By JULIE HAMMOND
Despite prior hesitations regarding the reinstatement of President Trump’s travel ban, all members of the Laurentian Singers participated in a recent spring break excursion to Puerto Rico. Initial anxieties centered around the safety of the choir’s international students were promptly quelled as St. Lawrence alum Nathan Torres ’11 came to the rescue. N. Torres, who joined the Laurentians on their trip to Puerto Rico in 2009, accompanied the international students at the Burlington International Airport as the rest of the choral group departed from Ottawa. The three international students hail from Kenya, Chile, and Timor, respectively. Each was able to avoid adversity and safely reach their final destination, converging with fellow Laurentian Singers at Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport.
Upon their arrival on March 18th, the Laurentians ventured to Puerto Rico’s historic capital and largest city, San Juan. Accompanied by musical director Barry Torres and Professors Barbara Philips-Farley and Terry DuBray, the Laurentians visited El Yunque, a rainforest located on the northeastern end of Puerto Rico. The following day, the Laurentian Singers attended Universidad de Turabo, where they both witnessed choral performances and performed selections from their current repertoire. Tuesday, March 21st marked the final day in San Juan for the Laurentians, as they traveled west to the town of Rincón. While en route, the Laurentians traversed the municipalities of Arecibo, Aguadilla, and Mayagüez.
There was little leisure time for the Laurentian Singers on their first night in Ricón, as they performed yet another concert at La Primera Iglesia Presbiteriana de Aguada (The First Presbyterian Church of Aguada). Although the Laurentian Singers boasted a busy schedule of travel and song, the group also found time to relax among the island’s beautiful beaches, taking in Rincón’s rich culture and wildlife. On Friday, March 22nd, the Laurentian Singers became busy once more as they set off for Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city. Here the singers took part in the Discover Puerto Rico Choral Festival, performing alongside nine Puerto Rican choirs. Choral performances took place at the University of Puerto Rico at Ponce, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, Teatro La Perla, and Ponce Cathedral throughout the weekend.
In addition to participating in the Festival’s final celebration, an honor awarded to only a handful of choirs, the Laurentian Singers shared unique experiences with other participants of Discover Puerto Rico. “We were given the opportunity to perform a song titled ‘El Cumbanchero’ with the other choirs at the festival, which was really incredible,” recalls Veronica Zabala ’19. Not only did the Laurentian Singers partake in the performance of this group piece, they all sang “El Cumbanchero” with the song’s composer and festival co-artistic director, Ruben Colón-Tarrats.
When asked about the spring break tour as a whole, George Salmons ’17 shared a few nostalgic sentiments: “This trip held a lot of significance, as it was my fourth and final tour with the Laurentian Singers.” According to Salmons and other members of SLU’s Laurentian choir, “Puerto Rico was made all the more exciting as audiences were very welcoming and receptive.”
Though the Laurentian Singers’ trip was a success overall, the group encountered some unforeseen difficulties as they returned to the States. Initial travel plans were altered, causing students to miss their flight from San Juan and subsequently their connecting flight from JFK International to Burlington. All members of the Laurentian Singers arrived on campus a little after midnight on Tuesday, March 28th, one day later than anticipated.
The Laurentian Singers held their most recent concert on Saturday, March 31st in Gunnison Memorial Chapel, featuring many of the songs performed at the Discover Puerto Rico Choral Festival. Such pieces include the works of Tarik O’Regan, Z. Randall Stroope, Matteo Flecha, and Mozart’s Requiem.
The Laurentian Singers’ next performance will take place this Saturday, April 8, at 3 p.m. The concert will be held in Gouverneur’s First Presbyterian Church and is free and open to the public.