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A group of choral students will travel to Spain and Portugal during the January interim session as part of the course Choral Music: Window to Culture and sing at church services and concerts with local choirs. Students will also study history, culture, religion, architecture, and language of the region.

The itinerary will feature Lisbon, Faro, Seville, Cordoba, and Madrid, where in addition to their performances, some of the students’ activities will include sightseeing tours, visits to an olive oil refinery and a vinho verde winery, and meetings with host families.

“American choirs don’t often go to Spain and Portugal, so we’re grandly welcomed everywhere and invited to sing in the biggest cathedrals,” says Nina Gilbert, director of choral activities, who will lead with group with Katherine Furlong, access services librarian.

The choir’s repertoire includes songs in English, Spanish, and Portuguese from the old and new worlds. It will perform the Spanish and Portuguese premieres of a Neruda sonnet setting by California composer Morten Lauridsen and a setting of Psalm100 in Portuguese by Amy Scurria.

Furlong has prepared “a beautiful curriculum of travel writing that the students will study as part of the experience,” says Gilbert. “We go from Don Quixote and Portuguese explorers through 20th- and 21st-century writers.”

A “Welcome Home” concert at Lafayette is planned for Wednesday, Jan. 25, where students will sing pieces they performed on their travels, show slides, and re-enact some of their adventures.

During the choir’s last interim tour in 2003, a group of 34 choral students traveled to Finland, Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria, giving 11 concerts in six cities and learning first-hand about historical sites. The choir sang in the languages of the countries it visited, as well as in Latin, Irish Gaelic, and English. In Budapest and Helsinki, local choirs joined the students in performances.

Gilbert holds a doctorate in musical arts from Stanford University, a master’s in music from Indiana University, and a bachelor’s in music from Princeton University. Before coming to Lafayette, she was lecturer in the department of music at the University of California, Irvine. She also taught at Hamilton, Ferrum, and Wabash Colleges, the Hartt School of University of Hartford, and Westminster Choir College of Rider University. She has numerous choral arrangements and editions in print and is associate editor of Choral Journal. She offers commentaries on choral topics for the “Performance Today” show on National Public Radio.

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