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Touring the Mediterranean coast with the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra

A small orchestra plays on a stage.
Laurel Hodgson
The Wyoming Symphony Orchestra performs at l’auditori in Barcelona.

On March 10, with a mix of nerves and excitement, sixty members of the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra settled down for a long 10 hour flight to Germany and an extra connecting flight to France. The trip was delayed by about a day, throwing carefully made plans out the window and canceling our first performance.

Our first full day there we got to explore. Some of us spent our morning walking along the Promenade des Anglais - basically, a boardwalk by the ocean that had a small open air market stocked with fresh produce, pottery, and soaps. Tori Martinez, a freshman violinist, had never been to Europe before. She spent her time getting a feel for the local atmosphere

Two women stand on a rocky beach with waves crashing behind them.
Tori Martinez
Tori Martinez (right) poses for a picture with a friend on the beach in Nice, France.

“We walked around, we got to see the ocean, I got some macarons. We've just kind of been touring around downtown and it's been gorgeous,” Martinez said.

It was a learning experience for everyone - including trying authentic French cuisine.

“I tried carbonara for the first time. I think all of the food here is just so good. But yeah, the carbonara was really good. I didn't really know what it was but I wanted to try new things” Martinez said.

A big part of the trip was visiting historic places like Avignon, which is known for housing the 195th pope Clement V, after Rome was declared too dangerous.

Our first performance was in the nearby small village named L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

Director Dr. Michael Griffith chose a piece for us to play and make its world premiere in Europe.

“Seven O’Clock Shout” was composed by Valerie Coleman during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If people live near where hospital workers were all coming out of the hospital after work shifts, sometimes they would go out in front of their houses and sort of applause or cheer,” Griffith said. “In Philadelphia, this one neighborhood around a hospital, this was a daily tradition at seven o'clock that people would come out and give a shout out to all these hospital workers who would risk their lives to protect us all.”

The piece starts off with a trumpet duet playing on either side of the stage, followed by a soft roll from the timpani. The rest of the group joins in with a piccolo solo. It later features a repeated section with shouting and stomping from the orchestra.

“It's very beautiful. At the beginning, it's sort of bright and slow and perhaps a little bit nostalgic” Griffith said.

“Seven O’Clock Shout” got its second performance in Barcelona. In both concerts, we also played other compositions including Wagner’s “Mastersingers”, excerpts from the opera “Carmen” that also featured a vocalist, and “La forza del destino” by Giuseppe Verdi.

Our last day in Europe was bittersweet. We spent it in the city center of Barcelona, shopping along the bustling market of Las Ramblas. Lunch was a unique experience because we got to make it ourselves in a cooking class.

We made gazpacho and a traditional rice dish with squid ink called paella. Our last stop of the trip was the church La Sagrada Familia where musicians played in the courtyard.

 the church La Sagrada Familia
Taylor Saunders
Wyoming Public Media

The church has been in construction for 142 years, aimed to be finished in 2026. The building displays impressive architecture and stained glass windows, telling the story of Christmas and the birth of Christ. Martinez said the tour we took meant the experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

“It was gorgeous in there. Even from the outside, it just didn't seem real to actually be there,” said Martinez. “And then you go inside, and you get to see the stained glass and the statues and all the details within the church. Having the tour guide there really was able to enhance the experience for me, and just being in there was completely unreal.”

She said this trip was a life changing experience for her, and that sentiment is shared with the orchestra as a whole, including myself. Our concert season doesn’t end in Europe, but with a final performance on May 2 at the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts.

Originally from Casper, Wyoming, Taylor moved to Laramie, Wyoming in the fall of 2020. She is a fourth-year journalism major with a minor in jazz at the University of Wyoming. She has participated in many musical ensembles on campus, including the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and the Western Thunder Marching Band. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games, watching cartoons, camping, and swimming.
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