Singing Group Tunes Up for Trip to Italy

David Douglas, the director of the East Hampton High School Camerata singing group, rehearsed with its members this week in advance of a trip to Rome in April.
David Douglas, the director of the East Hampton High School Camerata singing group, rehearsed with its members this week in advance of a trip to Rome in April. Morgan McGivern

David Douglas, East Hampton High School’s vocal director, sees next month’s trip to Italy as a potential life-changer for the more than two dozen students who sing with Camerata, the school’s mixed choral group.

While in Rome, the group will perform during a Saturday evening mass at St. Peter’s Basilica on the eve of Holy Week, in addition to two separate concerts in Lucca and Venice.

All told, the nine-day trip costs $4,000 for each student — and that’s not including meals. Following months of creative fund-raising — from a pasta dinner to a silent auction to a tag sale to a raffle for an all-expenses paid trip to Paris — the group will hold its final fund-raiser this coming weekend. This one, a concert on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Most Holy Trinity Church in East Hampton, will give audiences a preview of what’s to come in Italy. Admission is free, but donations will be gladly accepted, Mr. Douglas said.

Despite raising around $40,000 collectively since the start of the school year, after parent contributions most of the 27 students must still come up with around $1,000 to help offset costs.

The Greater East Hampton Education Foundation, the Clamshell Foundation, the East Hampton Rotary Club, and the Kiwanis Club of East Hampton have made donations. The school district will cover the cost of transportation to and from the airport.

Though Mr. Douglas has taught at East Hampton High School for 18 years, this will be his first trip abroad with students. Four other chaperones are also accompanying the group. Once in Italy, they will travel by bus, led by a tour company.

“I’m excited. It’s a nice group of kids and I have complete confidence in their conduct,” Mr. Douglas said Tuesday.

Camerata comprises 29 students in 10th through 12th grades. Last fall, more than 60 auditioned. Mr. Douglas explained that Camerata takes its name from a group of 16th-century musicians and intellectuals in Florence who hoped to reclaim the lost power of music. Many, but not all, of the group’s arrangements are sung a capella, with the group performing everything from medieval to popular music.

A year ago, Mr. Douglas began contemplating that such a trip might be possible. “This seemed like a good group, both musically and personally, and also for social reasons,” he explained. “They’ve just come together really nicely.”

Josh LeClerc, an 18-year-old senior, has sung with Camerata since his sophomore year. Monday rehearsals are a highlight of each week, he said.

“I love the music we do and I think we have a great sense of connection as a group,” said Josh, who has never traveled to Italy. Though his nerves have yet to kick in, he’s particularly excited to discover Italian culture and tour historic buildings.

Another member of the group, Daisy Kelly, also an 18-year-old senior, has sung with Camerata for the past two years. She described the group as a close-knit family, where talent is revered and each member is made to feel unique.

“The moments where we’re all singing one song, it literally gives me goose bumps,” said Daisy.

When thinking ahead to Italy, she is most excited by the opportunity to sing inside St. Peter’s Basilica — an opportunity she realizes is not likely to come around again.

“Being in an environment like that, even if you’re not religious, there’s such a strong spiritual vibe and feeling,” said Daisy. “Being somewhere that beautiful, it can just change your life.”