A select group of five SUNY Oneonta students, including 21-year-old Edward Bossong of Hicksville, recently traveled to England to perform in a choir at Durham Castle under the direction of renowned conductor Paul Spicer.
The group learned and rehearsed a collection of 18 pieces, guided by choral professor Tim Newton, in the weeks leading up to the trip. They performed on Sept. 23, as part of the English Choral Experience, an organization that offers choral courses and performance opportunities for those interested in traditional English music and choir.
The five SUNY students were the only young adults on stage that night, harmonizing alongside seasoned singers from surrounding areas in the United Kingdom.
“As soon as this semester started, we got together twice a week to rehearse as a group. We had to ensure that us college students were up to par in the field with these experts who we were going to be singing with,” said Bossong, a senior biology major at Oneonta. “It felt so special being in a different country—with their accents, different personalities, even different mannerisms—to feel like one of them, to be immersed for such a short time…the performance was incredible.”
Bossong noted feeling “lucky” after being selected through an audition process this past spring, and the group’s good fortune perpetuated as they successfully arrived in England after missing their initial flight.
“We all experienced that stress—all of the hard work that we just did, potentially leading up to not even being able to go,” said Bossong. “But our professor is incredible. After hours and hours of waiting at the airport on Friday, he ended up getting all of us new tickets, which is incredible; to get tickets last minute like that, we were totally grateful.”
The five students were accommodated in the 11th century historical landmark Durham Castle and performed in the castle’s Great Hall, a setting ripe with a rich history of hosting English kings, clergy and noblemen.
When asked about his favorite part of the trip, Bossong emphasized the honor of working alongside Paul Spicer.
“He wrote this piece, called ‘How Do I Love Thee.’ It’s a beautiful piece, it’s very tender and rich, and we actually sang that piece at the Durham performance,” said Bossong. “To be able to sing a piece by a famous conductor, with that conductor, is an opportunity I’ve never had.”
Bossong also stated that he has Hicksville to thank for his passion for choir.
“In elementary school I did choir, in middle school I did all of the musicals, in high school I did all of the musicals and choir for two years, and I took private voice lessons around that time too,” said Bossong. “This is my fourth semester doing choir in college. I hope it’s a hobby that I keep for my life. I don’t think I’ll ever stop singing. It’ll always be a part of me.”
As for his future endeavors, Bossong said that the experience in Durham has inspired him to seek similar opportunities while he still can, and to overall be more spontaneous.
“Once you do something abroad like this, you always want more because of how cool it is and how unique it is,” he said. “It goes by so quickly, of course. To get there and be able to perform the music we had worked on for what seemed like endlessly for the past month, it was very rewarding, to say the least.”