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

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