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What happens when 32 Richmond Hill High School chorus students, accompanied by teachers and parents, go to Italy to perform in some of that country’s most historic venues?
Beautiful music, that’s what happens.
Accompanied by Dr. Justing Addington, the choir performed at St. Mark’s Basilica on June 4, with a local high school choir in a cathedral in Florence on June 6 and then wrapped up the tour on June 8 in Rome at the Vatican, performing at St. Peter’s Basilica, according to RHHS Choral Director Janet Wooten.
She called the trip a “bucket list item,” and one funded by the students and parents themselves.
“There was a lot of time spent fundraising,” Wooten said. “Car washes, selling butter braids, flowers, chocolates, and a lot of local sponsorships from businesses really helped out. Some of these kids have been working and saving money for two years.”
Among those to attend as a chaperone was Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter, a longtime government teacher at RHHS. He called the experience “phenomenal.”
“To see how well these young people represented Richmond Hill and the fact that they were singing at these historic churches. When we got to St. Peter’s in the Vatican, there were tears as they fully comprehended this opportunity. And they were very well received by the church.”
While much of the music performed by the chorus was part of the Catholic mass, Wooten said also brought music with them.
“We try to end it with a piece that’s home to America,” she said.
“So we ended it with the African American spiritual ‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken.’” They also performed songs in Swahili and from the Middle East.
Among the students to perform was Wooten’s son, James, who just graduated and is headed to Georgia State on a music scholarship and plans on teaching music himself. He said he’s performed in other country’s, but it will be hard to top singing in St. Peter’s.
“Singing-wise, that's one of the best places in the world to perform,” he said.
The trip left an emotional mark on those who participated. Wooten, now in her third year as choral director at RHHS, said after the choir finished that final performance at St. Peter’s, “there wasn’t a dry eye” among the students or their chaperones.
“All they had been working for, for two years,” she said. “That last song at St. Peter’s was very emotional.”