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NC State Chorale Performs in Italy

State Chorale in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican after singing at Mass. Photo credit: Patrick Fargier

Just a day after helping usher the spring 2024 class of NC State graduates into the world, members of the NC State Chorale packed their bags and headed across the pond to showcase their talents on a global scale. 

From May 5-13, the chorale embarked on a nine-day performance tour in Italy, performing in Rome, Florence, Venice and Vatican City. 

“It was super special to me to have the opportunity to sing in spaces where people have been making music for centuries,” said Francesca Balestrieri, a 2023 NC State graduate who will start a master’s program at the university this fall. “Also, singing in a choir is more gratifying when you are friends with the other singers. It was nice to spend time getting to know the other singers better during the day before we sang together later on.”

State Chorale performing in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome. Photo credit: Patrick Fargier
The NC State State Chorale performing in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome. Photo credit: Patrick Fargier

NC State Chorale Director Nathan Leaf explained that choral tours “provide the opportunity for advanced musical education and aesthetic experiences for students.” Performing the repertoire multiple times in different locations and to different audiences allows students to elevate their performance. 

“The shared work of preparing together and the culminating performance experiences create a unique musical and personal bond among the ensemble members, which enriches their lives and informs their future music-making,” Leaf said. 

The chorale started its tour on May 7 with a rare and special opportunity to perform at the 5 p.m. mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

The NC State Chorale in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, after Mass. Photo credit: Patrick Fargier.

The group followed up its first performance with performances at the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome, the Basilica di Santa Trinita, Florence and Chiesa di Santa Maria Della Pieta, Venice.

“I think if I had to choose a favorite part of the trip, it was performing in St. Peter’s Basilica,” said Evan McCaskill, a third-year student studying political science. “The bonds I’ve made with other students have genuinely been incredible. This tour was valuable to me for these reasons and more. Thank you to Dr. Leaf and the Department for allowing us to make beautiful memories together in Italy!”

The trip was the NC State Chorale’s fourth international tour and its first since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to their performances, the chorale members visited several important historical sites and cities. These included the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Roman Forum and Coliseum, the Pantheon, Florence’s Academy of Fine Arts, where Michelangelo’s David is housed, the Ponte Vecchio, Venice’s Doge Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica.

The NC State Chorale touring the Coliseum in Rome. Photo credit: Nathan Leaf.

“The Chorale had an exceptional tour through Italy and Vatican City,” Leaf said. “Performing together as we learn about the culture and history of these places is a transformative experience that elevates our music-making and changes how we look at the world. I couldn’t be more proud of the students. The tour was a great way to conclude a full and exciting year of singing.”

The tour concludes a full year for the Chorale, University Singers and Chamber Singers. Some highlights from the 2023-2024 academic year include:

  • A two-day residency on campus in October with renowned composer Reena Esmail. 
  • Participation of eight choir students in the 150-voice North Carolina All-Collegiate Choir in October.
  • Performances with the North Carolina Symphony for the Holiday Pops 2023 concerts.
  • The launch of the NC State Choral Artists and performance of Considering Matthew Shepard in March.
  • A University Singers workshop with composer Pepper Choplin in April, in preparation for their world premiere performance of his new work, Every Morning Arising.

Auditions for NC State choirs are held every fall and spring. All NC State students are eligible to join a choir.

This post was originally published in DASA.