University Singers tour in Italy

Elizabeth Barnhart, senior music major, takes a gondola ride through the canals in Venice, Italy, with her classmates on the group's final day in Italy. | Submitted Photo by Angela Canestrari

By Tyler Strong

While most students spent their spring breaks traveling to beaches or to their various homes, the Union University Singers spent their break flying halfway across the globe.

The Singers traveled to Europe to take part in their Spring Tour around Italy, a tour in which I was fortunate enough to take part. The tour took us first into the heart of Italy – Rome. From there we traveled to Florence, located in the scenic region of Tuscany, and then finally to the streetless, canal-filled, floating city of Venice.

The initial itinerary scheduled us to sing and participate in services in each city, including St. Peter’s Basilica, the center of the Catholic church located within the Vatican State. However, some of the greatest highlights of the trip were spur-of-the-moment occasions.

While taking walking tours of each city, we would pass many beautiful, ancient sites that had been standing for hundreds — if not thousands — of years. But arguably some of the most spectacular and breathtaking sites we saw were cathedrals. The facades of these buildings left me standing there, mouth agape, trying to grasp every intricate detail. Most of the churches follow the same form, but each as unique as the city in which it was located. The real fascination, though, lay within the building.

As we entered each cathedral, our heads immediately turned upward to admire the brilliant artwork of its interior  — the gut reaction it was designed to evoke. Most cathedrals were covered in a blanket of silent reverence on the inside, but when a sound was made, we could hear the waves reverberate off of the aged walls for what seemed like an eternity. And when a building has such great acoustics, musicians tend to feel the need to take advantage of them.

With the permission of the churches, we performed a mini-concert in the midst of other mingling tourists. A crowd would draw to hear not just our voices, but rather the gifts our creator has blessed us with to glorify him.

These instances happened on several occasions, including once at what some might consider the most iconic image of ancient Rome: the Pantheon.  This magnificent structure was originally built as a temple to all of the gods that the ancient Romans worshiped.  To be able to sing praises to our Lord in a temple that was constructed in honor of many gods was something I had trouble wrapping my mind around. To also receive gratitude from people of numerous nationalities for performing those songs was unbelievably amazing. It was truly a testament that God’s love knows no bounds, but even singers from Jackson, Tenn., are brothers and sisters in Christ with people in places as far away and as incredible as Italy.

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