The benefits of taking your ensemble on an international performance tour are too many to count. Ensembles that travel and perform together grow musically and build ensemble unity. Traveling overseas provides opportunities for personal exploration, cultural exchange, and a greater understanding of the world. Creating a tradition of traveling with your ensemble can also help with recruitment and retention, as well as create a performance goal beyond your usual services and performances.
For church choirs and other worship ensembles, there are important spiritual, community-building, and mission-driven reasons to travel with your church choir.
In June 2017, Wendy Bamonte, Director of Music Ministries at Lake Grove Presbyterian Church, took her sanctuary choir on a performance tour to Ireland. Traveling members of the Sanctuary Choir performed in five magnificent churches and cathedrals – St. Multose Church (Kinsale), St. Canice’s Cathedral (Kilkenny), Christchurch Cathedral (Dublin), St. Patrick’s Cathedral (Dublin), and at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church as part of a benefit concert for the city of Galway. The group was also able to participate in a service at Christ Church in Limerick.
“This experience improved our singing, drew us closer as a choir family, and drew us closer to God. We memorized our program so this definitely changed us as a choir, improving our singing and expression. We learned to adapt quickly to different acoustics and stage set-ups. This has made us more flexible in all circumstances. ”
Katrina Jackson, Director of Worship at First United Methodist Church, has taken her ensemble on four international church choir tours—including an Encore Tour to the United Kingdom in June 2017 and one to Spain in June 2014. Katrina says her top reasons for taking her church choir on an international tour were:
- Giving her choir the experience of singing and sharing their music for other cultures.
- Touring in regions with rich music history and church history and learning more about those roots.
- Having the great fortune to sing in some amazing venues, especially historic Cathedrals with their amazing acoustics.
- Having the opportunity to share her choir’s music in a setting that is more mission-oriented than performance oriented.
Katrina and her ensemble found special meaning connecting music with religious heritage on their choir tour to the UK:
“Our last tour was very meaningful for our choir in particular. We are Methodists and the founder and heritage of our denomination started in England. We decided to follow in the footsteps of John and Charles Wesley and learn more about our roots. Some of the music we took with us was written by Charles Wesley and being able to sing some of his music in places he and his brother preached was pretty amazing. Two of the many highlights from that tour were when we sang for the worship service at Wesley Chapel in London and singing a concert at the ‘New Room’ in Bristol. The historic significance of singing in both of those venues was so moving for our group. Knowing we were standing and singing in places that our founding fathers were in, was very emotional and had a big significance for us,” Katrina said.
Both Katrina and Wendy would recommend that Worship Leaders and Church Choir Directors take their choirs on an international performance tour. “I can’t recommend it highly enough…It is an invaluable experience not only for their choir members, but also for the Director. I have learned so much during the four international tours we have taken so far. Learning how to adjust to different situations, seeing the impact your group has on the people who attend the concerts, getting to work with some amazing people, meeting and sharing with counterparts in other countries and counterparts within the states, and developing stronger leadership qualities are just some of the reasons I would highly recommend [traveling on an international church choir tour],” said Katrina.