San Marco Square - Venice.
Feeding pigeons.
[07/31/99, 71k]
Warm-up at San Marco - Venice
Warm-up in Venice.
[07/31/99, 70k]
Singing for Venice
Choir in Venice.
[08/02/99, 65k]
Prepared for CARNIVAL!
Hmmm ... CARNIVAL again today?
[10/15/99, 30k]
This is so like Venice.
So like Venice!
[07/07/99, 82k]
Janette, Charlene, and Katie the bride
Another Trio.
[07/31/99, 47k]
Relaxing after another great day.
Another great day.
[10/15/99, 26k]
First lunch break in Austria.
First Austrian wait.
[07/31/99, 76k]
Arriving at Melk.
Arriving at Melk.
[07/31/99, 79k]
Just read the smiles and you will know.
Always prepared.
[10/15/99, 30k]
waiting... waiting... waiting.
As Salzburg tourists.
[08/02/99, 57k]
Where did you say the choir is?
Salzburg café break.
[07/09/99, 59k]
Where was this photo taken, Rene?
Nice smile Rene.
[10/15/99, 33k]
Lee arranged an insider tour of Wien with Wayne
Wien back-streets tour.
[07/31/99, 52k]
Vienna gardens with Brian, Rene and Barb
Wien Gardens.
[08/11/99, 58k]
Looks like Dave just loves smokin' that stogie.
Yes Dave, europe does suit you.
[10/15/99, 16k]
A delightful farewell - wine and dinner with friends.
Vino and friends.
[10/15/99, 32k]
This photograph does not reveal the fact that this group of people is ready to explode with laughter.
More vino and friends
[10/15/99, 36k]
Laughter before the wine in Wien.
Did we have fun?
[07/31/99, 67k]
Our guides doing that finger-pointing thing again.
Irene & Andreas [& Johan]
[07/31/99, 31k]
Food Everlasting !!!
Food Everlasting.
[07/31/99, 59k]

We did have fun.
[08/02/99, 51k]
Winding down.
[10/15/99, 19k]
Sincere farewells between Irene and Jerry. This is a good example of Jerry being Jerry.
Farewell my friend.
[08/11/99, 63k]
Acknowledgments - Refer to Don P's video for details.
Watching the end.
[08/02/99, 49k]
Ain't it just like home cookin'?
A platter of energy.
[10/15/99, 27k]
Click here to enter the Basilica of St. Mary website.
Choir CD is available.

Choir Tour Log written by:

Johan van Parys.
Photo contributors include: Lisa Tobin, Chris and Dave Power, Mark Sykora, Lee Munnich, Barb Rothmeier, Pat Arasim, and Cathy Stepanek.
The Basilica of St. Mary Choir CD is available for purchase. Visit the Basilica's web site for more information. Hi! Big THANKS to all of the contributors:)
Page last updated on October 20, 1999