University of Northwestern – St. Paul sent 53 students and 10 leaders on a tour to London, Cambridge, Ely, and Oxford, England from May 17 to May 29, 2023. Led by Tim Sawyer, Director of Choral Activities & Professor of Music, their first performance will take place at Westminster Abbey. A smaller group will also be headed to Scotland from May 29 to June 1, 2023.
The trip abroad for the Northwestern Choir takes place every four years, however, the tour was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Student Trenton Plopper muses, “I have been looking forward to this trip since before Covid, as we were supposed to go in 2021, so the anticipation has been building since then. I am so excited to get to sing in some of the most amazing cathedrals in the world, all while ministering to each person that comes to listen to us sing.”
As a kick-off to the tour, the choir performed a Bon Voyage Concert at the Cathedral of St. Paul on April 29, 2023. Emma Davis, triple major in Vocal Performance, Music Composition, and Media Production–Film, had this to say about the performance: “The Cathedral of Saint Paul is probably the coolest place I’ve ever sung so far, but the great thing about this tour is that the Cathedral of Saint Paul will instantly be one-upped because the first place we sing in the UK is Westminster Abbey. I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to sing in many of these gorgeous, historical venues and participate in these British choral traditions. This is truly the choir tour of a lifetime!”
The Northwestern Choir is an auditioned mixed ensemble of 50–75 upper division student voices. The choir performs primarily sacred a cappella music of all style periods and occasionally presents major choral works with the Northwestern Orchestra. Devoted to the highest level of choral performance, Northwestern Choir seeks to sing from the heart and to glorify God in every aspect of their music and life together in Christian community. Their mission is to bring the light of Christ through God-honoring, dynamic, choral music.
In anticipation for the tour, student Joseph Switch said, “God placed each and every one of us in this choir to go and minister to the community of England. I have continuously been praying over this trip and each of us going. I know the Lord is going to do great things for us!”
END OF TOUR UPDATE:
After an exciting first performance at Westminster Abbey, despite feeling the effects of jet-lag, the choir was able to see King Charles III and Queen Camilla ride past us while they were walking to Big Ben. The officer leading the escort made a point to stop the group and say, “You may want to get your phones out for this.” Later in the tour, the students traveled to Windsor Castle to witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony, and viewed the lavish state rooms and the Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. They also visited St. George’s Chapel, where many members of the royal family are buried, including Queen Elizabeth II.
The group spent time in quaint Cambridge, a stark contrast to the bustle of London. They experienced musical performances led by admired conductors John Rutter and Sarah MacDonald, and participated in a choral workshop at Trinity College led by another, Tim Brown. Each day, the choir was able to sing in beautiful chapels and cathedrals, and even had the opportunity to record several of their performances. Among other adventures, the students visited the home of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon and his grave, as well as the graves of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Student Abby Ambroson reflects on her experience, “One lady came up to me after [a performance] with tears in her eyes. Without a word, she hugged me, and I was filled with joy knowing that someone was so moved by the music and the Spirit who enabled us to sing it. Something that distinguishes Northwestern Choir is the heart with which we sing. I’ve been so blessed to sing with this group of talented musicians who use their gifts for something greater than ourselves.”