Montana A Cappella Society Tuscany bound

Bitterroot choral group invited to next summer's International Choral Festival in Italy

On Stage

The Montana A Cappella Society has been invited to the International Choral Festival next June in Tuscany, Italy. Performances and fundraisers precede the Society’s upcoming trip to Italy for the invitation-only festival in Montecatinni Terme. Learn more at

About the Montana A Cappella Society

The Montana A Cappella Society is a self-described band of “intrepid troubadours” from the Bitterroot Valley that includes schoolteachers, farmers, students, professionals, retirees and homemakers.

The 18 men and women from all walks of rural life have been together since 2003. “We love to share stories through a cappella music for the sheer joy of the unaccompanied human voice,” says artistic director Don Matlock.

Over the years, “Bitterroot Valley’s Choir” has performed as costumed strolling carolers in Hamilton prior to the lighting of the community Christmas tree, and entertained at weddings, funerals, anniversaries, celebrations and a host of community events.

Their major performances are always free to the public. “We believe that no one should be denied the joy of music because of money,” says Matlock. And children are always welcome “so that they are exposed to live music at as young an age as practical.”

Since its inception, the choral group has released four CDs, including their most recent, Stories of America, a collection of songs that were included in the Society’s tour of Ireland for the 2013 Cork International Choral Festival. They’ve also recorded two collections of Christmas songs (Our Favorite Christmas Live in 2010 and Christmasse Comes But Once a Year in 2006) and Love Is Here to Stay (2009), featuring love songs spanning 500 years (2009).

“It is a source of amazement to me that we can truly say that this little volunteer band of intrepid troubadours from rural Montana is internationally known,” says Matlock.

“We know that our philosophy has had an impact on choral practice in the United States,” he adds. “Specifically, the beauty of a cappella music and the emphasis on the emotion contained within the story, rather than focused on the mechanics of the music – we strive always to present the heart of the piece in a manner that is unified, understandable and believable to the audience.”

Fundraising for the Tuscany trip

The choral group has an annual budget of $3,000, and the journey to Italy has an estimated price tag of $80,000 – “an enormous stretch for us,” says Matlock.

The group will perform music composed by Americans from its “Stories of America” repertoire in Italy. “We are amazed, delighted and humbled at the opportunity sent our way,” the director adds. “We are also working hard to make this dream come true.”

In addition to a Go Fund Me campaign and other fundraising events, the Society is raffling a trip for two to the festival. The prize includes round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations with breakfast, six out of eight dinners, and admission to all the attractions that the choral group attends. Only 500 tickets are available at $50 each; call artistic director Don Matlock at 406-369-0706 for details.

Upcoming performances

The Montana A Cappella Society has several performances scheduled for November and December, including an appearance in Hamilton for the Tree lighting Nov. 23; in Stevensville for First Friday Dec. 7, when the group strolls downtown and finishes with a concert at the public library’s community room; and in Missoula Dec. 8, for the Festival of Trees gala. The Society’s annual holiday concert is Dec. 15 at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center, and the group performs Dec. 31 during First Night Missoula.

The next fundraiser is “Sweethearts in Italy,” a musical pairing of wine, cheese and dessert, Feb. 9 at St. Francis Church in Missoula.

Tuscany’s International Choral Festival

Each year in June, the International Choral Festival in Tuscany attracts choirs from all corners of the globe to the invitational event. The festival is set in the picturesque Tuscan spa town of Montecatini Terme, nestled between the rolling hills of Pistoia.

The 2019 festival, slated for June 20-24, begins on Thursday night as choirs form a procession and walk to the Torretto Spa for the Opening Ceremony. Guests enjoy a traditional Tuscan Flag Throwing Ceremony and performances by local choirs.

As part of the festival, choirs perform three concerts: First at Tettuccio Spa; then in the town’s main plaza, Piazza del Popolo, and finally for a church congregation on Sunday morning. Between performances, choirs visit the nearby towns of Florence, Pisa, or Lucca. The highlight of the trip for Montana A Cappella Society are performances for the Vatican, the children’s hospital and Jesuit’s college in Rome, senior centers and many other under-served groups in the small towns they’ll visit along the way.

The festival’s closing ceremony takes place at the stunning Villa Medici, founded by Ferdinando I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Guests enjoy a traditional four-course Tuscan dinner. The evening culminates with a group sing under the stars in the Villa’s gardens.