Talented choir prepares a visit to Greece

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Giuseppe Verdi is celebrating his 200th birthday this year and the Southwestern College Concert Choir is traveling to Europe to take the master Italian composer a special present.

Dr. Terry Russell, SWC director of the choral activities, and her troupe join the Bulgarian International Orchestra for a performance of “Verdi’s Messa Da Requiem” on July 7. Three days later Russell will conduct the orchestra and her students as they sing “Misa Azteca” in the Apollo Theater. “Misa Azteca” is a mass in Nahuatl, Spanish and Latin written by Joseph Julian Gonzalez, a renowned film, and classical composer.

“When I go out of the country, I have to make sure that people get the sense that we do a lot of different kinds of music,” Russell said.

SWC performers will journey to the Greek island of Syros for the global Festival of the Aegean. Syros will host for four American and seven Greek choirs. SWC’s choir will perform at historical venues such as the Apollo Opera Theater, Miaouli Plateia (Piazza) and St. Nicholas Cathedral.

Russell said Gonzalez wrote “Misa Azteca” specifically for the SWC choir, which will also perform Stroope’s “Hodie”and Bass’ “Gloria” at the Sun God’s amphitheater. Following the “Gala Premiere of Festival,” the choir will precede to the Greek village of Chroussa to perform at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the location for the “Sunset Sacred Concert.” Russell said this concert will be enriching for the choirs since they will be the audience and expectants in this evening concert.

An outdoor concert in Plateia (Piazza) called “Under the Stars” will feature performances of Verdi’s “Aida,” and “II Trovatore.” It is the closing event of the festival.

SWC’s choir started working with MidAmerican Productions 13 years ago.  While working on her Ph.D. at the University of Miami, Russell said the SWC choir was invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City in March 2000. Peter Tiboris, the general director of MidAmerican productions, was smitten by a performance of “Misa Azteca.”

“He had loved the ‘Misa Azteca’ so much that he asked if I would bring it to Greece,” said Russell.

Choir member Alejandro Vargas, a bass baritone, is traveling to the Festival of the Aegean.

“The choir is a very valuable experience for me because I learn about music even if I am not trying to,” said Vargas. “I´m going to be in front of people that do not even know what I am saying, but that makes me want to go even more.”

Professor of English Francisco Bustos is traveling this July. He will perform in two concerts in the city of Syros, playing percussion and Aztec drums. He said he is seeking inspiration in Greece.

“The most important thing is going to being able to play on a Greek stage to Greek folks and play these Aztec percussions,” he said.

Russell’s choir has also performed at international stages such as the Sydney Opera House in Australia and Notre Dame Cathedral at the Sorbonne University in Paris.

“I know we will continue doing fabulous things,” said Russell. “I just do not know what the fabulous things are going to be.”

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