A delegation of faculty, administrators and state legislators recently accompanied the Morgan State University Choir on a 10-day tour of Italy, the first in the history of the globally-traveled choral ensemble. The choir visited and performed in select stops in Rome, Florence, Milan and Vatican City.
Widely regarded as goodwill amabassadors for Baltimore City and the State of Maryland, the choir used the trip for academic enrichment along with performance experience, counting an operatic master class among the tour highlights.
“This is the first time that the MSU Choir has been to Italy, and it seemed like a perfect fit because many of our classical singers are interested in opera,” said Dr. Eric Conway, Director of the Morgan State Choir and Chairperson of the MSU Fine & Performing Arts Department. “To that means, I made sure that our tour included a master class with a professional in opera, who coached our singers in pronunciation in Italian.
“He sat and listened to a few students sing Italian arias and gave constructive feedback on how to better our italian diction and song interpretation,” said MSU junior Leah Hawkins, a Philadelphia native and member of the MSU Choir. “Many of my colleagues and I are aspiring opera singers and to be in the birthplace of opera and have a professional be impressed with us was reassuring that we are heading down the right career paths.”
Along with sightseeing famous structures like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Romeo and Juliet’s balcony in the city of Verona and the Academy of Fine Arts, Dr. Conway called the choir’s performance in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica among the proudest in the history of the organization.
“On that day, there were nearly 1,000 people listening to us. We prepared some music in Latin, and we sang some vintage Morgan State Choir repertoire, including “If I Can Help Somebody,” Dr. Conway says.
“The basilica is the premier venue, chorally speaking, and it just seemed appropriate that our choir, like other world-renowned choirs, would be able to share and perform in that space. It was as special for us as singing in Carnegie Hall.”
“I’ve been on quite a few tours with the choir and once again it was a blessing to share our music with the world. I am honored to be an ambassador for the United States, for Morgan State University and to be a positive representation of African descendants everywhere,” Hawkins said.