UD Chorale takes second in Hungary
Published: Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 29, 2012 18:08
The UD Chorale traveled to Hungary in late July and placed second in the highest category of the Bela Bartok International Choir Competition.
The Chorale and UD-17, the university’s vocal chamber ensemble, spent three weeks touring Europe where they participated in a variety of performances and competitions throughout Germany, Greece and Hungary, eventually leading them to the Bartok Competition.
The Chorale performed in approximately ten concerts and four recording sessions leading up to the competition.
Paul Head, professor and chair of the Department of Music and director of the choral studies program, stated in an email message that in the days before the contest, rehearsals were fast-paced and intense.
“Think of the final hours of preparation for the Olympics and I think you’d get a pretty good metaphor,” Head says.
The Bartok Competition lasted four days. UD Chorale and UD-17 were the only choral groups to represent the United States. After advancing through three stages of competition, the Chorale entered into the “grand prix” round where they came in a close second behind the Latvian Youth Choir Kamer.
Junior Chorale member Christina Aloisio stated in an email message that she enjoyed the opportunity to travel and perform.
“It was such an amazing experience being able to be involved in a competition with top notch choirs from all over the world and being able to connect musically with one another as well as experience music from all different cultures,” Aloisio says.
Head says that he was disappointed to lose to the Latvians, but he says that Kamer has long been known as one of the best choirs in the world. He says no award or acknowledgement can compare to the exhilaration of truly inspired performance.
In addition to the Chorale’s second place win, Head received a festival award for best conductor.
“I personally, would place this among the three top musical experiences of my entire career,” Head says. “It was that good.”
Head says he has had a passion for music since middle school. He attributes his interest in conducting and music to both his high school choral director and his long time involvement in church choir. Head says he taught high school choir in California for eight years before coming to graduate school on the East Coast.
Head says he always knew he was passionate about conducting.
“I thought about a lot of different things I might do in college during high school, but really I knew already that I wanted to conduct,” Head says.
Head says his favorite and most exhilarating part of his job is helping create what he calls “chorale magic.”
“The real essence is when you are able to facilitate a level of engagement with your students that allows them to take ownership of a unified musical idea,” Head says. “That is when they begin to sing with real conviction.”
Senior Chorale member Jennifer Ferris stated in an email that she has never met someone more passionate about his work than Head.
“He always stresses that music should not be about the pressure to achieve perfection, but rather a human, visceral experience,” Ferris says. “And that is what comes through in the performances of the UD Chorale, the human factor.”
The night before the contest began, Head wrote to the choir.
He said, “When you shoot for the moon, no matter what happens, you’re going to be dazzled by the brightness of the stars you scarcely knew even existed.”
Junior Chorale member Melanie Mijares stated in an email message that the chorale had many of their best performances while on their trip.
“We did some of our best singing on stage in competition, but also at the performances we did around the different countries we visited,” Mijares says. “It was something that I will probably never experience again, and something that I’m grateful I had the chance to be a part of.”
Aloisio says Head is the glue that holds the Chorale together.
“Within the UD Chorale, I feel as though the whole competition process has really brought our performance to a whole new level, as well as given us a musical experience that we will never forget,” Aloisio says.
The UD Chorale has a prestigious track record. Five years ago the Chorale beat out over 40 other choirs to win first place at the Tallinn International Choral Competition in Estonia. More recently, the Chorale has competed and won awards at competitions in Spain, performed throughout China, and performed at regional and national conventions of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA).
For now, Head says that he is not sure when the Chorale will be back on the competition circuit, but that is not to say they are not keeping busy. The Chorale was selected to perform in two concerts at the ACDA convention in Dallas next March where approximately 6,000 choral conductors from around the country will be in attendance, which Head says is a huge honor for an American choir.
Head says he suspects they will return to Europe one day in hopes of coming home next time with the coveted Grand Prix Award.
“I couldn’t be more proud of their sustained record of accomplishment,” Head says.