A Different Spring Break

UNC Chamber Choir

UNC's Prima Voce Chamber Choir performs during the dress rehearsal for the 2014 UNC Gala Benefit at the Union Colony Civic Center. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Burchett

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UNC's Prima Voce Chamber Choir performs Palestrina's "Sicut Cervus," one of the songs they'll perform during a March 17 mass at the Vatican.

Not all UNC students will spend spring break on a beach or catching up on their sleep. The School of Music's Chamber Choir has been invited to Italy for a music festival and to sing during a mass in the Vatican, and three other groups of students will perform community service activities in Utah, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Singing in Italy

Members of UNC's Prima Voce Chamber Choir will start their spring break early when they depart March 12 for the Festival of Peace and Brotherhood in Rome. There, they'll perform individually and with local choirs in a variety of historic venues before singing during a St. Patrick's Day mass in St. Peter's Basilica.

According to choir director Jill Burleson Burgett, the group's "audition" to sing during the mass required providing recordings and a list of songs that had to be approved by the Vatican. The group will sing five songs during the mass, including a sacred piece composed by senior Music Composition major Patrick Rooney.

Burgett said she doesn't know if Pope Francis will be part of the mass.

"I've been checking his personal schedule on the Vatican's website, but not every appearance is included there," Burgett said. "Singing in the Vatican is really an honor in and of itself, and the students are thrilled."

Because of scheduling conflicts, 28 of the choir's normal complement of 34 members will make the trip, which will pack in three joint and four individual concerts in addition to tours of many of the area's historic landmarks.

"Because of the nature of music performance programs like ours, it's really not feasible for our majors to study abroad for a semester like students in many other majors do," Burgett said. "Competitions and festivals like this one are a good alternative to give School of Music students an international experience in a compressed timeframe."

The group will leave Rome March 19, giving them a few days to rest while they savor what many consider to be a trip of a lifetime, before classes resume on March 24.

UNC's Alternative Spring Break Program

Three groups of students will forgo a traditional spring break March 15-23 to work as community service volunteers as part of UNC's Alternative Spring Break program. The program each year confronts societal issues and impacts communities throughout the nation.

This year, groups will travel to Kanab, Utah, to provide aid and rehabilitation to animals at the Best Friends Animal Society; to Los Angeles, where they'll help women and survivors of domestic abuse at the Downtown Women's Shelter and a nearby YWCA; and to Washington D.C., and the Capital Food Bank, where they'll help combat homelessness.

According to Jimmy Kohles, coordinator of UNC's Off-Campus Life programs, students will have some time to take in local sights but the emphasis is helping out the communities they'll visit.