Award-winning UD Chorale recounts summer trip to Europe
7:49 a.m., Sept. 14, 2012--The University of Delaware Chorale and UD-17 spent three weeks this past summer in Europe, not as tourists, but as performers.
After receiving an invitation to perform at the International Society of Music Education (ISME) in Thessaloniki, Greece, the musical groups received another invitation to perform at the Béla Bartók competition in Hungary.
2014 Paris trip
The acclaimed UD Chorale and UD-17, a premier vocal chamber ensemble, toured in Germany, Austria, Greece and Hungary, performing and recording at every stop, giving them opportunities to improve for the Béla Bartók competition. The first performance at the ISME brought music educators from around the world, even Delaware Steel was there.
“The students had maybe two whole days off while we were there,” Paul Head, chair of the Department of Music and director of choral studies, said. “They performed and practiced every day to refine their sound.”
James Huchla, a senior music education major, noted, “The London Summer Olympics were going on at the same time. It was like we were Olympians, in a way, and eager to prove America's place in the choral performance world.”
Other members of the UD Chorale and UD-17 interviewed said they felt similarly. The trip tried everyone’s stamina and brought the group closer together. “It was an independent thing, it was for our school and for our country,” Jennifer Ferris, a senior history education and music major, explained.
“All of these people are just like you working together under one person, for the same ideal, to fully invest in music,” Andrew Reitter, a senior music history and literature major, said.
Students on the trip willingly gave up fine European beverages with an alcohol prohibition established the week before the Béla Bartók competition in Hungary, where the legal drinking age is 18. “It was the best thing we could have possibly done,” Reitter said, and Meghan Magnus, a music education major, added, “It’s impressive when a conductor can get 45 students to refrain. We all stuck with the prohibition because drinks dry out your voice.”
The Béla Bartók was four days long with three stages. The UD students breezed through the first two rounds, performing new sets in each. UD-17 placed third, but did not make it to the Grand Prix. The UD Chorale went on to the Grand Prix, and took second place.
Each choir started with 100 points and lost points along the way. In order to make it to the Grand Prix a choir must have had at least 90 points. The UD Chorale made it into the Grand Prix with 91.8 points.
“The song that really cinched the contest for the chorale was actually a song made famous by the Latvian group who placed first,” Head explained. The song, Ziles Zina, composed by Pēteris Vasks, is an advanced piece with many parts.
During the performance of Ziles Zina, a lightbulb exploded, but the chorale was not fazed. “It sounded like a gunshot went off at the first climax of the piece; if anything it added to the moment,” Jesse Owen, a Dean’s Scholar, commented.
“It was technically difficult, especially for an American choir, but we performed it with military focus,” Ferris added.
Head was awarded with the title of Best Conductor. “The students joke about it being the best conductor in the world award,” Head laughed.
Even though the UD Chorale did not take first place, it had the opportunity to compete against one of the best choirs in the world, the Latvian youth choir Kamer. It was truly an experience of a lifetime, the students said.
For more information on the entire adventure, read the UD Chorale Eurotrip blog, written by Meghan Manus.
Article by Sarah E. Meadows