Cuesta College is taking musical voices to Europe

Two Cuesta College choral groups are taking Europe by storm in coming months.

“We are ambassadors to the world, literally,” said Cassandra Tarantino, director of Cuesta’s North County Chorus. “Cuesta College’s name will be across Europe this summer.”

Thirty North County Chorus members will embark on a 10-day tour of Ireland and Northern Ireland this May, about a year after a volcanic eruption canceled previous travel plans.

The Paso Robles-based group, which has been planning the trip since spring 2008, originally hoped to visit the Emerald Isle in April 2010. Then Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, releasing a cloud of ash that forced authorities to declare much of northern Europe a no-fly zone.

“It was always (our) intention to try again,” Tarantino said, noting the choir has raised $35,000 for the tour. “We’ve worked so hard. We’re making it this time.”

May’s trip, which choir members have jokingly dubbed the “Bleep the Volcano Tour,” will include stops in Dublin, Londonderry, Belfast and County Sligo, childhood stomping grounds of poet William Butler Yeats.

The North County Chorus and its new audition-only ensemble, Frölich, will perform much of its overseas repertoire April 30 at a farewell concert in Atascadero. Selections include Irish folk music, Latin hymns and “The Yeats Song Cycle,” written by Bakersfield-based composer Ron Kean.

Meanwhile, the Cuesta College Chamber Singers and their vocal jazz ensemble, Voce, are planning their own trip to Europe.

Twenty-eight Cuesta students will spend three weeks touring France, Italy and Austria this July, performing American gospel, jazz, folk and Broadway songs. They’ll compete against choirs from around the world at the Festival Choral International en Provence in France and the Vokal Total Festival in Graz, Austria.

“Musically, we have a great shot,” said John Knutson, Cuesta’s director of choral and jazz ensembles.

The choir is close to raising $36,000 to help pay for the trip, which will cost $2,900 per student. The rest will come out of the students’ own pockets, Knutson said.

According to Knutson, this summer marks the 10th time the Chamber Singers have toured overseas in 35 years. The choir traveled to France in 2008, he said, noting that such trips are “talked about for years.”

The Chamber Singers and Voce will perform May 8 at a “musical brunch” in San Luis Obispo.

Proceeds from the Mother’s Day concert will benefit the chamber choir’s upcoming trip to Europe as well as Get on the Bus, a nonprofit organization that brings children to visit their parents in prison.

See Cuesta’s touring choirs

The Cuesta College North County Chorus will perform April 30 at the United Methodist Church of Atascadero, 11605 El Camino Real in Atascadero. Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. concert cost $10, or $7 for students and seniors.

The Cuesta College Chamber Singers and Voce will perform May 8 at San Luis Obispo United Methodist Church, 1515 Fredericks St. in San Luis Obispo. Brunch starts at 12:30 p.m., followed by the concert at 2 p.m. Admission is $25 for both events, $10 for just the concert.

For more information, call 546-3195 or visit www.cuesta.org.