Fulfilling a Musical Dream

Long-time Printing and Reprographics staffer Kathy Blondel to Sing in Rome with Celebration Singers choir

Kathy Blondel

Kathy Blondel, who works with UCR's Printing and Reprographics Services, will be spending two weeks performing with the Celebration Singers in Rome. The schedule includes an audience with Pope Benedict. Photo by Ross French

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu)  — UC Riverside staff member Kathy Blondel has a pretty good reason for missing out on a meeting scheduled for November 8. She’ll be off that day, probably singing for Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, Italy.

Blondel, who works in Printing and Reprographic Services as the manager of document services, is one of 88 members of the Celebration Singers choir, which leaves on November 6 for a 10-day visit to Rome. While there, the group will perform five concerts at some of the region’s most iconic venues, including St. Francis Basilica in Assisi, the Basilica of Santa Trinita in Florence and St. Paul Outside the Walls Major Basilica. The group will also have an audience with the pope and may be called upon to perform a song for the leader of the Catholic Church.

A long-time member of the Riverside Master Chorale as well as the choir at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Moreno Valley, Blondel has had the opportunity to sing at dozens of venues in front of thousands of audience members. But as you might expect, the opportunity to perform at these sacred venues has her giddy with excitement.

“I have sung with the Riverside master chorale at St. Catherine’s in Riverside for 20 or 25 years,” said Blondel, who works . “I’ve done concerts all over, but this is the biggest and the best. It’s just amazing.”

“I am excited and nervous and I am taking butterflies with me,” she added, laughing.

The tour is called the Italian Music Festival and is organized by Corporate Travel and the group’s artistic director, Steve Petrunak from St. Blase Catholic Church in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The majority of performers  who make up the Celebration Singers are coming from Michigan and New Jersey – Blondel is the only Californian in the group.

One challenge for Blondel and her fellow performers is that the full group will not have an opportunity to rehearse together until they land in Italy. Until then, Blondel has been practicing the 13 pieces the group will perform on her own. That includes memorizing the third verse and refrain for the song “All Glory is Yours,” which the group is prepared to sing at the papal audience.

“Luckily, I already knew a few of the songs,” Blondel said. “One of them, Joy of Our Dreams by John Angotti, is 22 pages long. So that kind of saved my bacon.”

Petrunak said that bringing together such a diverse group of singers to perform is “one of the greatest musical challenges I’ve ever experienced.”

“If everyone knows their part well, then the group will gel very quickly,” he said.

Blondel said that she is most looking forward to the opportunity to perform at St. Peter’s Basilica, but quickly added that she is looking forward to taking in all the sights of Rome. That includes a private group tour of the Sistine Chapel, as well as sampling the region’s legendary food and drink.

“I am looking forward to the wine, the coffee, the touring and the history. It’s just going to be amazing,” she said.

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