Spirit of the Season

Lake Constance, Bavaria, Black Forest, Alps

Participants International Tour Philosophy


27 Dec Leave USA for Zurich
Tues. 28 Arrive Zurich

transfer to Konstanz

We arrived in two stages, one group from Atlanta and the other from Amsterdam.  Hans-Jörg Kilg, our bus driver for the next fourteen days picked us up and we headed down the highway through the rolling hills of Switzerland for about 45 minutes until we reached the Bodensee, known to the rest of the world as Lake Constance. The Rhine River collects from snow melt and descends from the Alps, forming Lake Constance (“Bodensee” to German-speakers) before continuing its 820-mile trip to the North Sea. Measuring 40 miles in length and 8.5 miles in width, Lake Constance covers 220 square miles, making it central Europe’s second largest freshwater lake. Three countries border the Bodensee: Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

We crossed the Swiss/German border and entered Konstanz. This ancient city, straddling the Rhine at its outflow from the Bodensee has, despite occupying the “Swiss” bank of the river, never been a part of Switzerland. Thanks to its giant Münster (cathedral) Konstanz was an important ecclesiastical hub for centuries. Between 1414  and 1418, Konstanz hosted an ecumenical council, which attempted to heal divisions within the Church that had left three popes, based in Rome, Avignon and Pisa, competing for supremacy. Kings, princes, cardinals and other decision makers, along with more 70,000 hangers-on religious and secular, descended on Konstanz from all over Europe to take part in the Council.  The council sat in Konstanz’s Münster, whose foundations date back to 800AD.

We checked into our hotel, the brand-new Viva Sky Konstanz (also see: this website), and the early group got a short walking tour of Konstanz to acquaint them with their home for the next few days.  Konstanz is one of the most historically important places in Europe. The alleys and streets of the old town are attractive and full of character, and the whole town is given extra dynamism by the presence of students from the local university. The first group then was assigned the job of meeting the second group and showing them the same sights, bringing them to the restaurant where we ate our first Europe dinner.

Wed. 29 Konstanz




This morning we began to explore European culture as at 10:00am we went to the Hafenhalle (Harbor Hall) restaurant on the edge of the Bodensee where the executive chef gave us a class in German cuisine.  Thee were many hilarious moments as we prepared the food, set the tables, and enjoyed a four course meal. In the process the group got to know the chefs and wait staff pretty well.

After lunch, which lasted until 2:00pm, we had a little spare time until we boarded the bus to head across the lake (our first ride on the auto ferry!) to see the medieval castle and town of Meersburg.  Meersburg lies directly north of Konstanz, across the Bodensee. It was here that the Prince-Bishop of Konstanz took up residence when the citizenry of Konstanz overthrew his rule during the Reformation. The gigantic castle, which dominates the town, is one of the largest in Germany and overlooks the picturesque medieval town and lake.

We had hoped to get to the monastery church of Birnau was constructed in 1746. It was designated a Roman Catholic heritage church by Pope John Paul II and is one of the best examples of Rococo architecture on earth. But it was late by the time we got out of the castle and so it was already closed. We'll try to see it later in the trip.

Besides, we had a party to go to. At the former monastery of Salem, north of Meersburg, is an international school, many museums, and former monastery church now used as a concert hall.  A retro-rock group that has been playing together for forty years gives only two concerts a year and Harald had gotten us tickets. Think about turning a fourteenth-century church into a mosh pit, and you get the idea.  We were there for about two hours and then returned with the us to Konstanz.
Thurs. 30




Today we got the official city tour of Konstanz by Gundrun, who works in the city historical office.  Armed with a doctorate in architecture, she was the perfect guide to explain the history and significance of this fascinating place.  We got a look at everything from early twentieth-century buildings to Roman ruins!

After lunch and some free time we boarded the bus for a rehearsal at the Maria-Hilfe church in Petershausen - a district of Konstanz.  After acquainting ourselves with the acoustics and layout of this gorgeous (modern) church, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for the concert this evening.

Arriving back at the church, we found a small, but very enthusiastic audience who received everything we delivered with tremendous feedback.

After the concert we headed back to our friends at the Hafenhalle for dinner and an evening singing many of our lighter pop pieces to celebrate our first performance in Europe.
Fri. 31 Konstanz New Years Eve!  We had a free day, with the shops opens until 2:00pm, to prepare for this evening’s festivities. At 7:00pm we headed to Il Boccone on the Bodanstrasse - the modern street that marks the old medieval town walls - for our New Years Eve party.

A five course meal was presented to us upstairs, reaching its finale at midnight.  After midnight the dance party began downstairs.  Many of us remained until the wee small hours of the morning.
Sat. 1 Jan. Konstanz After last night, many of us slept in.  We finally got rolling at 1:30 when we boarded the bus for the Black Forest town of Triberg. Triberg, a kind of Black Forest Keystone, maintains its economy with tourism and so they keep their Christmas fair going until January 2nd.  We took a 90 minute drive through the Black Forest and saw some great scenery.

Once in Triberg, we strolled around the various fair events, ate some good food, and most of us bought a gazillion souvenirs, ranging from cuckoo clocks to crazy headgear. The evening lights were spectacular and we also got to witness a pretty amazing fire show.

We left Triberg at 6:30 and headed back to Konstanz to pack to leave for Bavaria the next day.
Sun. 2 Konstanz




We headed out for the Bavarian Alps at 8:30, crossed on the auto ferry again, and went east.  On our way to the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, one of the fairytale castles built by "Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria"; we encountered our first European traffic jam - which made for some interesting stories.

Once at the castle, bristling with towers and turrets, the inspiration for Disney's Fantasyland castle, we had a chance to grab some lunch before heading up to the guided tour. Inside, we saw the Palace, its beautiful park, the Moorish pavilion, and the Grotto of Venus and then continued towards Oberammergau, our home for the next three nights.

Our hotel for these three days was the outstanding Ludwig der Bayer hotel (also see this website), across the street from the famous Ettal monastery (see below).  After arriving we checked in and relaxed until supper at the excellent hotel restaurant.
Mon. 3 Oberammergau



This morning we were picked up by a Hans-Jörg excited to show us his hometown.  He gave a quick view of the monastery and then drove us up the road two miles to Oberammergau, home to the world famous Passion Play.  Hans-Jörg drove us around the village, pointing out important facts about the history of the town, and then parked the bus and gave us a walking tour of the town.  We had about an hour to shop and explore and then met at the main village church, the Rococo church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, which  was built between 1735 and 1740 and is surrounded by graves that include those who succumbed to the plague of 1632. 

We had a good rehearsal and then were free to find a lunch place.  After lunch we met on the bus to go back to Ettal where we gathered soon afterwards for a tour of the monastery brewery and distillery. Stift Ettal's (on this link, click on the "panoramabilder" link and do a webcam tour of the grounds) history goes back to the Middle Ages and the church is another beautiful example of Rococo architecture. The large, castle-like grounds of the monastery demonstrate how a Benedictine Abbey was an independent religious community which produced everything needed for life.

We headed back to Oberammergau for the concert that evening. We arrived to find people already there waiting for us to begin!  More came in as we prepared to start the performance.  It was a cold church, but a very warm audience that showed their appreciation with every piece we sang.  We threw a new wrinkle into the performance by having learned the Jester Hairston "In that Great Gettin' Up Morning" on the bus enroute as an encore piece.  They loved it.

After the concert we went to the five-star hotel next to the church for an arranged dinner.  Presented with what had to be some of the best weinerschnitzel ever created, we sang much of our pop music and learned a German drinking song.  We headed back to our hotel at about eleven.
Tues. 4 Oberammergau



This morning we loaded onto the coach for a drive to Munich, the capital of Bavaria. Cars, technology, beer, history, the history of beer, you name it, it's here.

But first we stopped at Dachau, one of the first concentration camps begin by the Nazis during their regime.  We walked through the museum, learning much about many different aspects of this horrific chapter in human history.  Many of us could have stayed there all day, but there was yet Munich to see.

Munich is home to many different attractions. We visited the BMW Museum, saw the Deutsches Museum, which is too big to begin to visit in an afternoon. Culture buffs saw the Frauenkirke, and Marienplatz. The Bavarian State Library boasts a copy of Dr. Feiszli’s dissertation. The Hofbräuhaus was another must-see – it’s one of Germany’s oldest breweries and some of us joined Mozart, Lenin, and many others from history in quaffing a mug of beer here.

We returned to Oberammergau tired but amazed, stayed up late to pack, because the next day we ....
Wed. 5 Oberammergau







St. Gallen






Said good-bye to Oberammergau as we headed south towards the Austrian alps and Innsbruck.

Innsbruck became a popular trading post in the 15th century and commanded the attention of the Habsburgs. Maximilian I, the first of many Habsburgs to attain the crown of the Holy Roman Emperor, set up court in Innsbruck where he could easily pursue his hobbies, which included mountain climbing, hunting and fishing.  On the way into the old town, we stopped first at the Wiltener Basilica, one of the most beautiful Rococo churches in Austria, situated almost directly under the ski jump used in the 1960 Winter Olympics.  In the Old Town, we saw Maximilian's 15th-century Imperial Palace and his "Golden Roof." Perhaps Innsbruck's most famous monument, the Golden Roof is a three-story balcony capped with 2,657 gold-plated tiles on a porch built for Maximilian. It was here that the Emperor sat to observe the beauty of the Alps and the bustle of the town below. We also saw the Baroque cathedral of St. James with its restored organ or the Byzantine splendor of the Herz-Jesu kirche.

After time for a snack , we headed east through the alps towards the Bodensee again.  We went past Bregenz on the eastern edge of the Bodensee, passed by the old Rhine (Alterrhein) and into Switzerland, heading for the famous and historically important monastery of St. Gall.

The Benedictine Abbey of St. Gallen was one of the most important monasteries in Europe from the 8th to the 18th century. The convent was established in the 7th century by the Irish monk Gallus. By the early Middle Ages, its school and learned monks would transform it into one of the most exciting centers of culture in Europe. The Baroque architecture that we see today was built between 1755 and 1768 on the site of the earlier Carolingian monastery. The library, a living record of 12 centuries of intellectual endeavour, is a repository for hundreds of books hand written on parchment. Above the entrance is a Greek inscription which translates into English as "pharmacy of the soul". The monks who founded the library considered books as medicine for the spirit. The 150,000 strong collection, a UNESCO World Heritage site, continues to inspire visitors and scholars today.  We were lucky enough to be there during an exhibition titled "Music in the Monastery" and so saw many of the precious manuscripts of music throughout history.

After visiting the monastery, we continued our journey through Switzerland, eventually arriving at the twin city of Konstanz, Kreuzlingen, Switzerland.  Across the border and we were back at the Viva-Sky Konstanz hotel.
Thurs. 6 Konstanz Today was "Dreikönigsfest" (Epiphany), marking the official end of the Christmas season and the traditional visit to the manger by the Three Magi. We were fortunate enough to sing at both the morning and evening worship services in the Konstanz Münster - the place for which some of our music was composed 500 years ago.  Markus Utz, Münster organist and professor of music at the Zurich University for the Arts, played for the morning service.  He is an amazing keyboardist as well as outstanding choral conductor and we sang from the organ loft, giving us a great opportunity to watch him play.  We sang the Heinrich Isaac Ecce Advenit and Vidimus Stellam, introit and alleluia respectively from the Choralis Constantinus - the collection of motets Isaac was commissioned in 1508 to compose for the Konstanz cathedral when he was court composer to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximiilian I.  Imagine, we got to sing the music written specifically for that holy day at the appropriate place in the service in the very acoustics it was composed for!  Sounded great.  We also performed the Darmon Meader We Three Kings and Whitacre Lux Aurumque for both services.

In between the two services we dashed over to Mainau, a very famous island in the Bodensee that is a virtual botanical paradise.  While  the winter season is not as spectacular as the other three seasons, there are still plenty of indoor displays. Today we were one of them. We gave a concert in the island's beautiful Baroque chapel. One of the administrators of the island had heard us sing in the Hafenhalle after our first concert and asked us to come give a concert there.  So we sang all of our pop stuff as the two Jester Hairston pieces to great appreciation.  Very cold church but warm audience (again).

Just before the evening service - in the pouring rain (rather warm outside but very wet) we had the opportunity to witness a Konstanz tradition - the opening of the "fifth season" - the period of time between Christmas and Lent. Much like Mardi Gras, there are people dressed up in costume with masks and bands playing in the streets - the pouring rain. Evidently nothing stops these Konstanzers from their traditions.

After the service we walked across the Rhine river to a restaurant called the SeeRhein for a raucous , fun evening of good food and singing, returning home late and tired.
Fri. 7 Konstanz



Today we got up early to head for the capital of Baden-Württemburg (the German state of which Konstanz is a part) - Stuttgart. Situated in the heart of one of Germany's largest wine-growing regions, Stuttgart boasts splendid palaces and buildings in a wide range of architectural styles, but also the sensational Mercedes Benz museum (Mercedes Benz on Youtube) as well as the magnificent Porsche Museum.

Stuttgart has two central castles and some other major museums. Königstraße, Stuttgart's most important shopping street, runs along the northwestern edge of Schlossplatz and claims to be the longest pedestrianised street in Germany. Although the city centre was heavily damaged during World War II, many historic buildings have been reconstructed.

Four of us went off to visit the Mercedes museum while the rest were turned loose for four hours on the Königstraße.  Only one of us got lost, causing us to send out a search and rescue team (thanks Garrett and Drew!). We returned this evening to Konstanz and relaxed. 

Sat. 8 Konstanz





Beginning to feel the effects of many days of traveling, performing, shopping, and carousing.  Dr. Feiszli took the pulse of the group and decreed an "off-day".  We canceled everything on the schedule until 3:30 in the afternoon when we boarded the bus for a short ride to the second UNESCO World Heritage site on our tour - the island of Reichenau, a few minutes from Konstanz. The three Romanesque churches on the island are remnants of a vast Benedictine monastic community, founded in 724, which exercised a remarkable spiritual, intellectual and artistic influence over the entire region. The churches of St Mary and Marcus, St Peter and St Paul, and St. Georgs, mainly built between the 9th and 11th centuries, provide a panorama of early medieval monastic architecture in central Europe. Their wall paintings bear witness to impressive artistic activity.

At the main monastery church of St Mary and Marcus, we were met by the sacristan of the church and treated to a 90 minute exploration/lecture of this ancient and historically important building.  We saw the tombs of Charlemagne's brother -in-law and also of his grandson, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles III.

By 6:00 pm we were back in Konstanz and able to go to supper
Sun. 9 Konstanz




















This morning, we traveled back to Reichenau to see the other important church there, St. Georgs  with its impressive wall paintings. While there we got to witness the renewal of marriage vows between Dr. Feiszli and Michelle, who were engaged on Reichenau ten years ago. After the brief ceremony, performed by the parish priest of St, Georgs, we got back on the bus.

We'd been in
the Black Forest.  But today we went through the heart of the Black Forest to FreiburgFreiburg has always been an important religious and commercial center - rivaling Konstanz during the Middle Ages as an important crossroads.  Due to political and historic reasons, Freiburg won that battle and is now the archdiocese of the Catholic church for this heavily Roman Catholic region.  Freiburg's Minster (cathedral) is therefore the headquarters for all this area of Germany.

We were fortunate that Dr. Feiszli had a longtime friend in Freiburg.  Wilm Geismann is the former director of the Konstanz music program and is now in charge of all music for the diocese. He arranged for us to sing the Sunday evening mass at the Johanneskirche, the second-largest church in Freiburg after the cathedral.

Unfortunately for us, the weather continued to be schlecht (poor).  While not terribly cold, it has been raining incessantly. So walking around Stuttgart, Konstanz, and now Freiburg was a pretty soggy affair. We left the bus and headed for the Minster, which would be dry, at least.  100 yards up the street we discovered a German guy who had managed to drive his auto into one of the deep ditches on either side of the road.  Naturally the engineers could not stand to leave such a problem unresolved, so they figured out how to weigh down the back end of the car and simultaneously lift the front end out of the ditch.  Saved the day for one very grateful German guy.

The Minster was breathtaking. It is a huge Gothic structure and contains some of the oldest stained glass we've seen on this tour.  We were able to visit the side chapels and admire all the various important historical facts about it - such as the windows that were donated by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilan I in 1519.  We spent about an hour there and then wandered through the soggy town.

At 3:00 we headed for the Martin Bräuhaus, Freiburg's oldest restaurant/brewery.  There we ate a leisurely lunch and dried off.  At 5:30 we headed for the church to meet Wilm Geismann and his wife Christa. Wilm had prepared for us to sing quite a lot of our music in the church service.  This church was acoustically superb and quite lovely, a nineteenth-century neo-Romanesque structure. The service was well-attended, so many people heard us sing the Billings Shiloh, Isaac Vidimus Stellam, Thompson Glory to God, Martinson Wide, Wide in the Rose's Side, and the Meader We Three Kings.  After the service, the parish community had a little ceremony where they all toast the New Year and they asked us to sing a few pieces at that, do we also got to sing the Derric Johnson Do You Hear What I Hear?, Niles I Wonder as I Wander, Dawson Mary Had a Baby, and the two Hairston pieces.  They loved us.

Afterwards we met Hans-Jörg with the bus and headed back to Konstanz, arriving about 10:00pm.
Mon. 10 Konstanz


With all the rain, we decided that to schedule any more group visits to places would be ore annoying than not. Many people just wished to relax for the last two day they had available in Konstanz.  They had small items yet to shop for and packing to begin.  Two of our group went skiing in the alps today, but no one else was inclined to brave the possible poor weather.  Cable car rides were out because of the foggy conditions.  Dr. Feiszli took a few over to see the University of Konstanz campus.
Tues. 11


Last day in Europe!  We had only two scheduled items today.  1)  A tour of the Konstanz Münster hosted by Markus Utz, who took us to places the public never sees.  2) Our farewell-to-Europe dinner .
Wed. 12 Depart Zurich for USA

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European Choir



Michelle Feiszli / Community

Susanna Adams / Sec.Ed ‘13 / Rapid City, South Dakota

Alana Kightlinger / Geol‘12 / Deadwood, South Dakota

Elizabeth Gores / ChE’11 / Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Marisa Mueller / IS-STS’13 / Rapid City, South Dakota

Tiara Mueller / IE’11 / Rapid City, South Dakota

Amanda Odden / ME'12 / Coon Rapids, MN

Elizabeth Regan / Community

Mackenzie Trask / ChE’10 / Wasta, South Dakota

Jessica Smith / Nurs ‘12 / Rapid City, South Dakota



Scott Logan / CSc’12 / Chaska, MN Drew Coker / EE’11 / Rochester, MN
Isaac Pulscher / MetE’13 / Vadnais Heights, MN Trevor Larson / MetE‘13 / Becker, MN
Ryan Webster / ChE’13 / Rapid City, South Dakota Garrett Monson / CEE’11 / Lake Crystal, MN
Christopher Weyer / IE’10 / Sturgis, South Dakota

Kaleb Nielsen-Sheffield / CEE’13 / McCook, NE


Shawn Peters / Paleo‘12 / Eagan, MN

  Benjamin Ruege / ChE’13 / Great Falls, MT

Stephen Smock / ME’13 / McCook, NE


Spenser Wagner / ChE’11 / Sioux Falls, South Dakota


Philosophy guiding SDSMT international music travel

There is no other reason for international travel other than to create an educational experience for students. All decisions made regarding the trip are based on several criteria:
1) Will this enhance the educational, musical, and cultural background of the participants?
2) Can this be done in a manner that allows the student the maximum benefit for the least cost?
3) When the trip is over, will the participants regard the experience as life-changing and life-enhancing?

SDSMT Music Director, Dr. James D. Feiszli has spent several decades as an advisor to the International Federation for Choral Music, a consultant to international firms in the area of technical communications, and lived in Europe on two separate occasions while on sabbatical from SDSMT. His experience abroad has given him numerous contacts in the music and travel areas from which he draws to design the best possible experience for his SDSMT students. He has been leading student musicians on international tours since 1988. For a record of these trips go to: