To Italy and Austria

News | July 6, 2017

Bill Campbell and Nathan Windt work together at St. Paul and St. Ambrose University. They recently teamed up to revive a vocal tour for St. Ambrose students. 

Voices, blending well
The idea for this wonderful trip came about because I composed five new pieces of music based on hymns of Ambrose of Milan, and we had a goal of touring a music group. Ambrose wrote chant-like hymns in the 4th century, and I used five of these as the basis for performance pieces that the Chamber Singers learned over three years. I wanted them sung in Milan, bringing the music Ambrose composed back to his city.

On tour, the students sang beautifully and with a sense of purpose. They made every phrase count, and brought meaning and joy out of the music. They sang during two masses and three concerts. The audiences were so appreciative and really seemed to love the American Spirituals they sang. While all their events were excellent, personally I thought their concert in Venice was the best. All the voices blended well as an ensemble, and the soloists sang with heart.

We also had a lot of fun. The food, architecture, sight-seeing tours, and espresso! Wow! The students were amazing, and the trip went without any issues. We got to explore cities and places we’d heard about, and I think we all want to go back soon.

– Bill Campbell, professor of music and department chair at St. Ambrose; contemporary music coordinator at St. Paul

Three-year musical journey
When I came to St. Ambrose in 2014, one of our goals was to have the vocal ensembles touring again. Having toured internationally as a collegiate singer and conductor, I knew firsthand how life-changing the experience could be. We chose Italy primarily because of the institutional connections to St. Ambrose of Milan, and Austria for its rich musical history.

The students sang selections ranging from Renaissance-era polyphony to contemporary African-American spirituals. They had a number of unique musical opportunities, including performing hymns of Ambrose in his hometown of Milan, in new choral settings by Bill, as well as music of Mozart in his beloved city of Vienna. The most gratifying experience of the tour was to see how music could captivate both the students and the audiences, a continuing testament to the power of music and how it transcends cultural boundaries, and speaks to our shared human experience.

Each concert had its own unique moment, but our final concert, in Vienna at the Peterskirche, was the musical highlight for me and many of the students, because it served as a beautiful end of a three-year musical journey.

– Nathan Windt, assistant professor and director of choral activities at St. Ambrose; chorale director at St. Paul

Leave a Comment