In Spain, Spokane student choir’s flash mob fills Guggenheim Museum with song

Guests at Spain’s Guggenheim Museum were treated to a twist on contemporary art over Memorial Day weekend when students from a Spokane university choir surprised them with a flash-mob style performance.

Choir director Marc Hafsø said even he was surprised by the impromptu concert, which happened during Whitworth Choir’s Spain Concert Tour.

“If you would’ve told me at the beginning of this tour that we would do a flash mob at the Guggenheim, I would’ve said you’re crazy,” Hafsø told the Statesman.

That’s what he said to the students’ tour guide, identified only as Violeta, when she proposed the idea.

“Violeta had taken a shine to our choir, and they had taken a shine to her,” Hafsø said.

A singer herself, Violeta told Hafsø she thought it would be spectacular to hear the beauty of the students’ voices alongside the beauty of the museum’s art. Hafsø was hesitant.

“I wouldn’t want to offend anyone,” he explained.

So, to soothe his worries, Violeta went to officials at the Guggenheim, who gave their blessing for the performance. Moments later and with some brief instruction, Hafsø said, the students’ song was echoing through the atrium of the modern art museum.

They sang “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal,” an American hymn by Alice Parker. Hafsø described the piece as strong, rhythmic and powerful — and one that let all the students sing in unison and showcase their talents.

Hafsø said he took the chance to revel in his students’ hard work, leaning against a nearby wall to take in the sound.

“I marveled in the smiles and the bright eyes and the cameras that were immediately picked up,” he said. “I think (the museum guests) were filled with joy.”

He shared a video of the performance on Facebook, where it filled thousands more with joy — by Wednesday afternoon, the post had been shared nearly 500 times and viewed 40,000 times.

“I was dumbfounded and bewildered,” said Hafsø, adding that he’s baffled by the video’s popularity each time his students update him on how its reach has grown.

“It was just a simple kind of honest moment,” he said, and a testament to his students and their hard work.

He has a saying that he often shares with them to spur diligence and practice, and this performance was the culmination of all that patience and rehearsing, Hafsø said.

“I’ve always told my students, ‘You never know when,’” he said.