A true Memorial Day celebration: Mississippi singers to present concerts in Omaha Beach at Normandy, multiple historic European sites

Published 6:15 am Friday, May 5, 2023

The University of Mississippi Concert Singers are preparing for an upcoming trip to Europe to sing in historic cathedrals and give a special memorial performance at Omaha Beach in Normandy.

“There are so many things to be excited about,” said Ontarius Woodland, choral conducting master’s student and member of the Concert Singers. “There aren’t many times where you have the chance to take a trip to Belgium and France – let alone to perform in some of the most historic cathedrals and other venues – but to have the opportunity to do both in one trip is just like a double whammy.”

The 10-day tour, set for May 17-27, will make multiple stops in Belgium and France. The singers will perform in cathedrals in both countries, including the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp, Bayeux Cathedral in Bayeaux and the Church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont in Paris.

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The Concert Singers will participate in worship services followed by concerts of sacred repertoire, and will give stand-alone concerts. They will also visit Omaha Beach to offer a sung memorial at the American cemetery.

Among the pieces that the Concert Singers will perform are “Sinner Please Don’t Let This Harvest Pass” by William Grant Still, “Jubilate Deo” by Ko Matsushita and “Alma Redemptoris Mater” by G.P. da Palestrina.

Along the way, they will take guided tours of Antwerp, Bruges, Bayeux, the D-Day landing on the Normandy beaches and St-Mer-Eglise, Rouen and Paris.

“In addition to singing in some very historic cathedrals, which provides a unique venue with very live acoustics, the students will also gain an appreciation for new cultures, new foods, touring of historic cities and historic sites,” said Donald Trott, professor of music and director of choral activities.

“This combination of activities provides the students with a journey shared with their friends that will provide great lifetime memories.”

The Concert Singers are an auditioned, 50-voice choir that rehearses four days a week and performs a variety of repertoire. They represent a cross section of majors, but all come with previous choral experience.

“This choir has toured both domestic and internationally over the years, but due to the pandemic, it has been several years since we’ve toured,” Trott said. “The goal is to travel internationally once every four years to allow all singers in this choir to experience this culturally enriching opportunity at least once during their time in the choir.”

Jordan Allen, a choral conducting master’s student from Houston, Mississippi, sings baritone in the choir. Normandy will be a special part of the tour for Allen, as both of her grandfathers served in World War II.

“Visiting the WWII museum at Normandy and singing some patriotic pieces there will be a highlight of the trip for me,” she said.

“I’m also looking forward to just being able to go to a different part of the world in which I have never been and being able to see and visit new places.”