Tour de Iceland: Jazz and Concert Bands Tour in Icelandic Cities

Strumming to a jazzy beat, Louis Aaron ’18, a guitar player in Jazz Band, noticed a young sleeping girl in the audience of the Saga Centre, a museum in Hvolsvöllur, Iceland. As the bands continued to perform “Some Skunk Funk” by the Brecker Brothers, the little girl, upon hearing the upbeat rhythm of the song, woke up from her nap and started jumping around the packed theater, pretending to play trumpet, as Aaron described to The Phillipian.

“No matter who you are, where you’re from, what language you speak, your foot’s gonna be tapping. You’re excited about it. [The little girl] just loved it. It’s a universally energetic song. It’s very fun,” said Aaron.

This performance was one of three that the Jazz Band, directed by Peter Cirelli, Instructor in Music, and Concert Band, directed by Vincent Monaco, Instructor in Music, showcased on a week-long tour in Iceland during Spring Vacation. Organized by Holly Barnes, Director of Performance, the tour included three different venues: one in the Harpa Theater in Reykjavik, another in a church in Reykjavik, and the last in Hvolsvöllur’s Saga Centre.

“[Iceland’s] a destination that’s growing in popularity. Iceland’s main industry was fishing, but now tourism has taken over as their largest industry with fishing now second. So it’s become a really popular place to go and the more we looked at it, the more it appealed to us,” said Cirelli.

The Saga Centre in Hvolsvöllur is a museum documenting Iceland’s many sagas or age-old stories passed down through generations for over a thousand years. Its performance space was small, but, according to Jenni Lawson ’19, a clarinet player in Concert Band, the audience was grateful and responsive.

“It was really fun because so many people showed up… There were little kids dancing, and everybody was clapping throughout the jazz band’s performance, and it was just a fun environment to be in,” said Lawson.

The band’s largest performance in Iceland was in the Harpa Theater, a medium-sized concert hall in Reykjavik with 200 total seats and about 170 filled.

“[The Harpa Theater performance] was kind of a bittersweet one in a way just because it was our last day. We were all having a lot of fun. It was sweet in that it was a good performance. It was a really nice hall. There were quite a few people there, probably close to 150 or so. There was also a jazz band that played after us from one of the Icelandic music universities, and they were just killer good. It was so much fun for us to get to play and see what the next level was. They’re amazing. That was a lot of fun,” said Aaron.

During their time in Iceland, students were also given opportunities to explore Iceland, including excursions to famous waterfalls, a hot spring called the Blue Lagoon, and the Northern Lights.

“We learned a lot about how Iceland, while it is a Western country, still has a lot of Eastern type influences on it… We were also really lucky because we not only got to spend time in Reykjavik, which is a city, but also in the country where there were a lot of mountains, the ocean, and tons of giant waterfalls that were really pretty. We really got a big picture of the country,” said Zora Stewart ’19, a french horn player in Concert Band.

According to Cirelli, the trip was a great opportunity to sightsee in and experience Iceland, but the most important part of it was the focus on music and performing.

“When we take a music group on tour, those groups really focus on, frankly, working much harder. All of our students work hard and play well, but when we’re going to go on tour, especially internationally, it raises everybody’s game. It makes everybody want to play even better because we’re going to go showcase ourselves in another country,” said Cirelli.

“Being away with a musical group where they’re not running to classes in between rehearsals and performances, we’re just there, and we’re just playing music and being a part of that country. It’s a wonderful experience,” continued Cirelli.