GENEVA — The Geneva High School choir has been forced to settle back into a routine the last few days after their self-described experience of a lifetime to close out 2016.

The choir returned home Jan. 4 after performances in Rome for the New Year's Jubilee celebration at the Vatican, as well as other cities across Italy. The choir also sang in St. Peter's Square, at a Mass at St. Peter's Church and at churches in Florence.

The group left for Italy on Dec. 27 with six chaperones and 37 students making the trip.

Among their stops, the choir visited Rome, Florence, Montecatini, Siena and Pisa. They visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Piazza Del Campo in Siena and the Forum, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Sistine Chapel, Pantheon and Spanish Steps in Rome as well as many other destinations in central Italy. 

Geneva High School Choir Director Michelle Mather said the tour was a great experience for choir members, adding they performed at more places than planned.

"We had a fabulous trip," she said. "Our schedule was intense and we packed in as many performances and stops at historical sites as we could. We played at more places than we anticipated."

Mather said the enhanced schedule included singing at Mass at the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Florence on day two of the visit, various churches in Tuscany on day three, the Colosseum in Rome on day four and at St. Paul's Within the Walls on day five.

"We missed our planned performance at the New Year's Processional because the performance at St. Paul's ran late," she said. "We did sing at masses in Vatican Square. We also sang on the Spanish Steps and in the Pantheon. We sang for our supper at our farewell dinner at Antico Moro." 

Mather said the trip was the experience of a lifetime for her students and the sheer joy and excitement of seeing new things, experiencing different cuisine and learning about other cultures made the trip worthwhile.

"The memories that will bond these students together for a lifetime made the trip truly remarkable," she said.

The choir has an international reputation and has performed at prestigious venues before. The opportunity to perform in Rome came after a recommendation by two judges at the Performing Arts Consultants Big Apple Classic high school choir competition in New York City in 2015.

"Our tour guide, who works regularly with choirs and bands, said he knew we were good, but he didn't really know how good until our first performance," she said. "That really made our students beam. They work hard and this trip was an opportunity for them to show off their hard work."

Mather said every time the choir sang people would stop and videotape them. She said despite the language barrier, the people's smiles and positive reactions spoke louder than words.

"The trip really gave me a taste of what I'd like to do in the future, and that is travel the world," said senior choir member Sebastian Camacho.

Choir member Abby Drew, a junior, said the trip was a unique experience.

"To see that music can take me to such a wonderful place is amazing," she said.

Senior Rachel York said it was especially enjoyable to get to know choir members well and "create memories."

"It was an unbelievable experience that you can't even put into words," she said. 

Junior Rebekah Dean said it was "amazing." 

"Definitely the best experience I ever had in my life," she said. 

Dean said it was fun to sing for people in a variety of places. 

"We went to St. Peter's Square and sang to random people," she said.

Geneva Area City Schools Superintendent Eric Kujala said the trip was a wonderful experience for members of the choir, and one that will last a life time.

"That's the great thing about music," he said. "It can be easily shared and enjoyed by everyone around the globe. I am so proud of all of them for representing the Geneva Schools in such a positive way."

High school Principal Doug Wetherholt said the trip was priceless.

“What a wonderful opportunity our music department afforded our choir. This trip was the learning experience of a lifetime,” he said.

Mather said she didn't know what famous venue the choir would perform at next, but she had high hopes for the future.

"With kids as talented as these, the sky is the limit," she said.

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