Biola Chorale hosts send-off concert for Italy tour

The Biola Chorale members perform a concert in Crowell Music Building in anticipation of their Italy tour.

Patricia Yang, Staff Writer

The hall quieted as the Biola Chorale members settled into their positions across the stage. Dr. Shawna Stewart, the choir director, adjusted her music stand and looked at the choir. Then, with a gesture of Stewart’s hand, the choir members burst into song, their voices ringing loud in the auditorium of the Crowell Music Building.

The Biola Chorale performed their Italy Tour Send-Off concert on March 12, in anticipation of a nine-day tour to Italy on Friday, March 17. The chorale will perform concert programs as they venture through Rome, Assisi, Florence, Verona and Milan.


The Biola Chorale typically travels internationally every four years. On previous tours the singers have gone to Ireland (2018) and to Korea (2014) with President Dr. Barry Corey, among other destinations. This will be the choir’s fifth international tour.

Stewart shared that the purpose of these tours was for students to experience the musical and spiritual heritage from the countries they visit.

“To experience something outside of the United States is really important for us,” said Stewart. “[Connecting] with other Christians that are not in the United States is [also] really important and [it is just wonderful] for us to be able to get to go and see and experience another country.”

This tour is also the first tour to happen after COVID-19, reopening the doorway to international travel experiences.

“Many of these students, they didn’t do a senior trip if they were in choir, or they haven’t done a trip since they’ve been in college because of COVID,” Stewart said. “So introducing them to international travel, something that perhaps they haven’t done in the last three to four years is really important to us,” Stewart said.


The theme of the program and for the Biola Chorale is “Seen and Known.” It reflects on the hope that the chorale would see and know each other in a deeper way while also turning to Christ, who sees and knows every one. The songs in the program are broken down into several sections — “In Our Joy,” “In Our Woundedness,” “In Our Distress,” “In Our Humanity,” “In Our Loneliness” — to express Christ’s continuing presence through all times in life.

Many of the songs the chorale will sing on tour are in different languages, such as German, Italian and Latin.

“We sing in other languages because [that’s] something that we need for our own education as musicians,” Stewart said. “Sometimes those other languages also lead us to study other cultural aspects from that. There is so much rich music from the [whole] world, and so we want to be able to dig into music outside of the United States.”

One of Stewart’s favorite songs from the program was “Precious Lord,” an African-American spiritual.

“It’s deeply reflective, and I think [it] speaks deeply to the soul, and it’s just really beautiful,” said Stewart. “It’s an honor to be able to sing that work for this year.”


Stewart hopes that this tour and the music the chorale will sing would be a tool in God’s hand to reflect Christ to all who listen.

“We do consider this [tour] our mission, our outreach. This is the skill that God has given us to be able to reach out to the world,” said Stewart. “So to some degree, it is a mission oriented trip where we’re bringing the love of Jesus and bringing the truth of Christ, even if we’re singing secular music. And so we hope that God uses that in some way.”

At the closing of the concert, the Biola Chorale walked along the aisles of the auditorium, encompassing the audience. Dr. Stewart stood in a vacant spot amongst the seats, and conducted the choir as they sang the final song in their repertoire, “God Be in My Head:”

God be in my head and in my understanding.

God be in my eyes and mine looking.

God be in my mouth and in my speaking.

God be in mine heart and in my thinking.

God be at my end and in my departing.

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