This May, the Samford A Cappella Choir, under the direction of Philip Copeland, will return to Europe for its first international tour since 2018. The choir will be accompanied by several faculty members and alumni. They depart Birmingham on May 11 for the 12-day trip to Belgium and the Netherlands.
“International tours and competitions have been a hallmark of my time at Samford. We are putting our recent competition-winning streak on the line with this trip, but that isn’t really what it is all about,” said Copeland. “Samford students will gain a new perspective about the world and their place in it. These gatherings teach us all that we are more alike than we are different, a perspective that is sorely needed in the world today.”
The trip is centered around the choir’s participation in a choral competition in the small town of Kerkrade, in the Netherlands called CantaRode. “It looks to be an impressive gathering of 13 ensembles from 10 different countries, including Sweden, The Netherlands, Belgium, Malaysia, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary and Estonia. There is even a choir from the Ukraine, and they are very good,” said Copeland. “I am particularly impressed with the high quality of adjudicators, a group of five very respected conductors and composers from Belgium, Venezuela, Finland, Slovenia and the United States. It will be a remarkable experience for the Samford students.”
The group will tour and/or perform in Bruges, Ghent, and Antwerp in Belgium. One of the highlights before the competition is an invitation to perform at the historical celebration of the “Cathedral of our Lady,” also known as “De Kathedraal.” The event has a lot of historical significance for the area and employed two prominent musical composers in the 15th century, Johannes Ockeghem and Jacob Obrecht, according to Copeland.
The Samford A Cappella Choir was founded in 1939 and is featured throughout the year on campus at commencements, convocations, Hanging of the Green, concerts and vesper services. It has performed at the National Collegiate Choral Organization and at the Southern Regional Conference of the American Choral Directors. It has a distinguished record in international competitions having swept all top awards at the Laurea Mudi Competiton in Budapest and the ŠIAULIAI CANTAT in Lithuania.
There is a long tradition of music and accomplishment with this special group of singers. “Excellent musicians are drawn to the group because they want to be a part of something great,” said Copeland. “They end up developing friendships that last throughout their life.”
Tours and competitions strengthen this bond even more according to Copeland. “Competitions help us bring our musical efforts to previously unmatched levels of accomplishment. At the end of this tour, we will be a closer group of people and we will have experienced something that we will never forget.”