Radford University's acclaimed Madrigal Singers will take their vocal talents halfway around the globe in April to compete in Russia. The group's trip was made possible in part by a grant from the U.S. State Department to fund its overseas travel and by scholarships from the university's Arts Society.
"This was totally unexpected," David Castonguay, director of choral activities, said of the $15,000 grant. "The Russians are also picking up all of the housing and meal expenses for the students during the visit."
RU's Madrigal Singers, who for the last 28 years have performed chamber music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods as well as contemporary compositions, will be in Russia from April 18 to May 2 to perform at one of that nation's major performing arts festivals, the 14th International Children's Music Festival, and take part in an academic choir competition. The festival's theme is "The Earth Is Our Common Home."
The event will feature music ensembles from across Russia, from independent republics of the former Soviet Union and from other parts of Europe and Asia as well. "Some of the ensembles will travel for four to five days—one way—by train to perform. It is a big country," Castonguay said, noting that the performances will be in some of the most elegant 19th-century halls in Yekaterinburg, Russia's fourth-largest city.
Castonguay is no stranger to Russia, where he has taught master classes and in April 2011 served as a guest juror for the Ural State University Boris Yeltsin Academic Choir Competition.
"The State Department funded my teaching in Russia during the fall of 2009, which resulted in a public concert of Russian academic and professional choirs at the Philharmonic Hall in Yekaterinburg," Castonguay said. "Because the 2009 visit was a success, the U.S. State Department suggested that the U.S. government fund bringing a small ensemble of RU singers to demonstrate the techniques of American music to Russian conductors."
Castonguay also credited Dean Joseph Scartelli of the College of Visual & Performing Arts and Al Wojtera, chair of the Department of Music, for making the trip a reality. The Arts Society of Radford University provided an additional $6,000 in scholarships to help cover students' travel costs, and students are currently holding their own raffle fundraisers with the goal of raising another $2,500, he added, making it possible for 18 of the 27 members of the madrigal group to participate. Student performers were chosen to make the international, end-of-the-semester trip based on their performing ability, as well as their academic and personal records.