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United by song

Choir group reunites 50 years after Latin American tour 

It was the trip of a lifetime that in many cases resulted in lifelong bonds for a group of Hamline A Cappella Choir members who had the opportunity to perform in 13 Latin American countries over 11 weeks in 1967. Now 50 years later, members of the group will return to Hamline for a reunion in October.

The A Cappella Choir, directed by Robert Holliday, was one of only four college musical groups chosen that year for concert tours abroad sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

“In thinking back on that amazing choir tour 50 years ago (we were all so young!), what may have remained with me the longest was the music,” said Judy Brown Ryan ’67. “We sang some of the most beautiful choral music that we had practiced, perfected, performed, and then taken to another level because of Mr. Holliday’s genius. He gave me an absolute love of music.”

In preparation for the tour, the students completed special studies projects to learn about the countries they’d be visiting, some studied Spanish, and there were several hundred hours of choir practices.

For many, it was their first trip outside of the U.S. By the end of the trip, however, they had become seasoned travelers, covering more than 20,000 miles.

The students performed 60 concerts in theaters, schools, churches, and amphitheaters and made several television appearances.

Everywhere they went, they received a warm reception and “acclaim from the critics was glowing,” according to a post-tour booklet. One of the biggest crowds they encountered was at the cathedral in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where “3,000 people jammed inside while an additional 5,000 stood in the plaza holding transistors to hear the concert on the radio.”