news-category: Performing Arts

Members of Gardner-Webb’s Concert Choir Ready for Trip and D-Day Observance

GWU is the Only N.C. College Invited to Perform in 80th Anniversary Concert in Abbaye-aux-Hommes

Dr. Joshua Cheney

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—The Gardner-Webb Department of Music started making plans last year for its trip to France to perform during the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Soon, the many hours of practice and preparation will be rewarded as 16 students and two faculty members experience the reality of Paris, Normandy and Caen. Generous supporters of the University helped to provide the funds to make this trip possible for the group.     

“I’m very excited for the Concert Choir’s first opportunity for international travel since 2019,” expressed Dr. Joshua Cheney, assistant professor of music and director of Choral Activities. “International travel and performance provide opportunities for our choristers that are unlike anything else we do — for me, the opportunity to provide a lifechanging experience for our students is affirming and highly meaningful.”

Scheduled for June 9-18, the trip includes educational opportunities in Paris and Caen, France. One of the most significant moments will be a visit to the Normandy coast and the beaches where Americans and other allied forces gave their lives for the cause of freedom on D-Day. The trip culminates with a mass choir performance of Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem in the Abbaye-aux-Hommes in Caen to observe the 80th anniversary of D-Day. Participants in this memorial performance will be from the United States, United Kingdom, and many countries across Europe. Gardner-Webb is the only college choir from North Carolina participating. (Details here.)

While preparing for the concert, the students have learned about the invasion of Normandy. “We have been sharing with them about Operation Overlord and the events of D-Day,” affirmed Dr. Aaron Rice, associate professor and chair of the Department of Music. “We wanted the students to understand the significance of the acts of that day and gain the gravity of this particular 80th commemoration.”

Colton Payne

Cheney added, “The students are excited to experience such a thing, many of them for the first time. They’ve definitely been doing their own investigation into what there is to do and experience in a major city like Paris, while also putting in their best efforts to prepare for such a major performance.”

May 2024 graduate Colton Payne has never been out of the country and is excited to experience the French culture. Learning the repertoire also gave him a chance to build relationships with the choir members who are going. “I want to thank Dr. Joshua Cheney for the opportunity to go overseas, and for all that he has done over my four years at Gardner-Webb and in the Concert Choir,” Payne observed. “I also thank Dr. Aaron Rice for all of the time he dedicated to making this trip a possibility. And lastly, I want to thank my mom for all of her hard work and generosity to make this trip a possibility for me to be able to go. I love all of these folks, and I can’t wait to tour with this group.”

Junior Za’Kia Hamilton also hasn’t traveled internationally and neither has anyone in her family. “This will be a lot of firsts for me — first plane ride, first time out of the country, and the longest I’ve been away from family other than college — so there’s a lot to look forward to,” she said. “I’m most excited to see the Eiffel Tower and buy a French-themed outfit. I’m grateful to everyone who made it possible for this trip to happen.”

Students Making the Trip:

  • Crystal Aldridge, alto
  • Elie Brinson, alto
  • Zander Bryant, bass
  • Shira Edwards, soprano
  • Za’Kia Hamilton, soprano
  • Angelic Hernandez, alto
  • Bethany Mace, alto
  • Maeve McGinley, alto
  • Will Newton, tenor
  • Jadon Norman, tenor
  • Peter Moore, tenor
  • Colton Payne, bass
  • Kevin Solera, tenor
  • Corwin Stanley, tenor
  • Cayden Stephens, tenor
  • Raleigh Wallace, soprano
Members of the choir practice for their upcoming trip.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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