St. Mary’s Varsity Ensemble (VE) travels annually to perform in adjudicated choral competitions. This year, the VE traveled halfway around the world to the city of Verona, also known as the setting for William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, to compete in the International Choral Competition. The competition was celebrating its 30th anniversary, and the excitement was unusually high. Amongst schools from ten other nations, Orange County Bel Canto Choir was one of them, representing the United States.

The VE has met this choir once in the past. Last year the VE traveled to Chicago to participate in the Festival of the Gold, a choir competition that only allows participants if they have achieved Gold awards in another competition called a Heritage Festival. The VE went toe to toe with the Orange County Choir, only to lose by a fraction of a point. The competition in Verona was a chance for revenge. As such, this year the stakes were even higher.

The competition lasted a total of three days, and the choirs took turns during the day to perform in front of prestigious judges. Groups were divided into several categories based on the age of the group members as well as the genre of the music being performed. The VE competed as a Youth Choir and performed in the two sets of Classical and Folk.

The choir sang in other venues leading up to the competition days, including a friendship concert with the Vicenza military base school. The group also visited the widely popular tourist destination of Venice and performed a flash mob before being stopped by the police. Unfortunately, the group also had to combat an unknown sickness that struck several members, much to the alarm of the head director, Mr. Randy Stenson. Despite the worries, all members were able to recover in time for the competition.

The VE achieved greatness by not only winning a gold-level award for the two set performances but also winning the Oswald Stocker Award, a prize given to one group who has achieved a composite score of 98 and above. This award has only been given to three groups, including the VE, in the entire 30-year history of the competition. The group rejoiced with the knowledge that they had beaten Orange County to achieve this award. The VE was also given the high honor to perform as the opener for the next year’s choral competition in Verona.

In conclusion, the VE achieved greatness on foreign soil, proving once again that they are the pride of the SMIS community.

Article by Cai Rahman