Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2009-05-11

The Samford University A Cappella Choir will sing at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, and will be the performing choir at the celebration of Mass at St. Francis' Basilica in Assisi, Italy, and St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in Rome, Italy, during a May 19-29 tour.

Singing Mass at the Vatican is a first for a Samford choir, and according to director Timothy Banks, may be a first for any Alabama college choir.

The presentation at Notre Dame will be a reprise of sorts for Dr. Banks, who was a student choir member when the Samford ensemble gave its first performance at the High Altar of Notre Dame Cathedral in 1973.

"It was an experience I have never forgotten. So, it is most gratifying to be on the other side of the baton this time, leading the 2009 A Cappella Choir in this magnificent place," said Banks, who knows that the Notre Dame performance will be treasured as a once-in-a-lifetime event for today's young singers, as it was for him. "I just love the ´pay-it-forward' theme in these experiences."

Samford School of the Arts dean Dr. Joseph Hopkins agrees. "This is a life moment," he said of the opportunity. "Students will never forget the day they sang under the Rose Window in Notre Dame or sang for Mass at St. Peter's and forever impacted the legacy of Samford music."

Selections for the two Mass presentations will be the same that the choir sang during a concert and Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral in Birmingham earlier this month.

The 11-day performance tour will also include concerts at Chartres Cathedral in France, and at three Italian places of worship: San Agostino church in San Gimignano, St. James Episcopal Church in Florence and Rome Baptist Church.

The concert programs will draw from the choir's repertoire of classical pieces as well as hymns and spirituals.

At the Florence church, the Samford choir will present a duo concert with Spirit of the Living God chamber gospel choir. After giving separate programs, the two choirs will join together to sing the spiritual, "Oh Happy Day."

The 41-member traveling choir will enjoy special guided tours of the cathedrals and cities where they will perform, as well as Versailles in Paris, and Vatican City, the Coliseum and Palatine Hill in Rome. Excursions include a boat cruise on the Seine River in Paris.

The choir has toured internationally for many years, including extensive performance tours of England, France and Germany.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.