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Ferrum College News

Panther Singers Perform Abroad


On Monday, May 27 the Panther Singers accompanied by Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Jennifer Ayers-Bernard and Dr. Lana Whited, Professor of English andDirector of the Boone Honors Program, embarked on the long flight to England to for tourism as well as performances of choral arrangements by American composers. “Since we weren’t able to have our piano accompanist, we depended on a lot of teamwork to sing the harmonies required in each song. Choir member Stewart Werner brought his mandolin along and provided a very unique and wonderful accompaniment to our songs,” said Ayers-Bernard.

Members of the Panther Singers practice before performing at the Chelsea Football Club complex.
Members of the Panther Singers practice before performing at the Chelsea Football Club complex.

The trip did not start off on a strong leg, as they would soon experience a 20-hour-delay in the Philadelphia Airport due to mechanical problems with the plane, which had been struck by lightning. After finally being allowed to board a plane and flying over the Atlantic, the group landed in London. Originally planning to spend that afternoon visiting the Winchester Cathedral, they instead drove straight to Salisbury to see the famous Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral.

Thursday consisted of tours of the Oxford City Centre, Christ Church (a college of Oxford) and the Bodleian Library. At Christ Church, they were able to see two important locations to the Harry Potter films: the stairway that served as Hogwarts’ entrance hall and the Tudor-style dining hall that was recreated as Hogwarts’ Great Hall. Later that evening, they went to the Evensong service at Christ Church Cathedral, and the organist who played for the service had also played for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and King Charles III’s coronation.

“I’m very proud of my choir for performing so brilliantly after traveling under challenging airline issues and walking on cobblestone streets for miles!” stated Ayers-Bernard. “We have a very close bond in our music department and share a genuine love for choral singing. I couldn’t have chosen a better group to travel abroad with and share their beautiful voices.”

On Friday, the Panther Singers took a drive to Eastbourne on the South England coast, facing the English channel. They visited Pevensey Castle, the Roman-built fortress where William the Conqueror came ashore when he reached England in 1066. The choir performed at the Cavendish, the hotel at which they were staying that evening.

“This trip was the first I had outside of the US, as well as the first time I’ve flown,” said Ferrum College senior Gage Shelton. “It was an amazing opportunity that Ferrum, specifically Dr. Ayers-Barnard and the Honors Program, gave me a chance to see a slice of the world far away from the rolling hills of Southwestern Virginia.” Shelton also noted that one of his favorite activities was the Harry Potter Studios Tour and Pevensey Castle. “If there was anyone in the world I was excited to be on that tour with, it was certainly Dr. Whited. Pevensey Castle was almost palpable in the air how many different human experiences had happened in this one place.”

On Saturday, the group drove to London, and that afternoon, visited Westminster Abbey, site of weddings, funerals, and coronations, including that of King Charles III on May 6, 2023. Westminster is the burial place of numerous British royalty, including Queen Elizabeth I, and of many famous authors, including Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens. That afternoon, a walk through Chinatown eventually led them to the original Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus. They also saw a protest rally in Parliament Square. That evening, the choir performed at the Copthorne Hotel in Chelsea, which is a part of the Chelsea Football Club complex. 

“What I enjoyed most about this experience was traveling with a group of students who got up every morning with smiles on their faces, no matter how tired they were or how many miles we had to cover that day,” said Dr. Lana Whited. “They seemed equally excited about seeing historic locations such as Stonehenge, Oxford University, and Pevensey Castle as they were to visit the original Hard Rock Cafe or the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios. At every stop, they approached the experience as educated people, not as tourists. I am very grateful to Dr. Ayers-Barnard for the opportunity to travel with her singers, who are a credit to this college.”

On Sunday morning, the last day before heading back home, the group took the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studio Tour just north of London and then returned for some sight-seeing around the Tower of London and Big Ben before returning on Monday, June 3, after a week of singing, exploration, and memories that will last a lifetime.

“Participating in Ferrum College’s choir offers students more than just an opportunity to develop their musical talents; it fosters teamwork, discipline, and cultural appreciation,” said Ferrum College President Dr. Mirta Martin. “Their trip to England further enriched these experiences by exposing students to historical sites, and new cultural perspectives, ultimately broadening their horizons, making them citizens of the world, and inspiring a lifelong love of music.”