By Kenna McBean This past spring break, the Lake Forest High School band, orchestra, and choir flew to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic to perform in major venues at each of the cities. It was the first time that the Music Department has been able to go on such a trip since the Covid-19 pandemic. The performance venues were all coveted spaces in each of the countries, containing a lot of cultural significance for the local people, and it was truly a privilege for Lake Forest High School students to be able to perform there, according to choir teacher Mr. Matthew Begale. A particularly significant location was St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, a church which had been open since 1578. It is considered the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna, Austria, and famous musicians such as Mozart and Haydn have performed there.
The choir performed in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. A view of Rothenburg, Germany, the first city visited by the Music Department. Sophomore Nora Sharman said she knew that she was performing in a sacred space, and did not take it lightly. “When we went to Vienna, we didn’t really know what space we would be performing in and when we showed up, it was just this magnificent church,” she said. “We learned about its history and how it survived a bombing in World War II and it’s still standing.” A lot of the students shared the concern that the concerts would not be very well-attended, but they were proven quite wrong. The residents of the towns were very enthusiastic audience members and were supportive of the different musical groups performing. “People that we didn’t even know came to listen to our music,” said junior Meghan Pierce. “I guess that goes along with the idea of music being the universal language!” Sharman agreed, saying, “It was so cool to perform in [St. Stephen’s Cathedral] and look out on the stained glass windows. The people filled the pews all the way to the back during our performance, it was just a very surreal experience.” A lot of time and planning went into making the trip possible. Taking 135 high school students is daunting, even for the most prepared and seasoned teacher or chaperone or student, but the focus always returned to the job of performing. “I was a little nervous going into the trip because I was unsure about some certain social dynamics and how they were going to work out, especially abroad,” sophomore Kallista Schneiderman said. “But after going on the trip, it was super-duper fun, and everything worked out exactly how it was supposed to be.” Upon arrival in each town, the buses would be treated to a walking tour with information and history about the city. There would also be time for the students to walk around and be able to experience the cities on their own. The respective music department Instagram accounts were religiously updated so that all of the supporters and followers were taken along the way. Many consider the trip to be a highlight of their Lake Forest High School music experience. “Overall, I just feel so grateful for the opportunity,” Pierce said. “I was filled with so much joy while performing in those spaces.” This story was first published in The Forest Scout.