SDSU choir tours Europe

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

For most students, spring break means a trip to a tropical locale or perhaps a week of work back at home.

For the students in the SDSU concert choir, however, spring break meant jumping over the Atlantic Ocean in a plane and stepping into a potentially tenuous political situation to perform on the European continent the glory of song.

In a tour that included three different countries and many, many cities, the highlights were numerous.

“I really enjoyed going to the beaches in Normandy and seeing the craters (from bombs dropped during World War II) and how big they were. It was unbelievable,” said Anita Protsch, a sophomore graphic design major from Howard.

The choir sang in six different locations, including Paris and Brugge, Belgium. Choir members had the opportunity to sing in a variety of venues.

In Brugge, the choir sang in a real cathedral. While in Oldebrook, the Netherlands, the choir performed for a modern Dutch church service, where traditional hymns like “Amazing Grace” were sung entirely in Dutch by the congregation.

While those going on the trip had been warned that political tensions might lead to trouble, the choir was not confronted directly with any anti-American sentiments, though a protest against U.S. policies towards Iraq did take place a few blocks from where the choir sang in Caen, France.

Because of all this, Protsch said she felt a little less safe than she did when she travelled in Europe in the summer of 2001. At that time, she only had to worry about protecting her belongings. This time, she had other concerns.

“I felt a little safer two years ago than I did now because of the war situation,” she said. “There was pickpocketing going on when I last went, of course, but this time it was more the protesting that had me worried.”

After flying in to Amsterdam, the choir took a canal tour of the historic city, then visited the Rijksmuseum, a world-famous art museum, where many original paintings by Rembrandt and Van Gogh, as well as other Flemish and Dutch painters.

From there, the choir traveled to Kampen, an ancient city that still boasts many sections of its preserved city wall. The city wall was designed to protect the city from floods because all of the Netherlands lies below sea level and flooding is always a danger.

In Kampen, the choir members spent their first night with local host families, who provided food, a bed and a chance to get to know people of another culture.

“My favorite part of the trip was the home stays. I enjoyed getting to know people from different cultures, seeing how they live and discussing world events with them, as they often had very different viewpoints,” said senior business economics major and Bellevue, Neb. native Matt Horak.

Choir members toured Kampen before performing their first concert there. They then traveled to Oldebrook for a second concert and continued on to Kapelle, a small town in the southern part of the Netherlands with long, winding cobblestone streets and a towering church.

After a concert in Kapelle, the choir entered Belgium, starting with a visit to Antwerp, the second-largest port in all of Europe. Choir members then visited Ghent, where a medieval castle has been remarkably preserved.

The choir stayed two nights in Brugge, one of Belgium’s larger cities, full of narrow streets and spacious town squares surrounded on all sides by opulent buildings. The town provided choir members with a chance to sing in a pristine and chilly cathedral and do some shopping among Brugge’s many small shopping districts.

“I really enjoyed Brugge. It wasn’t too big and I felt a little safer than in Paris,” Protsch said.

The choir crossed in to France, touring France’s tallest cathedral in Amiens and singing in a small church in Caen. From there, the choir toured the historic Normandy beaches.

“To see the crosses and the amount of lives lost for freedom kind of overwhelms you,” Horak said.

To complete the tour, choir members went to Paris where they performed one last concert and toured the city, concluding the tour with a night cruise on the Seine River, surrounded by the romantic and dazzling lights of the French capital.

#1.887276:1638064.jpg:france.jpg:Johanna, (from left) Lia and Teunis Alberts hosted SDSU choir members in Kampen, the Netherlands.