The Utah Chamber Artists will embark on their first European tour Wednesday.
Barlow Bradford and his ensemble, along with pianist Richard Marshall and organist Andrew Sheranian, leave Salt Lake City for a two-week tour of England, Wales and France. Among their stops are concerts in St. Paul's Cathedral in London, Canterbury Cathedral and Notre Dame in Paris, where they will sing Mass.
"Two years ago, when we were planning a European tour, we thought it would be thrilling to sing in some of the great cathedrals in Europe," said Becky Durham, Utah Chamber Artists executive director and a member of the choir. "We submitted some CDs for consideration, and we were accepted. We're very lucky to have been approved to sing at these venues."
They start their tour in the United Kingdom. After an overnight stop at Stonehenge, the ensemble travels to Cardiff, Wales, where they will give a joint concert with the Pontnewydd Male Chorus in Llantarnam Cathedral on Friday. Durham said the renowned chorus had humble beginnings. "It was started in a pub a century ago. It will be interesting starting our tour with them."
After Wales, the UCA's next stop will be Stratford, where it will sing Mass in St. Andrews Church in the village of Shottery. "It's a very intimate parish church," Durham said.
Because of their venues, the group will take a mainly sacred repertoire. "We will be singing mostly a cappella pieces, and we're going to be rotating the programs, although we haven't decided yet on what we will be singing at each venue."
They will take along two new pieces commissioned specifically for the tour: Bradford's setting of "Ave Maria" and Dale Warland's setting of "Benedicamus Domino." "Barlow's piece is specifically intended for St. Paul's Cathedral and Notre Dame," Durham said.
Warland has had a long association with the UCA over the years. "He's guest conducted a number of times, and I've developed a personal relationship with him," Durham said. "He's a great guy and very knowledgeable. He's going to come and join us in London for all three of our concerts there, before heading on to Scandinavia."
While in the United Kingdom and France, UCA will also promote tourism in Utah, Durham said. Working with the Utah Office of Tourism, the ensemble will act as ambassadors from the Beehive State as part of a cultural exchange between Salt Lake City, London and Paris.
This is UCA's first major international tour in a decade. "The last time we went on a tour was 10 years ago, when we went to Israel and performed with the Israel Chamber Orchestra," Durham said.
She also said she hopes that this trip will be the beginning of more frequent touring. "We have a new board chair who wants to do great things. With this surge of energy that we have now, we might be doing more recordings and going on more tours."
The ensemble's members are excited about the trip. "They're looking forward to going to new places and singing to new audiences," Durham said. "It's going to be a great experience for everyone."
To see UCA's complete itinerary, log on to utahchamberartists.org.