This summer, the hills were alive with the sound of music once again as the Peabody Children’s Chorus traveled to Austria and Germany on a whirlwind 11-day tour. Some 130 people, mostly children, swarmed the cities of Ulm, Salzburg, and Vienna in matching, brightly colored shirts, enjoying the sites and culture while crossing 500 miles by bus to perform concerts for enthusiastic audiences.
“I am in awe of our singers, who memorized over an hour of really challenging music for the tour, including pieces by Austrian, German, and American composers,” says the chorus director, Doreen Falby. “We had an especially memorable experience after singing with a local youth chorus in Bergheim, when the community hosted a reception so that the groups could spend time together after ward and exchange contact information.”
In addition to singing across the two countries, the chorus’ tour group spent a few hours learning to perfect the Viennese Waltz; slid down salt mines in Salzburg; played at the Prater, a Vienna fairground; and sang “Edelweiss” in front of the pavilion used in The Sound of Music. The group also stood in the room where Mozart was born and later sang mass in the Stephansdom in Vienna, where Mozart was appointed music director shortly before his death.
Two pieces were commissioned for the group’s visit to Dachau, a German city known as the site of the first concentration camp built during World War II. Locals believe there is a spirit on the Dachau camp road, where prisoners would meet in the late evening to talk and help each other. There, the chorus premiered a Yiddish poem set to music by Vladimir Heifetz and arranged by Peabody alumnus Marc Irwin and “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by chorus alumnus Cameron Falby.
“Singing Cameron’s piece at Dachau made my stomach flip and my heart turn in knots,” says Sarah Carter, a recent high school graduate on her final tour with the chorus. “It was upsetting in ways, yet distinctly reverent and undeniably right. There was a hope around it, fueled by survivors’ stories of faith. Something I’ll never forget and never feel again.”
“I think all of our singers came home with an awareness of the inter-relatedness of nations and cultures, the universality of human values, and the necessity for working together,” Ms. Falby says. “They formed lifelong bonds through rehearsing and performing intensely with their peers, and they were marvelous ambassadors for Peabody and the U.S.”
— Carin Morrell