The Republic of Ragusa was a maritime state centered on the city of Dubrovnik. Their citizens were renowned as skilled diplomats and ambassadors: the city made a name for itself through the connections it forged.
Jared Anderson and the Concert Choir from Michigan Tech fostered connections on their tour of the region as well, a new generation of diplomats in the spirit of Dubrovnik, tucked at the far southern tip of Croatia. From nearby Mostar to Trebinje to Ljubljana, the choir acted as ambassadors, exchanging their musical experience for the wash of history and culture throughout the region.
For many of us, these are places we only know from the news, from reports of conflict in the last few decades. To have these places become performance spaces, to forge musical connections to place and time, is much more positive, much more representative of life there.
"These wouldn't necessarily be the first places students would go in Europe," Anderson explains. "It has such a rich history as well as recent conflict, it's so important for us to understand. We needed to be here."
The choir only tours every three or four years, and the members vote on where to go. On previous excursions, they've gone to places like China, Brazil, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Mexico. In 2017 the choir traveled to South Africa.
"When we approach touring, we try to find places that interest the choir. Some of the community members of the choir had been to the region spoke very highly of it, and we do enjoy being off the beaten path."
For many of their concerts, in fact, American choir groups were rare to unheard of. Anderson attempted to select music that reflected both the diversity of the choir and its travels as well as the legacy of the regions in which they performed. Music ranging from regional folk songs to selections from composers such as W. A. Mozart, Arvo Pärt, and Morten Lauridsen were featured throughout the tour.
More important, though, is connecting with these places, experiencing the people and culture, roots that we know better than we realize.
"There was a real warmth for our singing, and we had a real warmth for the region by the end of the tour."