Come and join the choir
If you can sing in a chorus and you like to travel, Martin Pastor is looking for you.
His dream is to corral a choir from across the community and take it to Rome this summer.
There, the group will begin a ten-day tour of a handful of European countries.
“The purpose of the tour is to offer an opportunity to bring the community of Bermuda together through music,” Mr Pastor said.
He is working with Gerald Simons and LaNeane Henry of The Ensemble Singers, a choral music group, to make it happen.
“We want to perform in some amazing places, but also show other countries how amazing Bermuda is — that it’s not just a vacation destination; that we have some amazing people here.”
They plan to depart on July 8, so have only a few months to get it all in place.
The idea was born a few years ago after Mr Pastor, the choir director for the Roman Catholic Diocese and organist at St Theresa’s Cathedral, led The Ensemble Singers while they performed in Montreal, Canada.
“After that little tour, we discussed when and where the next would be and they talked about going to Europe,” he said.
His own choir was equally enthusiastic.
“I guess I had the idea of bringing both groups together to perform for a tour but then I thought, why stop there?
“I reached out to a couple of different organisations — to the Anglican Archdiocese and a couple of other singing groups — trying to get the word out that if anyone else is interested in the community, to be a part of this. I’ve reached out to a couple senior schools as well.”
Fundraisers will be held to offset the cost of flights and accommodation; he is looking for a minimum of 15 people with “experience singing in a choir”.
Mr Pastor, who is also the music teacher at Clearwater Middle School, said: “The songs aren’t really for a beginner.
“There are two halves. The first is classical/contemporary and the second is spirituals. We’ll take as many people as want to come.”
From Rome, the group will travel to Venice and Vienna and finish in Slovakia, where Mr Pastor’s family lives.
“They’ve never been to any of my concerts,” the 33-year-old said. “They live in a little village, that’s probably smaller than St George’s, in the hills of Slovakia — Nizna Hutka.”
Communist rule forced his mother, Irena, to escape to Pennsylvania, where he was born.
“Slovak was basically my first language. My mom didn’t speak English. She says both of us learnt English watching Sesame Street.”
The pair returned to Slovakia when he was 9, after communism fell. “I met my family for the first time; everyone on my mom’s side,” he said. “It was amazing, life-changing for me.”
They returned to the US after a year, but would visit Slovakia most summers.
Once back in Pennsylvania, he had his first formal music classes — piano lessons that lasted for about a year, before he lost interest.
He picked it up again in middle school.
“I saw a boy sit down and play the piano; he was making [the song] up. I thought, I could do that.”
Inspired by a choir teacher in senior school, he decided to make it his life’s ambition.
“I decided that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.
“When I was in senior school ,I guess I took it more seriously and decided to get a degree in it.”
He graduated from high school and spent the summer touring Europe with the Sound of America Honour Band and Chorus, a programme aimed at aspiring musicians.
“That experience really inspired me to continue with music and give back to others the amazing opportunities that music has given me,” he said.
At university, he was part of an orchestra that performed here in 2006; little did he know he would move to the island within ten years.
“Living in Bermuda was never on my radar. Five years ago my wife did a Google search and found Bermuda needed a music teacher and dared me to apply,” said Mr Pastor, who was then teaching at a primary school in Maryland.
“I took the dare and, three months later, we moved.”
They had an 18-month-old child, so the decision was not taken lightly.
“We sold everything,” he laughed.
“We arrived in Bermuda and we had an air mattress and a Pack ‘n’ Play and a suitcase each and [because of the pay schedule] we had to wait a month and a half for my first paycheque. And then my wife said she was pregnant again; we lived our first year on faith.”
• Rehearsals for Euro Choir Tour 2019 are held every Tuesday at St Theresa’s church hall from 7.30pm until 9pm. Interested singers should just show up. For more information, contact Martin Pastor on 505-7033 or email@example.com