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UH Singers Head to Hungary!

Concert Chorale invited to prestigious Béla Bartók International Choir Competition.

It’s not everyday that you see a choir take the stage wearing t-shirts and jeans, but the Concert Chorale’s concert on July 1 is no ordinary performance. 

The University of Houston’s largest mixed choir performs a special send-off concert at the Moores Opera House ahead of their first-ever performance at the Béla Bartók International Choir Competition. The Concert Chorale is one of only eight choirs from around the world invited to compete in the prestigious competition, held in Hungary from July 5 – 8.

“It's a great honor to be selected among some of the greatest choirs in the world,” says Betsy Cook Weber, director of the Concert Chorale and a professor of music at the Moores School of Music. “It’s important for our students to hear singing at that level, and to be introduced to new ways of singing from international choirs.”

But why the casual getup?

Many international competitions have a folklore festival or section, where choirs wear traditional “costumes” from their countries of origin, explains Weber. “But that was hard for us to come up with! What do we wear, since we don't have traditional outfits in the way many European countries do?” After some brainstorming, she landed on a Lone Star look — a Texas flag shirt and jeans. “It’s a fun way for us to represent Texas around the world.”

The Concert Chorale has competed at various international concerts over the past nine years, and the costumes have become a way for MSM alumni to give back to current students. This year, a number of alumni stepped up to purchase the shirts for current students.

“Performing abroad really does change lives,” says Weber. “Students get to see all different perspectives and develop real connections. It really opens up their whole world. Giving back shows how important those memories are for them.”

While they won’t be decked out in their Texas flag shirts on Sunday, they opted for the more casual t-shirt and jeans combo in a nod to the spirit of the folklore festival. At the preview, they will perform all 20 works they plan to sing at the competition, including three premieres by UH composers: “This Sky” by graduate student Carlos Cordero, based on a poem by Daniel Ladinsky; “Sweet So Sweet” by graduate student Ben May; and, Professor David Ashley White’s William Wordsworth-inspired “In the Smokeless Air.”

But new music isn’t the only thing special about the concert. The Honorary Consul General of Hungary Phillip Aronoff, accompanied by an attaché, will be in the audience to celebrate the send-off in style. 

Her eyes to the future, Weber beams while discussing her students’ next big step on the international stage. “They have the devotion, the initiative and they work so hard. I know they’re going to make UH proud.”