Main Street Singers Take European Tour

By Adrienne Mitchel, Staff Writer

In a picturesque German town, a group of American high schoolers mill around in an outdoor market before their director ushers them into formation for an impromptu choir performance. A small group of Germans, toting their shopping bags, stop to listen to their songs. As the students continue, a massive crowd assembles around them. When the director places both hands at his sides, signifying the end of the performance, a roar of applause erupts.

From April 7 to 23, the Main Street Singers toured through Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The tour allowed members of Main Street to experience performing in a choral festival and at various churches while also experiencing European culture. What made this year’s tour especially memorable, however, was the combination of impromptu performances, unexpected issues and plentiful surprises, all of which ultimately contributed to an exciting experience.

The group participated in the Montreux International Choral Festival, a three-day choir competition in Switzerland. Through the competition, Main Street and one of the only other high school choirs, a Croatian group, formed a fast friendship. The two groups first met after the awards ceremony during a banquet and bonded over their love of singing and music as well as their similar high-school experiences.

“We have a group chat where we [still] talk with them,” senior Leah Marrin said. “It’s crazy to get to know them because a lot of them do just the same things as us. They’re just doing their calculus, and they’re over in Croatia.”

Outside of the competition, the Singers were always kept on their toes by Choir Director Mark Shaull, especially during concerts. Most of the time, singers weren’t aware what pieces they would be performing.

“During our concerts on the trip, Mr. Shaull would never tell us what we were singing [beforehand], but I think the spontaneity is kind of fun,” junior Ryan Cox said. “We have a repertoire of [songs] we have memorized for the most part… You kind of get the general order of stuff, but he’ll switch out pieces and… we wouldn’t know what’s coming next.”

Shaull explained the benefit of impromptu performances, explaining that they help the Main Street Singers to grow as performers.

“I think as a performer you can learn how to be at your best in the moment, to walk in and be able to command the moment and be the best you can be in every moment of performing,” Mr. Shaull said. “That’s always an opportunity for expression.”

Singers recalled a particularly memorable performance  in a square in Munich when, unbeknownst to them, there was a protest going on in the same location at the same time. A police officer approached Mr. Shaull midway through a song to ask them to stop.

“The policeman starts talking to Mr. Shaull, and Mr. Shaull’s hands are doing all the right things, cueing us at the right time, keeping tempo, everything’s perfect and he’s having a full conversation with this policeman,” Ryan said. “And then we finish our song, and then Mr. Shaull’s like ‘Yeah, we have to get out of here.’”

The Main Street Singers were also able to visit Hellbrunn Palace, famous for its trick fountains and The Sound of Music gazebo, Love Locks Bridge, where couples attach a lock to the bridge and throw the key in the river below and Mont Blanc, the highest point in all of Europe.

Main Street members recount that the tour gave them a broader perspective on the world by embracing outside cultures.

“It was just amazing to immerse ourselves in the culture for two weeks,” Leah said. “It was really incredible to share something that is so universal and just spread it all across the world… [and] to meet people and be able to sing for them in these different countries.”

Ryan said that the Main Street Tour also fostered self-discovery.

“I think it was a really amazing experience because it helped me to understand… that life is really short and you don’t have time to not be yourself,” Ryan said. “Being myself around [other Main Street members] helped me make friends a lot easier. I found people that I’m going to be friends with for a long time… After high school, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say ‘oh, yeah, yesterday I went with four of my friends and we made a quartet and just sang out in public.’”