Reinhardt University chamber choir takes on Italy

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Reinhardt University is taking another step toward thriving as the Chamber Choir prepares for an adventure to Italy to give a performance in St. Peter’s Basilica under the guidance of Dr. Martha Shaw, the choir’s director.

With every great choir comes a great director. Shaw, professor of music, has been conducting for 36 years and is a seasoned veteran when it comes to international performances.

“I’ve had choirs go to Europe or other places in the world for the past 23 years,” Shaw said. “I first went when I was a senior in college and had such a great experience.”

Aside from her work with the Reinhardt choirs, Dr. Shaw also devotes her time to her Spivey Hall Children’s Choir, a music program founded under the direction of Shaw.

Dr. Martha Shaw with Vatican organist Fabio Avolio

The trip was manifested through ties between Shaw’s favorite tour company and Vatican organist Fabio Avolio.

“This will be my 25th trip outside of the country,” Shaw said. “I’ve started traveling with a certain tour company and the people who are owners of that tour company have become very close friends [of mine] because we’ve gone all over the world together.”

When these tour owners revealed their ties with the Vatican organist, Dr. Shaw, who has already been to Italy and sung in the Vatican, was overjoyed at the possible opportunity to travel there with her choir.

Shaw surmounted language barriers between the organist and herself to pave the way for the foundation of the trip.

“He didn’t speak much English and I didn’t speak much Italian, but we conversed by singing to each other to get our points across. He eventually came to realize that I knew what I was talking about and I obviously knew he knew what he was talking about and that’s when the invitation came for us to spend some time with him in Italy studying Renaissance music,” recounted Shaw.

While specific dates have yet to be set in place, the trip is scheduled to take place the summer of 2018. Multiple performances have been scheduled for the 10-day excursion, including one in the heart of Vatican City.

“We’re going to spend several hours working with [Avolio] and then we’re going to do Mass in St. Peter’s Chapel. When people do Mass, they often do it in one of the side chapels, but there is only one main altar and we’re going to do afternoon Mass at the high alter with the organist for the Vatican at the organ,” Shaw said. “The centerpiece for the music we will sing in the Vatican was written by the man who was the Maestro de Capella at the Vatican during the Council of Trent.

“The choir will give multiple other performances in various locations throughout their trip as well,” she continued.

Students will travel to Rome, Florence and Venice. “In Rome, we will go to the Coliseum, we will go to the Forum. We’ll also travel to Florence where we’ll go to the large cathedral and see the dome. This dome is so important that at the time it was built, a song – Nuper Rosarum Flores— was written in its celebration.”

There are also plans to explore Tuscany, to stay in Montecatini, and to visit the house of the Medicis.

The trip will cost students about $4,000. Shaw has already reached out to Dr. Kina Mallard on the matter of making this trip possible. “I told Dr. Mallard that we had been invited to sing at the Vatican and she said ‘When do we leave?’ She was ready to start on this project immediately. We then began discussing fundraising to help make this possible,” said Shaw.

Currently, the choir is planning to record a CD this May to sell in order to raise money. “My students are extraordinary in every genre that I put in front of them. I’ll have them sing Renaissance, I’ll have them sing Jazz, everything. I tell them what I want and they make the adjustments,” Shaw proudly said.

There will be other methods of fundraising developed as the year goes on to continue the effort to raise money.

Reinhardt University and the community will have the opportunity to hear the music the Chamber Choir will be performing on their trip in the upcoming 2017-2018 concert season at the FPAC.

Written by: Erin Laas

First article in a series

Photo courtesy of Dr. Martha Shaw and Campus photographer, Jeff Reed

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