|BYU Singers - England and Wales |
|After their concert at St. Mary's Church in St. Albans, England, the BYU Singers pose with local dignitaries.|
|The BYU Singers perform in the prestigious St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England.|
|The BYU Singers end their tour with a final concert at St. John's, Smith Square in London. |
|Literally performing their final concert in the heart of London, the BYU Singers brought their United Kingdom tour to a conclusion with an impressive performance in St. John's Smith Square concert hall to an audience of approximately 500. The final of 15 concerts given in the past three weeks was received with an audience's call for three encores and an audible buzz in the hall following the conclusion.
This finale was preceded on Friday, May 11 with an outstanding opportunity for BYU to be showcased in the magnificent St. Paul's Cathedral, where the choir performed in special arrangement with management of the Cathedral. Only ten outside groups are permitted each year to be presented in St. Paul's. The choir's heavenly sound filled the famous dome of the Cathedral with inspiring and uplifting sacred music.
Other concerts of this past week included a presentation in the massive Guildford Cathedral, the downtown location of St. Giles in the Fields Parish Church, and in the north London suburb of Hitchin, where the BYU students sang in the 1,000 year old St. Mary's Church to a near capacity audience. As has been the case in other locations, many of these concerts were benefit events for local charities.
On Monday, the BYU Singers were privileged to tour two outstanding colleges at the University of Oxford -Merton and Christ Church Colleges- and enjoyed the evening interacting with young single adults in the area.
Complementing the group's many visits to cathedrals and historic churches, the choir also visited the London LDS Temple, and performed near there for almost 500 people in the community of Crawley, England.
The opportunity to appreciate nature came as a visit was made to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door (natural arch) on the southern England coast near Bournemouth. Following a daytime visit there, the BYU students performed in Bournemouth at St. Peter's School, raising funds for yet another community charity.
Stonehenge was visited in a light rain storm, and later in the week the choir ascended Ivinghoe Beacon to view beautiful English fields and countryside northwest of the area of St. Albans, England.
During this third week of tour the 42 students were given several opportunities to explore London and its rich history and sites of notable interest, including the British Museum, Tower of London, Covent Garden, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, St. Paul's Cathedral, and the London West End theatre district.
Many complimentary comments regarding the BYU Singers performances have been received during the tour, the following being just a sample:
"The concert in the Poole Stake at St. Peter's School exceeded all the expectation we have had from what we have heard from previous concerts. The BYU Singers performed immaculate and had charmed the audience from the first song. "
"The level of the choir last night, from the first moment to the final chord, was total perfection! Ron is one of the best directors that we have ever seen. THANK YOU!!"
"The Church has been refused planning permission for a chapel in Guildford on a number of occasions and hence the relationship here is particularly important. The mayor asked me where she could purchase a copy of the Book of Mormon after I had given her a brief overview. I told her I would send one to her."
As the 2012 United Kingdom tour comes to an end, the group returns home pleased with the hearts touched, charities supported, purposes met, and goals achieved with this tour to England and Wales. Sixteen concerts were given to over 5,700 people, six workshops and clinics, two firesides, and a national radio recording of a concert to be aired on BBC Radio 3's program, "The Choir". It has been a tremendous experience.
|Young Ambassadors - South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland|
|The Young Ambassadors take a group photo in front of the Johannesburg Temple. |
|Performer Eric Sackett reads to children at the Molcketu Bonpopo Primary School in Motupa|
|The South African Broadcasting Company's choir (SABC) joins the Young Ambassadors on stage. |
|On Thursday, May 3 the Young Ambassadors started with an outreach workshop with the students at the University of Johannesburg. They performed a few numbers and then had the University of Johannesburg students learn one of the dances. Everyone left making new friends and feeling uplifted. The Young Ambassadors then made their way to the Children of Fire for another outreach. This non-profit organization brings children in from all over Africa who have been burned by fire. They not only help them with their outer scarring, but their inner scarring too. The group was touched by the courage of the children and the dedication of their staff. The group then went to the African Market for a little shopping before leaving for their concert in Soweto. The South African Broadcasting Company's choir (SABC) was presenting a pre-show for the concert and then joined the Young Ambassadors at end of the show. The concert was amazing and the audience was very excited and energetic.
On Friday, May 4 the Young Ambassadors made their way to Pretoria. Starting with a workshop with the Tswane Community Culture Performing Group the two groups performed for each other. They also taught the Young Ambassadors gumboot dancing and then had a wonderful experience teaching the show band how to play their native instruments and how to dance. The Young Ambassadors then made their way to Tswane University for a workshop with opera students which went so well that the faculty and department heads want to create a long-term relationship with BYU. In the evening there was a very important VIP reception that the Southern Africa Area Public Affairs and Presidency put a lot of energy and resources into. The Area Presidency and the South African Public Affairs had the Young Ambassadors sing several numbers and mingle with many of the large number of VIP's. Dean Stephen Jones was also asked to share a few thoughts with the VIP's. During that night's show, the South African Broadcasting Company (SABC) presented another preshow and again joined the Young Ambassadors for the end of the show.
On Saturday the group travelled up to beautifully tropical Tzaneen where they had an outreach at Molcketu Banpopo Primary School in Motupa. On the drive over for the NGO Children's Trust, the group learned that over 90 percent of the students were orphans and some of the children were being abused. When they arrived, the children were singing and clapping saying "We are all a family, Father, Mother, Sister and Brother ..." The Young Ambassadors had an amazing time playing with and performing for the children. Before the tour, each Young Ambassador planned to bring a book to give to the school. The group brought out the books and read them to the children (and they read to the group members too).
On Sunday after attending church meetings with the Lenyenye saints, the group then made their way to another orphanage outside of Lenyenye, the Holy Family Orphanage where they played with and performed for the children. Later that evening they gave a fireside at the Tzaneen chapel for over 150 people. The Tzaneen branch only has 20 members. It was a very spiritual evening and many people were touched. They had two ministers attend. One minister wants to meet with the missionaries and the other minister wants to have the missionaries over to his youth group to help them to be able to testify with conviction like the Young Ambassadors.
Monday, the Young Ambassadors made their way to Kruger Game Park where they were able to see many African animals like zebra's, elephant's, hippos, etc. That evening they had a traditional Boma dinner and then stayed in Pretorius Kop camp inside the park.
On Tuesday morning, the group went on a three hour game drive through Kruger Game Park and again saw a lot of amazing African animals. The group then made their way to beautiful Mbabane, Swaziland for a YSA fireside. After the fireside, the Mbabane YSA had a surprise for the Young Ambassadors; they had put together a cultural singing and dancing presentation. It was amazing for the group to see all the culture they proudly and eagerly shared with the Young Ambassadors.
On Wednesday, the Young Ambassadors gave a wonderful 30 minute performance for 700-800 screaming students at St Marks High School. They then made their way to the Swaziland Cultural Village, where they learned how the Swazi people live (even today) and watched a special performance. The Young Ambassadors then went to their concert at the Royal Swazi Hotel Convention Centre. They had the U.S. Ambassador and His Royal Highness, the Senior Prince in attendance among many other VIPs.
On Thursday, the group gave a 2 ½ hour presentation on the "For Strength of Youth" pamphlet to 150 of the top students from schools throughout Durban. These children were bright and as they say in South Africa "clever". The Young Ambassadors also sang a few songs at a Church Humanitarian and SABC wheel chair giveaway. It was amazing to be able to see those deserving people get the freedom that wheelchairs provide.
|International Folk Dance Ensemble - New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas|
|Dancers Brian Francis and Lynette Yorgason hold a baby alligator while touring the swamps of Louisiana.|
|The International Folk Dance Ensemble poses for a group photo at the Oak Alley Plantation in New Orleans, LA.|
|The ensemble was warmly greeted to Midland, TX by a temperature that had risen to 98 degrees. Their show in the new Wagner Noel Theater had an audience of more than 700 that rose to their feet after the concert concluded with the signature Hopak number.
Moving on to the coastal town of Corpus Christi, the Folk Dancers were pleased to offer a wholesome, family-friendly event for the annual Buccaneer Days festivities. The team was able to enjoy a morning on the beach before preparing for a performance in the Richardson Performance Hall of Del Mar College. The performance began with the roar of excitement to have a BYU performing group come to town for the first time in more than twenty years.
The young single adults of Laredo, TX graciously hosted the Folk Dancers for a dinner and activity night. The spiritual, interactive fireside was a great way to kick off three full days in Laredo. Local groups and Boy Scouts started each of the two sold-out school performances where literally thousands of children were entertained. For many, the Folk Dance Ensemble was their first exposure to the arts. As expected, the Mexican dances were a crowd favorite and the athleticism of Hopak inspired the children to try the high jumps and low kicks as they were marched out to their buses. After the evening performance, the dancers were treated like rock stars as audience members of all ages rushed to get autographs, photos with, or high-fives from their favorite performer.
While in San Antonio, TX more than 250 local Church members attended an interactive fireside where in the end, most were on their feet participating in the dancing instruction led by artistic director, Jeanette Geslison. Even some of the young men who left the room as soon as the dancing started, joined in before the night was through. Despite rain, most of the team made a temple trip. The plan for a group photo at the historic Alamo was foiled by heavy rain. After an all-too-quick trip to the visit the Alamo and River Walk, the Folk Dance Ensemble was back on the bus and heading to Brenham.
Neither rain nor threat of tornadoes could stop the team from making its visit with the good folks of the Brenham branch. Before heading to the chapel, the Folk Dance team enjoyed a tasty treat in the ice cream parlor of Blue Bell production plant. Later, during a Dutch oven chicken and potatoes dinner, the band's energetic music stirred the crowd and got toes tapping right away. The dancers kicked up their heels and dazzled the audience with amazing footwork. Many sang along to the post-show music. As the ensemble prepared to leave, they received word that a tornado had touched down in the small town they had stopped in just two hours before. Each member of the troupe felt thankful for the Lord's protecting and guiding hand.
While in New Orleans, LA, the Folk Dance Ensemble stepped back in time at the Oak Alley Plantation. The tour of the historical mansion was revealing and each member of the staff was dressed in period costume to add to the ambience. Several of the dancers dressed in the costumes from the Southern and Gathering numbers. With storms threatening the group was about to pack up and leave, when the photographer for the Oak Alley Plantation approached the team to take some marketing pictures. They were even invited to go into the Confederate tent, an area restricted from the general public.
Saturday, May 12 began with a tour of one of Louisiana's famous swamps. The colorful guide told stories and introduced the ensemble to many alligators in the bayous and canals. Throughout the tour, the guide would stop to feed the alligators raw meat and brought them right up to the boat. Near the end of the excursion, he gave the students a chance to hold a two-yr old alligator. Thank goodness that the mouth was taped shut.
Before their show at Roussel Hall at Layola University, the students had a chance to visit the French market and Jackson Square. The show that evening was met with comments of "Inspiring!" "Perfect!" "Amazing!" by the appreciative crowd of 450.