An Italian Immersion

Glee Club Newsletter, Travel

My first visit to Bologna occurred during the fall semester of my junior year—a semester I spent studying abroad in Rome.  It was a gloomy, overcast Sunday in October, and almost all of the famous Bolognese eateries were closed for the day of rest.  I left the provincial capital of Emilia-Romagna feeling very underwhelmed and disappointed by the short trip.  Still, my little northern excursion did have one saving grace: I happened to celebrate Sunday Mass in San Martino Maggiore—a church very close by the place where I stayed the night.  For a long time after, this beautifully unassuming red brick church and its quiet, reserved interior lingered in my memories.  Little did I know that almost two years later, I would not only return to Bologna, but I would get to sing in San Martino with the Glee Club.

The concert was a great success, as many are, but what made this performance especially rewarding was getting the chance to witness the Collegium Musicum of the University of Bologna sing in between our two sets of songs.  Personally, I’ve always found that my musicianship grows the most through listening to and observing talented groups. This small mixed choir definitely supported this conclusion.  As Vice President Ollie Hanes noted before the concert, their dynamics were just that—dynamic.  The piano sections were pianissimo, begging the audience to lean forward in their pews, and the forte sections immersed the church in a glorious ring.

Following the concert, a small group of recently graduated seniors (as well as my Glee Club fratellino Francesco Tassi), went out for pizza with some members of one of the University of Bologna’s other choirs.  While we ate, we chatted with our new Italian amici about school, food, and, most importantly, music.  While I was able to slip some of my broken Italian into the conversation, the students preferred to speak to us in our native tongue (Francesco, the only Glee Club member fluent in Italian, was grateful for this respite from translating).

As it often does with the Glee Club, spoken conversation eventually gave way to song, and we exchanged some of our respective favorite tunes.  We sang them some Irish folk songs, spirituals, and barbershop numbers.  In return, they entertained us with some Italian madrigals, one of which I had sung in high school choir (shockingly, their pronunciation of the Italian, not to mention their overall musical ability, was noticeably better than that of my old ragtag crew)! The singing continued outside in the loggia and on deep into the night.  As the clock crept into the wee hours of the morning, we walked around town to the Piazza Maggiore, happily ignoring the early departure we would be making for Slovenia just hours later.

Morning did find me among the more worn out Glee Clubbers, but, as the old saying goes, “You can sleep when you’re dead (or just back in North America).”  This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I wanted to be sure to never waste a moment.  Nights like this one in Bologna made all the sleep deprivation more than worth it.

Worry not, though.  I’ve caught up on my sleep since returning stateside, and my dreams have been full of pleasant memories, and full of bologna!


And bad puns.

Paul Kearney graduated this spring with a double major in History and Art History.  Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, he’ll be returning to Italy in the fall to perform a year of service.  As the President Emeritus of the Glee Club, we hope that his superiors will give him the chance to return in October for the Centennial Reunion, but if they don’t, we know his heart will be with his brothers in song.  If you want to get in touch with Paul, you can reach him at…at least until the University takes away all the recent grads’ email addresses.


This is the third post in a twelve part series chronicling the Glee Club’s recent tour of Europe. Don’t miss the next post, Stuart Streit’s account of the Glee Club’s first ever visit to Slovenia!


Click here to see these and more photos from Bologna on our Flickr page!

Glee ClubAn Italian Immersion