By Annika Schmidt
Last week, 27 of the 29 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Minnesingers took on Italy. The biennial trip gives the high school singers an opportunity to perform abroad in new and diverse cultures.
“The trip provided the opportunity for the Minnesingers to perform in special venues such as St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and the military base in Vicenza, sing with local choirs, as we did in Verona, and do informal singing in the cities we visited,” said Minnesingers director Janis Wightman. “Most importantly, we act as musical ambassadors to represent the Island and the USA, presenting a side of America that Europeans don’t get to experience.”
The Minnesingers’ much-adored costumer, senior Ev Wilson, joined the group in their travels to Italy. “I’ve been such a big fan of the Minnesingers since I started high school,” Ev said. “It’s been so rewarding to be able to travel with these people and help them look the best they can. The Minnesingers are a group I have come to call my good friends, and it’s been incredible to witness them showcase to the world what they’ve worked on so hard.”
The Minnesingers shared their talent and passion for musical performance in both formal and informal settings. “We sang at the restaurants in which we had dinner and in squares and piazzas, giving us the chance to interact with the local people as well as other visitors to Italy,” Ms. Wightman said.
“To be able to sing in these places is life-changing,” said junior Angela Hayes. “Every time we sing, there’s a crowd that forms with applause at the end of each song, which reminds me how powerful and universal singing is.”
On Sunday the Minnesingers performed at Mass in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
“I think the highlight was definitely singing at St. Mark’s, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said sophomore Josephine Orr.
“Our performance at St. Mark’s was especially rewarding because the priest actually applauded for us, which is extremely rare,” Angela said.
Outside of rehearsal and performances, the Minnesingers got the chance to explore Italian culture and the beauty of Milan, Verona, and Venice. “Italy is beyond my imagination,” Ev said. “I really didn’t think places like this actually existed.” The group partook in walking tours, rented bikes, and visited renowned locations such as the Il Duomo, La Scala, St. Mark’s, and Juliet’s house, all while developing a fondness for Italian gelato.
The Minnesingers also had the opportunity to assimilate the Italian culture by taking a cooking class. “Our last night in Verona, when we learned how to make gnocchi, tiramisu, and pesto was a great experience,” said junior Alex Vasiliadis. “It’s a night I’ll never forget.”
Travelling together has given the members of the group the chance to grow closer. “I’ve been able to bond with everyone in one way or another, and I’ve never actually gotten so much out of a trip before,” said senior Tessa Whittaker.
“It’s been so much fun just to hang out with so many of my friends in such a beautiful place,” said junior Samantha Cassidy. “I’m so grateful to have gotten the opportunity to come here.”
Ms. Wightman is exceptionally proud of the Minnesingers and their hard work. “Each group with which I have worked is as unique and special as the singers in the group,” She said. “This has been a wonderful trip for everyone.”