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King University News :: King University Choral and Highlands Youth Ensemble Perform in Greece at 10th Annual International Festival of the Aegean


SYROS, Greece, August 21, 2014 – For two weeks this summer six members of King University’s choirs and the 36 members of the Highlands Youth Ensemble participated in the adventure of a lifetime. The two choirs came together with other choral programs from across the globe to perform in the 10th Annual International Festival of the Aegean in Syros, Greece.

The festival took place July 2 through July 16, 2014 celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Apollo Theatre, which opened with a performance of Verdi's Rigoletto on April 20, 1864. The theatre is the 11th oldest opera house in Europe and the first opera house in Greece.

The festival included performances of major works by Beethoven, Mozart, and Rutter in the Apollo Theater; a grand program of “Puccini in the Plateia;” and solo performances in St. Nicholas Church as part of the “Sacred Music in a Sacred Place” Sunset Series. Throughout the festival, major choral works by Beethoven, Mozart, Gershwin, Poulenc, Rutter, Verdi, and others will be presented.

Participating alongside King choir members was the Highlands Youth Ensemble under the direction of Jane DeLoach Morison, Lecturer in Piano at King University. The ensemble is the premier four-part choir of the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy. Selected by audition, members come from throughout East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. Members, 9th through 12th grade students, have sung in Hungary, at Carnegie Hall, in yearly concerts at Biltmore Estate, and are regularly chosen for district, state, regional, and national honor choirs.

“One of the highlights of the trip was for our students to have the chance to perform and be with John Rutter, who is one of the most important composers in the last 50 years,” said W. Patrick Flannagan, professor of Music for King University. “Post WWII, Rutter is probably the most important and prolific composer of sacred music in the world. During the first week of the festival, our students not only met Rutter but also had the opportunity to sit and talk with him and perform with him.

“At the end of the second week in Syros, our students performed an opera concert in an open-air plaza,” added Flanagan. “There were more than 300 singers including our 42, full orchestra, and professional opera singers. One of the unique points of the concert was it had to end promptly at 10 p.m., so everyone could stop and take in the World Cup Soccer final game. They had wide screen TVs setup all over the plaza to watch the World Cup final.”

Students participating in the trip were quick to realize this was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Not many singers have a chance to perform with world-renown singers, conductors, and musicians.

Reflecting on her experiences in Greece, Camille Grizzle, a King senior majoring in Music Education commented, “Traveling to Greece for the Festival of the Aegean has without a doubt been a highlight of my life. Being immersed in a new culture, having the chance to work with great musicians, and meeting some of the most welcoming people made this a great experience.”

Grizzle added, “A few days after we arrived in Syros, our new home for the next couple weeks, we were introduced to our conductor for our upcoming concert, John Rutter.  I was a bit star-struck.  I have sung a number of his pieces throughout my years in choir never dreaming I would be singing one of them in his presence.  During rehearsals, I was able to take in techniques that will be useful in my career as a choir conductor.  I tried to soak up every clever quote and technique he used to let the choir know exactly how he wanted his music to be performed.”

“Traveling to Greece was, for multiple reasons, one of the most enlightening experiences of my college career,” said Michelle Hall, King senior majoring in Music “The musical performances that we were invited to be part of were fantastic.  Since I learned of John Rutter’s compositions when I began singing with King, I easily developed an appreciation for his music.  However, I know that only a handful of people can say that they actually worked with Rutter and performed one of his large works with him in person.  I really view it as a great honor that we were invited to perform his “Mass of the Children” with him in Greece.”

During their time in Greece, students took time to visit Athens, Mykonos and Delos. Delos, an active archaeological dig site, is one of the most important mythological, historical, and archaeological sites in Greece. “A group of the students even stopped to sing in the amphitheater on Delos in honor of Apollo, Greek god of music,” said Flannagan.

Hall summed up her experience by saying, “Because of my experiences in Greece, my greatest realization is that people are people. Wherever you go, whatever culture you are part of, people are people. This idea became more and more clear to me throughout the entire trip and gave me even more of an appreciation for world travel. Even if I never have the opportunity to travel like this again, I have learned a great deal about humanity as well as myself while in Greece, and I will never forget the amazing experiences we all shared together by the Aegean.”

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