UConn Voices Serenade Michelangelo’s Most Famous Painting

The Concert Choir sings at the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Together with the Womens Choir and Collegium Musicum, the group spent nine days over Spring Break participating in the American Celebration of Music in Austria and Italy.
The Concert Choir sings at the Sistine Chapel in Rome. The choir and other UConn music groups spent nine days over Spring Break performing in the American Celebration of Music in Austria and Italy.

The 67 members of UConn’s Concert Choir spent nine days during Spring Break participating in the American Celebration of Music in Austria and Italy that included memorable performances in Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, and under Michelangelo’s most famous painting, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

The Concert Choir is the premier large choral ensemble for undergraduate and graduate music majors and advanced university students from all majors that performs music of all styles and periods led by Jamie Spillane ’87 MM, associate professor of music and director of choral studies in the Department of Music. Members of the choir also performed with the UConn Chamber Singers, Women’s Choir, and Collegium Musicum.

Spillane accompanied the Concert Choir overseas with Mary Ellen Junda, professor of music and director of Women’s Choir, and Eric Rice, head of the Department of Music and director of the Collegium Musicum ensemble, who is a specialist in the history and performance of music composed before 1750.

The value of this trip lies in getting the choirs off campus and into those spaces for which the music was created. — Jamie Spillane

During their European travel, the UConn musicians sang in Mass at Salzburg Dom, the 17th-century Baroque cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Salzburg in Austria; Saint Mark’s Basilica in the heart of Venice; and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. They also performed as part of the American Celebration of Music at the historic churches Basilica di Santo Spirito in Florence and Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome.

“The value of this trip lies in getting the choirs off campus and into those spaces for which the music was created,” says Spillane. “St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice is where the poly-choral movement began, and where Claudio Monteverdi, Heinrich Schütz, and Giovanni Gabrieli were choir directors and composers. For us to sing in that space, in the footsteps of these giants of music history was amazing. To sing [Giovanni Pierluigi da] Palestrina’s ‘Sicut Cervus’ in the Sistine Chapel, where he was actually a singer in the choir and later one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation, underneath that incredible ceiling painted by Michelangelo, was a lifetime event for students and directors alike.”

Members of the Concert Choir reflected on their memorable journey for UConn Today:

It is hard to describe this trip without becoming repetitive, as I find myself using the same three words: incredible, inspiring, beautiful. We sang in beautiful churches filled with rich history and magnificent architecture, something that constantly reminded me that I was a part of something much bigger than myself. We sang on the streets of Venice, Florence, and Rome. In each place, I witnessed the joy brought to the strangers who happened to stumble upon us. To me, the purpose of music is to create beauty, and in all my years I have never witnessed this beauty with such magnitude and overwhelming power.

Erin Brochu ’21 (CLAS), freshman English major

The most important part of this trip was the collective experience. Particularly after singing in the Sistine Chapel, but also throughout the trip, we were able to connect with one another and feel something so powerful, the kind of power that only music can bring.

Samantha Card ’19 (SFA), junior music education major

I found that this tour was a powerful reminder of what we love most about choir: making great music with true friends. We were lucky to perform in some of the most beautiful and significant locations in the world, and the memories will last a lifetime.

Jonah Garcia ’20 (SFA), sophomore music education major

Something I found important about this trip was that our community got to stand where so many other vocal communities have stood before. We were able to experience the history firsthand, and sing in sacred spaces that have been sung in by composers hundreds of years before our time. It was humbling and eye opening to realize the significance of being insignificant, and realizing how much the world changes as we move along with it. I feel a lot smaller in the Holocene, and appreciate all that has come before me and all that will soon follow after me.

Cayla Puglisi ’18 (SFA), senior music education major

Seeing so many spaces, and pieces of art, with such immense historical significance was both humbling and awe inspiring. The experience affected me in ways I wasn’t expecting and could not have prepared for, and I can’t wait to go back again and see even more.

Carl Rice ’20 (ENG), sophomore computer science and engineering major

On this trip, we were able to experience, share, and collaborate within several different cultures. Each day provided a memorable experience that was unique and allowed UConn Choirs to be influenced in a positive way, as well as influence others. Not only was this trip important to us, but it was important to those who we crossed paths with as well, and unified communities across the world.

Skye Shogren ’20 (SFA), sophomore music education major

Watch this video of the students performing.