From the moment the College Choir arrived in Pisgah, Alabama at 3:00am on Saturday morning practically half-awake, everyone we met— from our gracious hosts to the fellow singers and local musicians we performed with — were exceedingly generous and kind. They welcomed us into their homes, laughed with us, shared stories, and cooked us delicious Southern food. And they did all this despite the obvious lack of “ya’ll” in our Northern vocabularies (though some of us have already picked up the term — myself included). The South offered everything I heard it would and more: unparalleled hospitality, warm and sweet personalities (and even sweeter tea), and yes, butter…everywhere. Let’s just say the College Choir was very comfortable and well-fed.
But when we weren’t stuffing our faces with copious amounts of fried chicken and gravy or daydreaming of our next mouthwatering meal, we were singing up a storm. The College Choir performed three concerts over the course of four days, making for an action-packed tour that required a great level of stamina and endurance. The program itself, a collection of Southern spirituals and hymns alongside Francis Poulenc’s technically challenging Gloria, wasn’t for the faint-of-heart either. However, the College Choir was in good company, joined by the Tuscaloosa Symphony and the Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church Choir under the direction of David Harris’ brother Quint (the resemblance between the two of them is uncanny). Although performing a rigorous program several times in just a few days proved difficult and singing with a new set of singers was an adjustment, we were able to improve on each performance. And by the final concert, the mixed choir from Holy Cross and Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church had become a musical force to be reckoned with.
In between concerts (and meals), we visited various historical attractions around Alabama, including the DeSoto Caverns as well as Birmingham’s famous Vulcan sculpture, which is the largest cast-iron sculpture in the world. My favorite site, however, was the Civil Rights Institute, a humbling experience and sobering reminder of Alabama’s critical role in the American Civil Rights Movement.
As I sit here in the van on the way to the Atlanta airport and as we prepare to return to Mount Saint James, I can’t help but feel nostalgic about my final semester with the College Choir. With a full heart (and a full stomach), I’d like to thank each member of the tour choir for making this experience unforgettable. I’m extremely proud of what we have accomplished, not just on this tour but throughout my four years at Holy Cross. Though I’ll be leaving Holy Cross in May, I’m excited for what’s in store for the College Choirs. – Adam Ouellet ’16