Final Reflection

By Joshua Weinberg ’15

Joshua Weinberg and Bandie friends

Joshua Weinberg and Bandie friends

Sad as I am to leave behind these beautiful mountains, oceans, and cities that are so rich in culture and history, as I reflect on our experience I am filled with overwhelming joy. I am humbled and awed by our experiences traveling through Spain, France, and Italy as we shared our “exploding passion” for music along the way.

If I could describe this tour in one word, it would be transformative. This word holds a deep meaning for a lot of the members of the St. Olaf Band.

I first felt a transformation in myself during our encore of Amazing Grace in the Darius Milhaud Conservatoire. For the first time, instead of just hearing the sounds of the band, I listened and absorbed the meaning of the words we sang:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found.
Was blind, but now I see.

The words echoed in my soul as the syllables vibrated between the members of the band. I thought about of how awesome it was to be sharing in this glorious music. I then remembered my grandmother, who passed away in 2005. Amazing Grace was her favorite hymn. She was my last living grandparent, and she was incredibly special to me. I played the piece at her funeral, and remembered how powerful that simple tune was.

When we performed it in Aix-en-Provence, my grandmother came to mind immediately, as if I knew she was listening. I know many other Bandies shared a moment like this, remembering those loved ones that they had lost. But we have not really lost them. The band brought them back alive into our memories, and filled our hearts with the joy that we knew they would feel, had they been able to be there.

Beautiful changes

So we have eaten paella in Spain, bought too many baguettes in France, and tried some of the finest olive oil in Italy. We’ve gotten lost in Barcelona, and we’ve found souvenirs in Aix-en-Provence.

We were sometimes blind to the cultures that greeted us abroad. Now we see the beautiful changes that these cultures have brought out in us. We’ve made hundreds of friends, and opened our hearts to them. The thousand of miles that the St. Olaf Band has traveled cannot begin to measure the transformation of each member of this band.

We’ve embarrassed ourselves in front of the French, Italian, and Spanish audiences trying to pronounce their respective languages. Even though language barriers were frustrating, some of us learned new foreign phrases and were able to communicate effectively what we wanted in a foreign country. But even when we couldn’t communicate well using words, we could always resort to our music.

We laughed, cried, hooted, and hollered with our Spanish, French, and Italian friends. We touched hearts and broke through boundaries to connect on the deepest level of being human. We learned that we can speak completely different languages, have completely different values and beliefs, look completely different, and yet can still share ourselves and our cultures through something that transcends any physical barrier, obstacle, or prejudice that we may hold.

Every audience member we played for, every local we attempted to communicate with, every note that reverberated through each concert hall will be imprinted forever in our European friends’ memories. The St. Olaf Band may be flying back to Northfield, and maybe some us will never return to Europe. However, a little piece of us gets to stay in the Mediterranean for much longer.

¡Adios, Europa — Grazzia and á bientôt!

Joshua is a music performance major from St. Peter, Minnesota. He plays flute in the St. Olaf Band.

Going Wild in Florence

By Paul Davis ’14

After taking a morning walking tour that ended at the feet of Michelangelo’s David, a group of 15 of us climbed to the cupola of the gargantuan Duomo of Florence — one of the largest basilicas in Italy.

Paul Davis '14 (left) and Nick Hoverstad '14 enjoy a ride through the Tuscan town of Lucca, Italy.

Paul Davis ’14 (left) and Nick Hoverstad ’14 enjoy a ride through the Tuscan town of Lucca, Italy. See more on the band’s Facebook page.

We had to climb more than 400 stairs. National Cross Country champion Phillip Meyer set a brisk pace up the stairs, and we showed off our Bandie fitness. Once up the stairs, we had a spectacular view of the Florentine red-tiled roofs and the surrounding countryside, which was the perfect backdrop for selfies and a group photo taken by a new friend from North Carolina.

Zoe Kosmas won the Most Dedicated Award for making it up the stairs in spite of still recuperating from a foot injury sustained in a Bandie softball game. Not satisfied with his workout for the day, Phil then led a smaller group up the nearby cathedral bell tower for additional stair aerobics.

To escape the heat of the day, some of the bandies decided to visit the Ufizzi Museum, which houses such famous Italian works of art Cimabue’s Madonna and Child and Botecelli’s The Birth of Venus and Spring. The museum also includes works by Michaelangelo, Giotto, and Artemisia Gentellischi, covering the Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic periods.

Florence has a rich history in art and architecture. Many of our ensemble’s music majors compared historical Renaissance art and music themes as we strolled through the streets of living history for which Florence is famous.

Paul is an English education major from St. Louis, Missouri. He plays euphonium in the St. Olaf Band.

Awed in Pavia

By Brian Craig ’15

Here in Europe, I have seen buildings older than the entire history of the United States. The oldest architecture we have seen is ancient Roman ruins, more than a thousand years older than the history of Europeans in North America. Often, these ruins have been uncovered beneath newer buildings, creating stacks of human-made objects similar to the layers of rock that we see driving through the mountainous countryside.

The bishop of Pavia welcomes and blesses the band.

The bishop of Pavia welcomes and blesses the band.

The Cathedral of Pavia was one of these old buildings, dating back to the very formation of our country in the 18th century. Enclosed in what seems to be a very weathered, old brick shell, the inside of this cathedral was beautiful white marble and concrete, sculpted into a building so grand that it could have been home to a magical fairytale kingdom. This vast landscape of marble had a few year markers, with the dome having been finished in 1766 and the far side of the chapel finished in the mid-1800s.

Only one step into the cathedral and we could easily see why this building took so long to create. The gigantic marble pillars give way to an intricate dome, with archways and flourishes throughout. The altar had beautiful gold and silver decorations, and each of the corner chapels housed some church function or a memorial dedicated to a saint.

We could tell that playing a concert in this space was going to be a surreal experience. Bass trombonist Matt Johnson ’14 gave the devotional before the concert, and his theme was, fittingly, awe.

A powerful space

Our stage was directly between the altar and the pews, mostly on the same level as the audience. We sat in the intersection of the cross-shaped floor plan, right under the 10-story high dome. When the band released a chord, the echo lasted for some eight seconds — longer than Dr. Mahr had ever heard previously. That reverb made me feel that this space was powerful, filled with energy that would grab hold of our sound and extend it far into the depths of the universe capped by the immense dome.

Our seats provided us with a great view of the entire cathedral, but only increased the amount of echo in our sound. We made some last-minute cuts to our program, taking out fast, choppy sections that would be too muddy in this booming space, favoring the slowly progressing melodies that were amplified by the space.

After attending an optional mass in the chapel and Matt’s devotional, we were mentally prepared to give our music to the audience. We played well, and the students who gave Italian introductions to the audience spoke with elegance, which was greatly appreciated by some audience members. Every time one of us spoke in Italian, one audience member in particular beamed from ear to ear, setting his hand on his cheek as if what we were doing was special, unique, awesome.

The concert also seemed to be more emotional than usual for us. Tears flowed after the concert, especially among the seniors who had just finished their penultimate St. Olaf Band concert in such a beautiful Italian cathedral.

Personally, I didn’t know what to feel after this concert. I consider myself a decently religious man. Before our performance I prayed that I could open up for this concert: open my ears, eyes, and heart in order to absorb any feeling without judgment or prejudice.

While we played, I couldn’t help but look around. This is slightly inappropriate for a performer, but when will I ever play in a space like this cathedral again? I looked at the musicians playing the music; I looked at Dr. Mahr, leading us in the presentation of this gift; I looked at the audience, whether silently appreciative or slightly fidgety. But mostly I looked at the dome, which housed the vast volume that was vibrating with the sounds of our instruments.

Feeling grand

After the concert, I didn’t dare leave my seat. I sat down in silent reflection, with my saxophone in my lap, still watching this space, wondering if the marble walls and arches were going to vanish and I would emerge from a dream. I attempted to process what had happened to me, how the concert went, why I was feeling so grand. In the end, I decided that I would not be able to describe what I was feeling during and after the concert. It seems as though this cathedral was greater than me.

Words and thoughts could not describe the awe that I felt during that concert, and I had to settle for wonder. Perhaps in a few days I will come to terms with that concert and I can accept that I just played in a 300-plus-year-old cathedral, the most elegant concert space I will probably ever play in. I can understand why I got shivers down my spine and why I felt completely unified with the hall as I played. But for now, I can only smile, and be thankful that I have been a part of this once-in-a-lifetime tour.

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Brian is a physics and environmental studies double-major from Rochester, Minnesota. He plays alto saxophone in the St. Olaf Band.

Singing in a Palace

By Ida Zalk ’14

This morning we visited the Papal Palace in Avignon, France, a massive gothic palace constructed in the early 14th century.

Ida, a music performance major from Maplewood, Minnesota, plays flute and piccolo in the St. Olaf Band.

Ida, a music performance major from Maplewood, Minnesota, plays flute and piccolo in the St. Olaf Band.

As we were guided through the arched doorways into various spacious rooms we learned about the extravagant and interesting lives of the popes and their servants. I touched the walls and was overwhelmed with imagining 700 years of history that had taken place within them.

We admired gorgeous frescoes that in some rooms covered all four walls and the ceiling. They were rich with blues, reds, greens, and yellows that depicted biblical scenes, battles, and other scenarios. These ancient frescoes were juxtaposed with temporary art exhibitions. Paintings by one modern German artist, for example, contained bright colors and abstract brush strokes that were surprising and interesting to see on the palace walls.

We eventually entered a chapel and a courtroom with ceilings more than 90 meters high. We heard a rumor that when choral groups visit, they like to test the acoustics, so … in the St. Olaf Band tradition we humbly sang our table grace, “Be Present at our Table Lord” (see below), and “Round me falls the night” (view on Facebook) as we stood in a circle underneath the enormous arched ceilings. Our last “Amen” ran for several seconds as we faded out. It was a beautiful and very special Bandie moment that I will hold dear in my memories.



By Kate Fridley ’14

The Magic Fountain Light Show

IMG_1709On Sunday evening we attended the light and water show at the Magic Fountain by Barcelona’s Plaza de España. Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Palau Nacional beginning at 9 p.m. to observe the fountain lit up in a rainbow of colors. The fountain moved to the rhythm of music (including Disney tunes in Spanish and Aragorn’s Theme from Lord of the Rings) that could be heard from the square and surrounding parks.

When we climbed up to the entrance of the Palau Nacional, the result was a gorgeous view of the city at night. This was definitely my touristic highlight of the tour so far.

Olympic Stadium

IMG_1588During our free afternoon in downtown Barcelona we set off for the old stadium from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. After at least four miles of walking in the completely wrong direction, we finally made it to the nearly abandoned building.

While the venue still occasionally hosts sports games and concerts, it was a bit eery walking around the empty stadium and surrounding area after the flurry of activity it saw during the Olympics. We approached the stadium after passing through a grassy courtyard and the white Telefonica statue that served as a symbol for the games and has since rusted over and accumulated graffiti on its base.

We also passed the Olympic torch, which had been lit by shooting a flaming arrow over its top above the stadium.

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FridleyKateKate is a political science and Middle Eastern studies double-major from Apple Valley, Minnesota. She plays bass clarinet in the St. Olaf Band.

Staying Neutral in Cullera

By Meredith Varie ’16

Shortly prior to departing for Cullera, we learned that our concert had been moved from our original venue to a “neutral” location. As it turns out, the strong band community in Cullera is strongly divided. An hour and a half south of Valencia, Cullera proudly identifies itself as a part of the Valencian province, where most towns and cities have at least one band society. Cullera is home to two. Our concert was presented by the Sociedad Musical Instructiva Santa Cecilia, and members of their youth band (Banda Juvenil) performed two pieces with us.

Cullera Clarinets — St. Olaf Band members Annie Lips '14 (at left), Jake Meyer '15, and Joe Barnard '14 (in front) are joined onstage by members of Cullera's  Banda Jevenil.

Cullera Clarinets — St. Olaf Band members Annie Lips ’14 (at left), Jake Meyer ’15, and Joe Barnard ’14 (in front) are joined onstage by members of Cullera’s Banda Jevenil.

But instead of performing in Santa Cecilia’s venue — which members of the rival band society members wouldn’t attend — a last-minute move to a neutral venue was able to attract members of the rival society.

At the end of rehearsal, we re-set the stage to include the Banda Juvenil, who ranged in age from 8 to 18. In a broken combination of English and Spanish, we ran through our two shared pieces, Amazing Grace and Tercio Quites — the song of Cullera. The performance was exciting and rewarding, and the audience was clearly a band-loving community.

Afterward, the Santa Cecilia society hosted a reception for us in their society social hall. We talked with the young and old musicians of the society for hours. Food appeared continuously and conversations ran the gamut as we switched tables to meet new students. I talked about everything from school to music and TV to soccer, moving from one rapid-fire conversation to the next.

Suddenly, The Star Spangled Banner blared from loud speakers, followed by the Valencian hymn. They cheered when we stood and put our hands over our hearts during our anthem, then they belted out theirs. After much applause and “Spanish kisses” (right cheek, then left), the wonderful evening came to a close.

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Meredith is a philosophy major from Indianapolis, Indiana. She plays tuba in the St. Olaf Band.

The Three ‘Sports’ of Spain

By Brian Craig ’15

¡Hola! It’s another beautiful day in Spain.  

We’ve lucked out with the weather so far with only a bit of rain one evening, and the rest has been about 23 degrees Celsius and sunny (that’s 73.4 in Fahrenheit, if you’re counting).

Four St. Olaf Bandies (first row r-l, Brian Craig and Emily Baker; second row r-l Andrew Horton and Kristina Butler) hang out with the young members of the Banda Juvenil of the Sociedad Musical Instructiva Santa Cecilia Spanish after a shared concert in Cullera, Spain.

Four St. Olaf Bandies (first row r-l, Brian Craig and Emily Baker; second row r-l Andrew Horton and Kristina Butler) hang out with the young members of the Banda Juvenil of the Sociedad Musical Instructiva Santa Cecilia Spanish after a shared concert in Cullera, Spain.

We’re currently on our third day in Europe, but I already feel slightly adjusted to life here in Spain. The biggest and most immediately apparent difference from the USA is the pace of life. Walking down the streets, I see people relaxing in the shade of an orange tree sipping café (coffee) and people-watching. Josu, one of our two wonderful Spanish tour guides, told us on the first day that the three favorite sports of the Spanish people are siesta, fiesta, and walking slowly.

These three topics are woven into much of Spanish culture. I’ve seen all three here in Spain, and I hope to absorb them fully before we head north across the Pyrenees.

Walking Slowly

It’s easy to see how a Spanish person could be overwhelmed by American culture. Here in Valencia, nobody walks with purpose. Rather, the people in this country stroll down the alleyways with friends, chatting and looking around. Nobody has their head buried in a phone, and if they didn’t keep walking, you’d think that they had already reached their destination.

On the walking portion of our tour of Valencia, we seemed to be the fastest people in the country. In truth, we just wanted to make sure to see a wide array of cathedrals, Roman armories, and the beautiful gates to the old city.

In every restaurant, there is plenty of outdoor seating filled with people relaxing in the sun sipping café or a glass of mango juice. If I’m not sure what to do with my free time I just head to the beach to enjoy a refreshing drink, relax, smile, and take in my beautiful surroundings.

I’m in Spain with Ole Band— life is good!


The St. Olaf Band has grabbed hold of the siesta, and we’re not letting go any time soon. After the all-out blitz that was finals week, our down-time in Spain has been most welcome. In the afternoon shops close, restaurants stop serving, and the Spanish take a collective exhale. Even the birds seem to get the message (although maybe they’re just avoiding the midday heat).

On all of the bus rides, half of the band is asleep, resting up for our next concert. Our overnight flight from Atlanta to Barcelona kept a lot of us awake, and some are still catching up. I am surprised how easily many of us adjusted to the time difference. With
help from a café de leche (coffee with milk), I managed to power through the first day here and then quickly adjusted to the seven-hour time difference after a good night’s rest.

The siesta also allows us to use the most of our time here, making sure to grab as much of the European experience as possible, which leads us to the fiesta …


The Spanish know how to enjoy themselves. Valencia has a rich band tradition, and you can sense it both around the town and during the concerts. The Palau de Musica, where we played our first concert, is situated in the middle of Valencia’s version of Central Park,
welcoming all to enjoy the music inside. Advertisements for bands are on large signs on the edges of roundabouts, and today we are going to play with a local band of middle-school kids.

The audience clapped and hollered during our concert when they heard the first cadence of El Gato Montez, the Spanish march on our program. Once we finished our concert, the people in attendance clapped and yelled for more. We delivered, with performances of
Amazing Grace and Stars and Stripes Forever, during which Dr. Mahr got the
audience clapping along to our final stanza.

Afterward, a number of us headed to a local music venue called The Black Note, which had a rock and funk band playing all night long. The band, consisting of guitar, bass, drums, saxophone, trumpet, and three rotating singers, played familiar tunes by Stevie Wonder, Daft Punk, and James Brown, along with lots of Spanish tunes thrown in. I wasn’t expecting to hear so much music that I recognized (but I suppose it’s logical, since the club’s name is in English). The club was filled with people dancing and tapping their feet, and by the time we left late in the night, it seemed as though the music was still well from over.

We’re currently driving into the mountains to play our second concert, which means it’s the perfect time to indulge in sport No. 2: the siesta. Adios from Spain for now …

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Brian is a physics and environmental studies double-major from Rochester, Minnesota. He plays alto saxophone in the St. Olaf Band.

Video from Valencia

The band played its first concert of the tour Thursday in the Palau de la Música in Valencia, Spain, for an audience of more than 750. The performance included two encores and a standing ovation that brought conductor Timothy Mahr ’78 out three more times after the final encore.

The low-res video below ends with Mahr chatting with Ferrar Ferran, the Valencian composer of Gjallarhorn on the band’s program. Listen to what Ferran has to say about the band’s interpretation of his work …

First Stop: Valencia

Ole Band members (l-r) Amy Neidich ’15, John Kronlokken ’16, Derek Smith ’16, and Cianna Bedford ’14 hanging out at Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences before performing their first concert.

Ole Band members (l-r) Amy Neidich ’15, John Kronlokken ’16, Derek Smith ’16, and Cianna Bedford ’14 hanging out at Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences before performing their first concert.