SUNY Fredonia Choirs travel to England, performing and touring historic sites

An “unprecedented experience” awaits students in three vocal ensembles at SUNY Fredonia, who embark on a week-long tour of London in July 2023, giving them a unique opportunity to sing in historic locations.

Visits to many of London’s most prestigious tourist attractions, such as Windsor Castle, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben, are also on the students’ itinerary, accompanied by School of Music faculty and alumni.

“We introduced them to this tour as an opportunity last semester and they loved it,” said Professor Vernon Huff at the School of Music, recalling the students’ reaction to the field trip to London organized by the school’s choral department.

Two decades have passed since a Fredonia vocal ensemble undertook such an ambitious tour, according to Dr. Huff, who is also director of choral activities and worked with assistant professor Adam Lübke to develop the tour.

“Adam and I decided it was time for a Fredonia Choir to tour. We really hadn’t done anything like this in about 20 years, so we wanted to give our students the opportunity to go somewhere outside the country and sing in some pretty big cathedrals in England,” Huff explained. “England was our first choice for this tour and going forward we aim to do that every other summer for the foreseeable future.”

Aside from singing by the Fredonia Chamber Choir at the American Choral Directors Association’s Eastern Division Conference in Boston in February, tours for choral ensembles have been limited to a day or two, and travel has been particularly limited during the COVID-19 pandemic, Huff noted.

The London tour was open to around 240 students singing in the Chamber Choir, College Choir and Camerata.

Huff and Dr. Luebke worked with KIConcerts, a leading provider of international and national concert tours for choirs, bands and orchestras, to design a tour that would be cost-effective for students and allow them to sing in world-class venues. It’s going to be a “hub and spoke tour,” Huff added. The choir will be based in London and undertake one-day trips to concert and tourist destinations.

The choir will sing exclusively American music such as folk songs, spirituals and hymns in three concerts and one recital. Huff also hopes to arrange one or more choral exchanges. “There they sing for us, and we sing for them, and then we go out to dinner,” Huff said.

Conductor of Fredonia’s three vocal ensembles – Instructor Brent Weber, Camerata; Lübke, university choir; and Huff, Chamber Choir – will share conducting duties at all performances.

Huff has visited England many times, toured as a student at Furman University and sung at some of the same venues where the Fredonia Choir will perform.

“The Rosh and Diers concert halls are great,” Huff said, “but to sing at Bath Abbey is an experience like no other.” Cathedrals in Canterbury, London and Oxford are also potential venues.

Other tourist destinations include Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament. Watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace is available when the tour and ceremony schedules match.

The choir will visit the grounds of Windsor Castle, which is still a working castle and one of Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite residences, and Oxford University and Christ Church College, which were film locations in the Harry Potter films.

Stonehenge, a collection of massive boulders believed to have existed for around 10,000 years, is visited, as is the Roman city of Bath, site of a temple built by the Romans with outstanding Georgian architecture, and the Roman Baths.

The tour concludes with a visit to the Tower of London to see the magnificent Crown Jewels Collection, a ride on the London Eye, a spinning observation or Ferris wheel some 440 feet tall, and a sail on the River Thames.

The tour was also open to School of Music faculty and alumni, Huff noted, and “overwhelming” was how Huff described their interest. The Fredonia contingent will consist of 65 students, 20 alumni and 10 faculty members

“Some of these alumni have sung for me before and wanted to spend some time touring with their old college choirmasters,” Huff said. Among the alumni are several graduates from the 2022 class.

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