Choir back from Poland, impromptu underground concert

A group of 43 Mercyhurst students, faculty and friends took a nine-day tour of Poland in late May, bringing music wherever they went and receiving the warm hospitality of the Poles in return.

Several times at major places along their tour the Mercyhurst choir broke into song, entertaining the crowds at the old city squares of Krakow and Warsaw, as well as the famous underground cathedral in the Wielizka salt mine outside Krakow.

The choir traveled to Poland specifically to sing at Mass and perform a sacred concert at the cathedral in Lublin. The Mass was broadcast on radio. They left Erie May 22, the day after the Mercyhurst commencement at Tullio Arena. 

Under the direction of Rebecca Ryan, the 29 students sang in Lublin Cathedral on May 26. Polish national radio broadcast the Mass.

They also performed the "Faure Requiem" at the cathedral as part of a scared music concert. Accompanying them were organist Bryan Timm of Mercyhurst and Ken Johnston, who teaches violin at Mercyhurst.

While in Poland, the group attended an outdoor Mass at Krakow celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI. "At least a million people were there and it was so amazing and incredible to be part of a Mass with so many people," Ryan said.

The group also toured the Majdanek concentration camp where the 230,000 people were killed by the Nazis during World War II. 

During their visit to the Wielizka salt mine outside Krakow, the chorus sang some pieces for those visiting at the same time, Ryan said. 

"It wasn’t anything we planned, but when we were there, we just had to sing. And everyone loved it," she said.

The students also broke into song at the old town squares of Warsaw and Krakow, entertaining anyone within earshot of their trained voices.

Helping make the trip such a success was Dariusz Baron, the father of Mercyhurst student. The owner of two restaurants, Baron, made them available to the students and acted as guide during much of their trip, even though his son, Marek, was interning at a job in Kentucky.

"The whole trip was beyond our imagination," Ryan said.

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