CentreTerm: students speak the universal language of music in Spain

Posted by Centre News in CentreTerm, News, Study Abroad 12 Feb 2014

A group of 26 Centre College students and their conductor used the universal language of music to strike a chord with Spanish audiences during a CentreTerm trip to Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid.

Often with the ornate domes of cathedrals as backdrops, the members of Centre Singers opened their hearts and voices in five performances during the 11-day trip that was part of H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Music Barbara Hall’s “Music and Art of Spain” class.

choir_church_spainThe land of Picasso, Dali, El Greco and Gaudi was the ideal spot for building art appreciation among the students. Those who couldn’t quite “get” some of the works in Madrid’s Prado found they could relate to the surrealism of the Dali museum. Somewhere between the Museo Piccaso in Barcelona and the Reina Sofia in Madrid, one student who before the trip had confided that he “just didn’t like art” changed his mind and could be heard “wow-ing” on several occasions.

As Performing Arts Coordinator, I was offered the opportunity to go along to troubleshoot, cart programs around and generally provide help to Dr. Hall. Of course I jumped at the chance — even after she told the group that if, during the trip, they got sick, had roommate problems or ran out of money, they should come see me. As it turned out, I didn’t have to bail one student out of jail, rush any to the emergency room or lend euros to even one. They were a very self-sufficient, engaging and enthusiastic group.

The main problem I had was keeping my mouth from hanging open as I gawked at the amazing architecture, particularly in Barcelona and especially at the Sagrada Familia. The Centre Singers gave a concert in this architectural masterpiece by Barcelona’s favorite son, Antoni Gaudi. Their voices soared into the rarified air of a basilica that resembles a magical forest filled with light and color. I’d try to describe it, but it’s impossible. The students managed to keep their focus on singing, despite the incredible scene around them and the fact that people were constantly snapping photos of them and recording the singing with their iPhones.

A more humble stage provided another highlight of the trip. In the small town of Alagón, which boasts its own minister of music and arts center with auditorium, the Centre choir was so popular that our host insisted the group sing another song after the prepared program ended with “Shenandoah,” sung by both our choir and the Alagón community choir. The community choir director handed the mic to Ali Gautier and insisted she belt out the ’80s hit “Oh Happy Day” while both choirs provided the choral echoes.

After the concert, about 50 of us jammed into the small choir rehearsal room where we were served a wide variety of homemade food amid much smiling and gesturing, necessary since few of our hosts spoke English, few of us spoke Spanish and it was too crazy to really have a conversation anyway.

As we got ready to go, Dr. Hall marshaled the Centre Singers for a song to bid our hosts farewell. When it ended, the community choir responded with a song of their own. The Centre students picked up the beat and sang another one, prompting the Alagónians to reply in kind. We all sang “La Cucaracha,” perhaps the only Spanish song we Americans could sing (using “la” for the words we didn’t know, which were all the words except “La Cucaracha”). By then everyone was dancing, linking arms and generally having a blast.

I’d call that global citizenship at its best.

By Sallie Bright, Centre College performing arts coordinator

Learn more about CentreTerm abroad.