Sharing a love for art and music, the Central College A Cappella Choir recently returned from a successful tour in Brazil, where they sung in both English and Portuguese—proving that music truly is a universal language.
Seventy students traveled to Sao Paulo, Iguacu and Rio di Janeiro and sang in impressive venues, including the Cathedrals of Sao Paulo and Nossa Senhora da Paz in Rio di Janeiro. During their concert in Sao Paulo, Cardinal Odilo Scherer, Archbishop of Sao Paulo, sat in the audience as the choir performed and presented more than 300 pairs of shoes to the Northeast Rotary Club in Sao Paulo.
“The students were great ambassadors for Central College, and they discovered more fully the transformative collegiate choir experience,” Mark Babcock, director and associate professor of music, says. “Students in the A Cappella Choir pledge to commit to a shared mission: our respect for the choral art challenges us to learn diverse repertoire, work consistently for excellence, inspire others through varied performances and treasure the unique contributions of every choir member. This mission has new meaning for them following the tour.”
Rotary International has collected new and used shoes to distribute to people in need throughout Brazil for more than a decade—as a sign of goodwill, the choir collected shoes at concerts in Iowa and stuffed the donations into their suitcases. The club focuses on rural communities, as well as impoverished areas in Brazil’s largest cities. Through the end of 2012, there had been more than 50,000 pairs of shoes collected and distributed.
As the tour progressed, the group witnessed Brazil’s inspiring natural wonders. While visiting the lushly forested tourist area of Iguacu Falls, the choir marveled at the area’s waterfalls and the national park. While in Rio, the students soaked up the warm sun on the Copacabana beach and explored the local culture through street vendors and restaurants.
“Although we were clearly outsiders, the Brazilian people were welcoming and extremely gracious toward us, warming our hearts with gratitude as we warmed theirs with music,” says junior Mackenzie Uhlenhopp. “It was an unforgettable blessing to perform beloved Portuguese pieces for a sea of smiling, crying and, often, singing Brazilians. Not only did we fall in love with the Brazilians, we were all truly humbled by the tremendous stature and beauty of the venues in which we performed.”
The choir toured the Christ the Redeemer Statue (the largest art deco statue in the world placed on a mountaintop looking down on Rio) and encountered a drum and Samba exchange with a local percussion group. Everywhere they went, they shared their love for music, including an impromptu performance at Iguacu Falls.
It was a powerful experience for the entire choir—the poverty in Brazil was evident, but a transformational experience came from sharing their art. Audiences cried and applauded; the students were moved, and they learned that the arts can break down any barrier.
“Above all, I learned that music is one of the best ways to reach out and communicate with others, especially other cultures,” says sophomore Lexie Waymire.
“As a result of our journey to Brazil, the members of the A Cappella Choir have grown as singers, performers, public servants, global citizens and community members,” Uhlenhopp adds. “It was an immensely rewarding experience that visibly impacted each and everyone involved and for which we are all extremely thankful.”
A student-made video of a fun afternoon at Igauacu Falls. By sophomore Brandon Mennenoh