Hickman choir preparing for weeklong tour of Italy

The students will perform at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:31 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

With the end of the school year approaching, it is an exciting time for most high school students, but choir members at Hickman High School have something extra special to look forward to.

Next month, three of Hickman’s four choirs — the a capella, Chamber and Bel Canto singers — will be in Vatican City, singing in one of the largest and most famous churches. St. Peter’s Basilica is just one of several world-renowned cultural and religious venues that the group will visit during its tour of Italy.

There was a general sense of excitement and anticipation this week as the Hickman High School choir gathered for one of its final meetings leading up to the weeklong trip.

“I’m really excited to be going with this group of people,” said junior Lauren Fichter, a soprano. “They’re really fun.”

The choir leaves for its tour on June 6 and returns on June 13. The group will perform in Venice and Rome, sightseeing and touring the country along the way. In Vatican City, the choir will sing at St. Peter’s Basilica and visit the Sistine Chapel.

For many of the students, Italy will be their first trip abroad. Choir director Martin Hook views the trip as an invaluable opportunity for enrichment and learning. Hook said the students will have a chance to visit the roots of Western choral music and experience art in places such as Florence.

“It’s really exciting to be able to offer this kind of a trip,” Hook said. “It’s a different world out there, a different culture.”

Junior Ryan Occena, a bass, said he is looking forward to traveling, as well as performing.

“It’ll be my first time out of the country ... I’m looking forward to all the sights,” Occena said.

The choir’s major performances will include singing at liturgical services at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The choir has been rehearsing since February for its performances abroad. Practices have been held before and after school, as well as in the evening.

The departing tour group will consist of 41 students and 11 adults. The contingent of students includes 16 seniors, 13 juniors and 12 sophomores. There are seven chaperones among the adults to assist with supervision. Along with Hook, choir director Robin Steinhaus, accompanist Randy Schilb, Assistant Principal Denise Herndon and the director of security, Preston Bass, will be on the trip.

The school is supporting the trip by putting Hook and Herndon on extended contracts due to their administrative roles during it. The students and parents going on the trip are paying for themselves. The event and itinerary were organized by Encore Tours at $2,500 per person.

The trip is part of a three-year rotation program at Hickman, with the band, choir and orchestra all taking turns traveling abroad. For Hook, this trip represents one of his final initiatives as a choir director at Hickman. When he returns, he will focus solely on his role as director of fine arts.

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