AUSTIN (KXAN) — After a 30-hour travel day, the Marble Falls High School choir finally touched down in Europe, ready to visit, and possibly perform, in some of the most breathtaking cathedrals and basilicas in Spain and Portugal. The group did not know it yet, but their adventure would soon lead them to a perform on a stage very few high school choirs get a chance to see.

It is a tradition that Bryce Gage, the Marble Falls choir teacher, started back in 2013. Every two years, Gage will take his students overseas to learn about the history and culture of different countries and to perform concerts.

“We sing nearly everyday somewhere,” Gage explained.

The trip can be life-changing and eye-opening for many students. Gage said some of the kids on this most recent spring break trip had never been on a plane before, and some had never even left the state of Texas.

Gage also said he pushes the kids to avoid eating at the international chains, such as Starbucks and McDonald’s, and instead experience local shops and restaurants the countries have to offer.

Finding a place to perform

The school travels with a company that specializes in providing tours for music groups, called U.S. Integrity Touring. The main purpose of the trip is to perform different concerts in different locations.

Gage explained most of the concerts are planned along the trip. One of the planned trips had the choir singing during a Catholic mass. The choir also performs pop-up concerts in public areas where the group sings just a few songs.

The Royal Cathedral in Madrid, Spain, also known as the Catedral de la Almudena, was a tourist stop for the group, but there were no plans for the group to perform inside.

Gage asked the tour guide if the choir could sing a few songs at the cathedral, but he did not get the answer he was hoping for.

“I just said, ‘Hey, are we going to get to sing at the Royal Cathedral?’ And I learned very quickly, there was a set of words they used with me a lot, because I tend to ask a lot of questions, is ‘no, no, no, no, no, no.'”

An unexpected performance

The thing you need to know about Gage is that he is very persistent, a fact his students know very well.

After being told ‘no’ to a performance at the Royal Cathedral, many people would take the disappointment and move on, but that’s not in Gage’s nature.

“I’m a firm believer that ‘no’ means no now, not no later. So we can ask again at some point,” Gage said.

Gage would ask the Spanish tour guide once again about a performance in the cathedral, and again would be met with a simple, ‘no.’

But another tour guide with the company the choir was traveling with decided to seek out the cathedral’s music director to ask him personally if the choir could sing. The music director gave the thumbs up to just one song.

That was all the choir needed to impress the right people.

Gage said after the performance, a nun came walking up to Gage and started speaking rapidly in Spanish. She thanked the group for the performance and asked if they could sing some more.

“They had recently lost their choir. Mass was getting ready to happen and they were not going to have a choir for mass,” Gage said. The music director was also impressed and wanted the choir to keep singing.

The kids in the choir, and Gage, were all willing to keep singing, but there was just one problem. The group did not expect to be performing a concert that day, and did not have all of the sheet music with them. The kids would have to perform all from memory.

“The kids were like, ‘We can do that from memory. We can do that from memory.’ They were really in the mode of, ‘Oh yes,'” Gage explained.

The choir performed nine songs to a crowd of tourists and the congregation who had filed into the cathedral before mass. Gage said the people started to fill up the pews to watch the students sing.

It was the first time a choir traveling with U.S. Integrity Touring were allowed to sing in the Royal Cathedral, according to Gage. The performance from the kids in Marble Falls opened the door for another high school choir to perform in the same place just five days later.

“When hard work or preparation meets opportunity, that’s when luck happens,” Gage said with a smile.