Penn Glee Club’s members got the chance to spend two weeks earlier this summer visiting Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany, visiting landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate and singing for hundreds of people.
The group traveled to Vienna, Prague, Hamburg and Berlin on their 2015 tour, entitled “Auf Wiedersehen,” the German phrase for “goodbye,” from May 19 to June 4. During the trip, the group performed at a variety of cathedrals and international schools, as well as at events sponsored by the American embassies in Vienna and Prague.
Rising College senior and Penn Glee Club president Daniel Carsello said that he enjoyed the experience of traveling to cities with a rich musical history.
“As a music major, it was awesome to see so many places that are so important in terms of Western classical music,” he said. “Little things here and there make tours feel different, but for the most part, [going on] tour is always a great time with your friends, singing wherever we go and getting to experience places we might never get to see otherwise.”
The group’s director Erik Nordgren, who received a Ph.D from the School of Arts and Sciences in 2001, said that Penn Glee Club has been going on annual tours of regions across the country and world since the 1980s. In just the past few years, the group has traveled to and performed at locations in the northwestern U.S., the Middle East, Tanzania, Canada, Bermuda and Scandinavia.
“They get an unparalleled experience of going to interesting places, seeing places and people that they probably never would otherwise. We sort of intentionally tend to go off the beaten path — it’s culturally a conscious choice to go to places that it’s relatively unlikely that [the members] would go anyway later in life as a tourist,” Nordgren said. “It’s not just a performance tour — it’s very much a fun experience of just touring, [visiting] cultural sights and famous sightseeing destinations and enjoying the culture of where we are.”
2015 Wharton graduate Justin Kim, who served as the group’s 2014-15 business manager and organized this year’s trip, said that putting together the itinerary for the tour required about a year of preparation. The process involved reaching out to schools and American embassies in the region to try to set up performances, as well as trying to work with airlines to obtain affordable air travel.
Kim said that Penn Glee Club subsidizes approximately 50 to 60 percent of the tour’s cost through revenue from performances throughout the year and donations from parents and alumni, with individual members paying the rest.
The trips allow the group’s members a chance to bring their music to a completely new audience, Kim said.
“We try to interact with audiences across the nation, across the world through music,” Kim said. “I think at the core it’s really fun to share the variety of music we have in our repertoire with people who have never heard of pop, for example, or never heard of Americana music. It’s fun to travel and meet new people who may not speak our language, but we’re united because of songs and performances we do.”
Nordgren agreed, adding that Penn Glee Club’s performances allow them to present a positive image of Penn to the places they visit.
“It’s so heartwarming and great to see — it’s intercultural exchange of the best sort, just having young Americans be sort of ambassadors of our country and ambassadors of our University to places all around the world,” Nordgren said. “We refer to ourselves conversationally, but I think very legitimately, as Penn’s musical ambassadors to the world, and we’ve sort of had that framework in mind always when we travel.”
This year’s tour was bittersweet, as it was Nordgren’s last at the helm of the group, which is why it was named “Auf Wiedersehen.” Nordgren, who started out as a member of Penn Glee Club in 1992 while working toward his doctorate at Penn, ended his 15-year-long term as the group’s director after the tour.
“What I’ll miss about Dr. Nordgren the most is his role as mentor to all of the club,” Carsello said. “He helped shape the group into what it’s become today, and we’ve certainly become better under his tenure.”
For Nordgren, this year’s trip was a “poetic bookend” to his time with Penn Glee Club, since he got to travel to many of the same places as the ones he visited on his first tour with the group to central Europe in 1995. He said that he has enjoyed bonding with the members of the group throughout his tenure, as well as helping them develop their sound as an ensemble.
“I’ll miss the regular dose of the great sound of a men’s choir, being able to be shaping the sound of the group and seeing it go from first learning a piece of music to becoming a piece that’s well known and sounds great and putting that in front of [an] audience,” Nordgren said. “I’ll also miss the social interaction — my personal experience with the group has evolved from being a student singing member [to being the director], but throughout I’ve always considered myself close to the guys and considered them friends, whether it was just a few years of age difference or a couple of decades.”Comments powered by Disqus
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