The End.

Welcome Home Hodgson Singers

They say to expect the unexpected, but how can you prepare for something you aren’t thinking about? The act of preparing for it automatically makes it the expected. It would be more fitting if they said “expect change.” Expect things to be different than you planned.

I planned a lot of things for this trip, and I can honestly say that I don’t think any of them turned out quite like what I expected. I planned on more sleep, cooler weather, and less walking. I planned on more comfortable flights and more internet access. I even planned (and printed out) a blog posting schedule.

I was overconfident. But more importantly, I was short-sighted.

This trip has exceeded every one of my expectations. Our first night in Prague we saw Mozart’s Don Giovanni in the opera house where it first premiered. Beautiful weather in Salzburg allowed many of us to visit the Alps and discover just how small we really are. For our concert in Salzburg Cathedral we were told to bypass the choral risers and perform in front of the altar because our host believed our music to be so beautiful that we “needed to be closer to God.” And who could have imagined such an incredible win at Baden’s International Choral Competition Ave Verum?

Dr. Bara told us when we had memorized all our music that we had created something that would only ever be ours. No other choir will ever learn this music for these reasons and interpret it in this particular way. And it’s true—we have created something special that now has to come to a close. The 2014 ICC AV champion will never sing again. Already our group has begun to disperse: four of our number stayed in Europe, four flew in to Atlanta yesterday, and once we land at 2:50 today everyone else will go their separate ways. And while some of us may be back next year, the rest will have grad school, jobs, or other activities that will prevent them from rejoining the UGA Hodgson Singers.

We’ve given our closing concert, performed our last piece, and sung our final notes.

As we head to the end of our little adventure, all I can say is thank you to the many family members and friends who helped us get here. The experiences on this trip have been more than any of us could have hoped for. Our music and our friendships have only grown stronger. And even though we will never again be in the same place with the same people for the same purpose, I know each and every one of us will treasure these last few days together.

Thanks and my very best to you all,

Nathan Schreer

Nathan Schreer

The Awards Ceremony

After rising from my afternoon nap, I dressed and left the hotel for the awards ceremony. Upon arrival at the Baden Casino, the primary venue for the competition, I quickly realized that the awards ceremony was, in fact, NOT at the casino. I realized my mistake and booked it a few blocks over to the church we sang in yesterday… only to find out – yet again – that the church was also not hosting the awards ceremony.

I paused. I questioned life. I pondered my existence. These deep internal searches reminded me of instructions to meet with the rest of the choir prior to the ceremony, so that we would arrive together. I also remembered someone saying something of the town theater, so I attempted to make my way towards it. Rounding the corner of the theater, I bump into none other than our illustrious tour guide, Klara… who is also late.

After buddying up with Klara (who fluently speaks German where I obviously do not), we made our way into the theater only to see every seat taken and move upstairs. After finding a full lower balcony, we move to the highest row of the top balcony, the “cheapest” cheap seats of the house.

The ceremony itself was full of wonderful theatrics, some well-placed jokes, proper European manners through recognizing important diplomats in attendance, and every other awards ceremony antics one can imagine. Finally, the time for placements and awards came. I heard one of the hosts say something vaguely related to a “Competition A” and quickly brushed it off in anticipation.

Everyone and their brother seemed to receive a “Silver Diploma”, an award recognizing every non-placing choir in attendance. And as you surely know by now, 3rd place went by with no mention of our wonderful little choir, so did 2nd place… but after much anticipation, we were named recipients of a “Gold Diploma” and award for the best-performing choir. Klara and I screeched and made happy noises amongst the applause. No sooner did the applause die down than did I receive a text from my mother checking in on our status. I took the opportunity to report our victory to her as well as post on Facebook. Within the minute, several people had liked the status, and one of the Redcoat Band Directors shared the status with all of his friends.

After enjoying the victory, the hosts shared a phrase that made my heart sink…

“Now onto the Competition B results.”

Since most of our friends in the states were already under the assumption that we had won (including my own mother), I decided to wait before deleting my false celebratory post.

But thankfully, as you also know, we were announced as the winners of the Grand Prix of the competiton, the overall 1st place and top-performing choir. Thinking I was in the clear, I celebrated again with Klara, screaming and clapping over the entirety of the top balcony. But, our hosts threw another curve ball… they were beckoning the choir, the majority of whom were seated in their assigned rows on the first floor, to the stage for an encore performance.

Klara prodded that I run down, and run down I did. I quickly made my way to the end of the balcony (and if you know me, you know that I do few things quickly), and flew down the stairs taking 3 or 4 per stride. I made my way down the center aisle right behind the choir and stepped up onstage just behind the final person from the main floor.

And we sang. And it was so wonderfully and excitedly out of tune. And I looked up and made eye contact with Klara. And she waved like a lunatic, excited that we won and that I made it downstairs.

We also called the Dawgs. That was cool.

 Hunter Hulsey

Hunter Hulsey

WE FREAKIN’ WON

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So let me tell you guys what just happened. We heard the words, “And the super gold, first place prize goes to… THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA HODGSON SINGERS.” And we all died. And cried. And died. And cried some more. Then we realized that it wasn’t over…we hadn’t heard the awards for the second part of the competition. Feeling robbed, we listened to the hosts. I was holding Hannah’s hand so tightly that I’m sure she stopped feeling it. Then we finally heard them say, “And the Grand Prix award goes to… THE UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA HODGSON SINGERS.” Now we knew we had won. WE WON THE WHOLE THING. We jumped out of our seats and hugged all our neighbors. We still can’t really believe it.

I honestly can’t even begin to explain what just happened. Thinking about how hard we have worked for this moment, and how many people put so much time and effort into making this a possibility is overwhelming. We get to go back to Georgia and tell all these people that we won. It was worth all of the time, the tears, and the untamable heartbeat while sitting in our seats at the awards ceremony.

After they announced us as the winners, we all ran onto the stage to sing one last time. Dr. Bara handed me the fragile glass trophy as we were lining up, and I almost couldn’t handle the pressure of holding the thing. We sang as tears were running down are faces, noses dripping, and still quivering with apprehension. Naturally, it wasn’t the best performance we have ever had, but it was full of heart. And I believe that is what won us this competition.

I don’t think I have ever heard a choir sing with more emotion. We believe in what we are singing, pour our souls into the music, and allow it to be a part of us. We love each other and we love choir. That is what brought us this far, and we don’t have enough thank yous in the world to express our appreciation to all our supporters back in Georgia. I just want all our readers to know that we love you all and we wouldn’t be here without you. We all won it together! GO DAWGS!

Jenna Livsey
Jenna Livsey

May the Odds Be Ever In Our Favor

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Today was a very exciting day for the Hodgson Singers as we finished competing in the final round of the competition, alongside four other amazing choirs. We were very much looking forward to our set because it was comprised of five songs that are especially close to all of our hearts. For our readers who are loyal concert goers– we sang Vere Languores Nostros, Salve Regina, Nyon Nyon, I’ve Been in the Storm So Long, and Unclouded Day.

In our pre-concert rehearsals, we sounded better than ever; I think it showed on stage today. There were so many moments of musical bliss. The details were all there, carefully woven. Avery and Joy’s solos were simply spectacular. I thank my lucky stars every single day that I get to be a part of this amazing choir and make the music that we make. The power that our choir brings to the stage with us lies in our expressiveness. Whether we are singing of longing or sheer joy, we try to draw from our souls and sing from the hearts. That is what we did today. Our performance was not perfect. We made mistakes, but at the end of it all we walked of that stage enjoying the thunderous applause as a team. I am personally very proud of our choir for the way that we have grown as a collective. I’m proud that we are able to move past mistakes with poise and come together to celebrate our successes.

Today’s performances really made me appreciate the incredible art that people can produce when they come together. Watching the other choirs was an absolute privilege. I could see in their work the same amount of focus and dedication to details and expression and a common love of music and singing. Whatever happens today at 6:30, I feel like we put our best foot forward. May the odds be ever in our favor.

Mugdha Joshi

Mugdha Joshi

Zac Efron Told Us to Get Our Heads in the Game and Now They Are

SO WE ARE GOING ON TO THE SECOND ROUND.

And rather than getting a break for our excellent hard work, it is time to really get our heads in the game. This morning we were up bright and early at 8:30am for another rehearsal, because we had yet another performance in the beautiful city of Baden. This time, we gathered in front of the theater on the steps of the Baden Theaterplatz, surrounded by cameras and singers to showcase the talents of the competing choirs as well as several choirs in the area. It was incredible to get to perform for all the competitors in a non-competition setting and to get to watch them in return. Each choir was super supportive of all the others, applauding and giving words of encouragement.

What was really cool about this performance was that there was a small break in between some choirs in which a man stood up in front of the crowd and taught an Austrian yodeling song in four parts. This was something that was entirely nonsense lyrics, almost like scatting, and the Austrian choirs all already knew it and seemed excited to share it with groups from other countries. Several of us were “yodeling” for the rest of the day with this song stuck in our heads. Of course I had no complaints on this particular subject.

At this point, we will have some free time for lunch and then another rehearsal before we compete in the finals round of the Ave Verum competition. I love my fellow choir mates more than ever, and I can’t wait to take the stage with them in just a few hours!

Sic ‘em, dawgs! (Or something like that. I don’t do that cheer.)

Melody Hine

Melody Hine

The Plot Thickens

Another long day began with extreme hair makeovers, continued through both rehearsal and competition, and culminated with Hodgson performing in another concert in yet another stunningly beautiful church.  Of course at this point we had already heard that we had made it into the next round (WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE) and spent several minutes hugging and screaming at any UGA singer we saw on the street.  Because of this incredibly good news I think we took our rehearsal as well as our performance to a different level, which always astounds me because really we’re quite good already.

When we walked into the new space for our evening concert there were several things that could have inhibited our performance.  First of all, we had recently eaten, and I personally was feeling the effects of a behemoth-sized container of orange juice sloshing around my vocal cords.  We also were singing in a new space that proved to be somewhat cramped–I’m sure as we were taking our places facing the audience we were all wondering how we were going to do the slanting illusionist move when we were already shoulder to shoulder.

… But our energy could not be deteriorated by these petty details!

As a choir it seemed that we were filled with a newfound energy at the prospect of getting to compete again tomorrow, and I think this was evident in all three of the pieces we sang: Christus Est Natus, I’ve Been in the Storm So Long, and Nyon Nyon.  The solo by Avery Draut had a particular fervor and passion, as did Nyon Nyon.  It was ridiculously easy to get into the pieces tonight, partially because of our excitement and partially because of the energy we were receiving from the audience.  Their applause certainly felt authentic as we were leaving the cathedral, each of us beaming with pride.

Time to get the hairspray out of my hair and do it all over again tomorrow! The adventure continues!

Melody Hine
Melody Hine

A Big Announcement!

Friends, family, fans… We have some big news. We have advanced to the second and final round of the Ave Verum International Choral Competition! We are excited, honored, and feeling incredibly motivated to make more beautiful music tomorrow.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us thus far; we couldn’t have done it without you!

On to the Grand Prix!

We Need No More Than Flowers

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Today we had an amazing first round performance at the the Ave Verum International Choral Competition! This is a great feeling!
Perhaps an even better feeling is the one that comes with watching the other choirs give so much of themselves to the audience during this competition, which we experienced during our free time.

I also spent some of my free time walking around the Rosarium around our hotel. It is a famously beautiful garden filled with over 180 different types of roses. As I walked in silence, I thought about how there are very few entities as perfect and inspiring as the flower.

Flowers offer up their beauty completely and willingly even though sometimes it seems that there is no one to appreciate them. What is important is that they continue to bloom and grow and give their beauty to the world. It does not matter to them whether they are only a small flower in a field of millions of flowers, virtually unnoticeable, forgotten and suffocated. Nor would it matter to them to be alone growing through the crack of a sidewalk, practically starving and without any help or company of another flower. They are no less beautiful, and still their purpose would be to give and give, wanting nothing in return.

If I were a flower, I think I would be a Dandelion. They are bright flowers that turn their petals into shareable seeds. They are small, unconventionally but extraordinarily beautiful, very eager to give away the petals that they have for the purpose of helping people realize dreams, and very fragile and easily destructible. If for the rest of my life I was a dandelion, letting small seeds fly away one at a time, I would end as a small hollow stem and an empty round seed head, but my seeds would be planted and growing in many other bright flowers, and I myself would be no less beautiful.

The choirs that sang today each shared their beauty with the world. They have grown from this experience, and have influenced the audience in a way that will help them to grow as well.

Olivia Sue Green

Olivia S. Greene

Breakfast at Schloss Weikersdorf

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Today. Today is the day. We have been preparing for this day for almost a year and I honestly cannot believe it’s finally here! This afternoon the Hodgson Singers will compete to move on to the final round as one of five choirs in the Grand Prix round. We are going up against choirs from literally all over the world, from the Philippines, to Alabama, to right up the road in Vienna.

I’m nervous. This trip has been incredible. This morning we woke up in a castle and had fresh fruit on the porch for breakfast. Like is this real life? Who gets to do this? But now it’s time to remember why we are here. We have put blood (sooo many papercuts), sweat (who knew it was HOT in Austria?!), and tears (come on, have you HEARD Crucem Tuam? ) into preparing for this competition and by 5 o’clock (Austria time) we will know if the judges saw in us what we see in each other.

Regardless of what happens to us in this competition, I am so honored to have been able to share so many beautiful stages with this group of people. Anyone who has heard us perform knows how much work we have put into everything we do.

This is it, guys. Let’s go out there and give it our all!

 Amanda McKenzie
Amanda McKenzie