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

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UPDATE: landed in ATL

The Hodgson Singers on flight LH 444 have landed in Atlanta. The current time of posting this is 2:06 EDT.

We will now proceed to customs and baggage claim. For those meeting their family at the airport, this process may take approximately one hour.

For those awaiting our return in Athens, our travel time will be an additional two hours from the time we clear customs and board the bus.

See you all soon!

Thoughtful Nothings

“Mmmmmm. Fried meats. Mmmmm. Wine. Mmmmmmmm. Dinner.”
Caleb Hopkins

Stephanie: “Maybe I hate being on this plane.”
David: “Yeah, planes are kinda scary. We don’t belong in plastic tubes.”

“We have all had an incredible time on this trip. Some more than others. Ahem, Gary.”
Katie Black

“I usually hardcore judge the instrumentalists performing for us, whether on the streets or in restaurants. It didn’t take me long to realize that it wasn’t worth it. It’s music! That’s why we’re all here, right? I mean, the terrible technique of the violinist at the first restaurant doesn’t matter that much, does it…?”
Esther Tonea

“We cry too much.”
Mary Martha Clark

“Some stories should not be shared. And should also be shortened.”
McCall Stiles

“Theresa ist Maria Theresia”
Evan “the dogfight” Tyor

“Caleb might be a troll.
I’m not sure…”
Evan-tinto Tyor

“ICEd.”
Caleb

“Definitely not the best “Crying In A Meadow” I’ve ever been to, but also definitely not the worst.”
Laura Leigh Beall

“And then I saw someone from Coro Siamo. And then I said hello. Then I left.”
Brian W. Lustig

“Dr. Bara, you are the reason why we are the family we are today.”
Bryan Rante

“dear jenna: you’re hot.”
Anonymous

“This trip has HANDS DOWN been the best experience of my life thus far.”
Christopher Robin Sapp

“Never have I known so many beautiful souls to be gathered together in one group.”
Andrew Rabanal

“Of all the trips I’ve been on in my life, this was one of them. But in all seriousness, this was truly an incredible experience, and I wouldn’t trade my time in Europe with my forty-some-odd closest friends for anything in the world.”
J.R. Hodges

“This group has been one of the pinnacles of my life. As cheesy as it was, orur hearts beat the same rhythm during that music. Together we made music bigger than us and fostered friendships because of it. This trip has been the best experience of my life. I will miss all of you so deeply and dearly, you are some of the greatest and most talented human beings I have ever known. All the love in the world to all of you.”
David Conley

“Being a member of the Hodgson Singers for the past four years has no doubt been the most wonderful and rewarding experience of my entire life. I could not have asked for a better way to end my senior year than with this incredible journey we have been on for the past ten days. This tour has provided me with so many memories that I will truly cherish forever.”
Emily Skilling

“Together our breath rises and falls together, our voices soar in flock, our hearts love as one. Together, we form a single entity; not a machine, but a living, breathing organism, unified through our love of music and each other. Though some remain and some must leave us, off to harvest the fruits of their talent and hard work, we will forever be connected. This journey has proven this fact to be truer than ever. We are the Hodgson Singers.”
Henry Adams

“This elevator is small, but slow. It’s kind of like saying ‘her voice is small, but ugly’.”
Dr. Burnett

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH” to Dr. Burnett’s comment
Olivia Greene

“Today is Beverly Sills birthday… so… bless”
Katie Black

“I’m gonna crawl under the table and scare Avery. This is gonna be weird. Katie, ignore me. I’m not coming for you.”
David Conley

“You know its actually pretty depressing that there will be so many people leaving the choir next year, but this night has made me realize that even though they’re leaving the memories we’ve made together will stay with us all forever.”
Cameron Stahl

We belong in the Zoo!

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When I go to foreign cities my lists of sights to see don’t usually include zoos. I have Jenna and Henry to thank for the wonderful adventure we went on to the oldest zoo in the WORLD! Our last day in Vienna was a free day and we chose to embrace our inner child and venture out. We saw giraffes, elephants (which Jenna literally ran like a child to), polar bears, lions, wolves, and my personal favorite: pandas. The pictures do much more justice than I could describe in a text post but it was a really magical day. Everyone got to see their favorite animals, it was beautiful outside, and we were in Vienna! At the end of a long, emotionally charged trip, it was very nice to relax and watch lots of fluffy things be cute. The Atlanta Zoo is going to be hard to return to after Vienna…

Amanda McKenzie
Amanda McKenzie

Travelling Back Through Time

Today was my last day in Europe, and I like to think I did it justice by packing as many experiences as possible into one day. I have always been interested in the history of the Holocaust and I have read a lot of Holocaust literature, so when I heard there were a couple people looking to go visit the concentration camp memorial at Mauthausan with our free day, I was very ready to join them.

Mauthausan is a small town that is an hour and 45 minute train ride followed by a 20 minute taxi ride from Vienna. I will say that the travel part of our journey was quite a fun adventure. It felt very empowering to be able to navigate through a foreign country with no command over the native language and still make it to and from our destination smoothly.

I cannot say that my experience at the concentration camp was fun, but I can say that it was extremely meaningful and astounding. The memorial was set up with an audio tour where we could listen to information about various marked places around the camp. It was crazy for me to see the roll call locations, the barracks, the washrooms, the granite quarries, the crematoriums, and the gas chambers that I have read so much about. Since Holocaust literature is written in such vivid detail, I felt very connected to everything I was seeing because as I was walking around I could imagine the images from my readings in my physical surroundings.

What astounded me most about my experience at Mauthausan is that the town of Mauthausan and the surrounding countryside is so beautiful. It was heartbreaking for me to see the juxtaposition of the utter ugliness of the camp with the pristine Austrian landscape. It amazes me that such horrible things could happen in such a beautiful place.

When I woke up at 6:00 AM today on the one day we had to sleep in, I spent a solid 5 minutes looking at the time trying to decide whether I really wanted to go through this whole journey for the sake of this concentration camp or if I just wanted to go back to bed, wake up in a few hours, and just spend more time in the city.

Now having seen what I saw, I can definitively say that I made the right decision. In my days in Europe I have seen not only the beautiful and rich cultural history of Europe, but I have also explored some of the darkness of the reality of human experience on this beautiful continent.

As I write this final blog post I just want to emphasize what a fabulous 10 days I have had. I have learned so much and had so many new experiences. I like to think I took full advantage of this incredible opportunity and I would like to sincerely give thanks to everyone who helped make this possible.

It has indeed been an incredible trip back through time, but tomorrow we come home. We come back to reality and hopefully lessons from our past and lessons from our music will continue to guide our futures.

Mugdha Joshi
Mugdha Joshi

There and Back

Today I sang in my last Hodgson Singers concert. We sang in the Chapel of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria.

I very clearly remember the first time I sang with the Hodgson Singers under Dr. Bara. I was a sophomore, and I was scared out of my mind (mostly of Dr. Bara. He was new and he made us all audition and I was supposed to dress nice for it but then it rained so I showed up soaking wet in gym shorts and an old t-shirt to sing for him and I just knew he thought I was super lame)

Dr. Bara, if you are reading this. Sorry about that.

Today I sat in the very center of the choir, and I wept for what that really embarrassing audition turned into. (and when I say wept, I mean WEPT. Never have I ever been a concert crier but today I certainly went above and beyond. At one point, I am pretty sure that Dr. Bara noticed my blubbering ugly-cry face in between songs, and probably made the same expression he did when my raggedy self walked in trying to audition for his choir)

Dr. Bara, sorry about that one too.

From the moment we uttered our first notes as a choir, my eyes widened with the excitement of the beautiful things to come. But, I truly had no idea what was in store for me.

This choir has grown from a young, beginning choir into one whose artistry has won the grand prize of an international competition. We did it in only four years, and I have been there for it all.

Remember that one time I talked about flowers? (If you didn’t go back and read my last post)

In choir, the process of getting singers to collectively delve into their souls to explore the realm of absolute artistry is like a blooming flower. The gardener plants the seeds in the potting soil and gives it water and food and then the gardener just lets the flower grow. If the gardener makes the light accessible then the flower will grow to the light, even in adversity.

Through all of the ups and downs, this choir has found the light. That light has consequently brought so much to each of our lives. For me, as a hopeful music educator and life long choir singer, I have learned what it takes to create something beautiful, from tone and color to blend and balance to phrasing and diction. Most importantly I learned how to tell stories and paint pictures with a choir, and will forever strive to achieve this musical and artistic excellence in my future endeavors. It has also taught me how to trust the people around me, and in turn to be a person that they can trust with their ideas, voices, and emotions.

I could continue on forever, but then you would stop reading

I am indescribably grateful for what this choir has done for me both as a singer, musician, and person. I could not have wished for a better experience these past four years.

Singer friends: I love you very much. You will all be dearly missed.

Dr. Bara: we all love you. Thank you for showing us the light.

 Olivia Sue Green

Olivia S. Greene

Obligatory “I See Dead People” Quote

This morning when we woke up we were all still floored at the memory of winning the Ave Verum Grand Prix yesterday. I definitely woke up feeling as though it must have been a dream. Of course, having to get all of our possessions together so we could leave the hotel by 8:00am was a rather excellent tactic for bringing us back to reality.

This morning struggle was not without benefit, however!

The bus took us (with most of the choir falling asleep on the way there…) to the Central Cemetery where several musicians have ornate tombstones erected in their honor, such as Strauss and Beethoven. This was quite the incredible experience, and what was particularly interesting about wandering around this cemetery was that it is not a somber setting as it would be in America. As our tour guide Susanna pointed out, the cemetery in Vienna focused much more on the architecture and aesthetic appeal of the tombstones than one would in America. This creates more of an admiring tone rather than a mourning one.

I don’t think I heard anyone once say “I see dead people,” though, which is slightly disappointing. Perhaps I will get over it since I am in Vienna, Austria.

Melody Hine

Melody Hine

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