Editor Patrick Mott, on the thrill of traveling as a choral group

By Patrick Mott, Editor, OC Catholic     11/27/2015

Dozens of choral singers from the Diocese of Orange, both adults and school-age choristers, are going to travel to Rome in December to sing at several concerts and celebrations in the city and in the Vatican, and there likely aren’t any singers in all of Orange County who wouldn’t give up pizza for a year just to go along.

That’s how much fun touring with a musical group is—particularly if you get to perform in a famous concert hall or church, or before a special audience, or for a particularly grand occasion. As their itineraries would have it, the singers from the diocese will get to do all of that, and do it at Christmastime (see story on the Diocesan News pages).

As a longtime choral singer myself, I admit to being blazingly envious. Singing at home, before a local crowd, is enjoyable and rewarding, and it strengthens your ties to your community in a unique way, but there’s something uncommonly bracing about taking the show on the road. Stepping onto a bus or a train or a plane with a carry-on bag filled with sheet music is, trust me, one of life’s pure thrills. You are going on the road with a bunch of people with whom you have worked unusually hard and for whom you feel great affection and esprit de corps, and there are few things that fire the imagination more than feeling those wheels roll beneath you.

You will not arrive at your destination as a mere tourist, passively soaking up the sights with the rest of the herd. Rather, you are arriving with something to give—a gift that has taken talent, diligence and dedication to assemble and, for a touring musical organization, that changes everything.

There is a certain proprietary nature attached to performing in great venues that carries with it the faintest whiff of—not quite cockiness, but a close relation—that makes the experience that much sweeter and more memorable. For those who have had the good fortune to rehearse and perform in such places as Carnegie Hall or the Cathedral of Notre Dame or St. Peter’s Basilica (as the Orange County singers will do) the place quickly takes on a comfortable familiarity, to the point where the performers begin to think of it as their own friendly confines—our hall, our church. It is that familiarity that will be responsible for a lifetime of closely held recollections.

Of course, when one’s faith enters the picture, the experience becomes that much more transcendent. In Rome and the Vatican, the Orange County singers will not be merely performing for the satisfaction of an audience, but for a true purpose: the greater glory of God at the time of the birth of his son. This is why that delicious feeling of butterflies in the stomach will be a bit more pronounced, why the concentration will be that much sharper, why the voices will be clearer and more earnest, why the memories will be that much more indelible.

That’s what musical touring is like: a journey from almost giddy anticipation to a workmanlike approach to the task at hand to the inevitable pre-performance edginess to the deep satisfaction and wonder of doing exactly what you came to do, and doing it well.

And to the friends and family members of the singers: just try getting them to stop talking about it all when they get homeEditor