Fall 2018

Collaborating Through Song in Vietnam and Indonesia

BYU Singers raised their voices to celebrate meeting new friends and exploring unique places in Indonesia and Vietnam this past spring. For their first concert in Jakarta, Indonesia, the students collaborated with the Batavia Madrigal Singers, one of the most prestigious community choirs in the country. The choirs even swapped languages as the Batavia Madrigal Singers sang a special number in English and BYU Singers sang in the Bahasa Indonesian language, after being tutored by the Batavia Madrigal Singers. The following day, BYU Singers performed national Indonesian songs as part of a celebration for National Education Day organized by Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture. “That was the first time we saw the audience start whispering and then even singing along with us in honor of their nation and country,” says BYU Singers member Tesah Barton. “They were so excited and grateful that we had learned pieces in their language and especially pieces that meant so much to them.” In the city of Bandung, group members learned to make a traditional Indonesian bamboo instrument called an angklung at Udjo’s House of Angklung. BYU Singers later collaborated with the popular Maranatha Christian University Choir, which also tours internationally. One morning in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the students left at 3:00 a.m. to head to the Borobudur Temple, a Buddhist sanctuary that dates back to the ninth century. The group hiked to the top of the stone building to see the sun rise over the tropical landscape. “It was a 360-degree view of beauty and nature,” says Barton. Later the group gave an outreach performance at a rehabilitation center for handicapped youth. The group members sang for the children and helped them make arts and crafts. “I loved being able to see all the members of the choir interacting with these kids,” says Barton. “The kids were dancing to the music, and that was just really wonderful to see.” The next day, BYU Singers performed with Institut Seni Indonesia’s Vocalista Harmonic Choir. The group’s final concert in Indonesia was in Bali at the St. Francis Xavier Church, where they collaborated with the Seraphim Children’s Choir, Hallelujah Choir, and Gamaliel Sonora Choir. “It was wonderful to hear the kids and everybody else just singing and loving music,” says Barton. “I think that’s one of the biggest parts of music—to bring joy to others and also bring joy to yourself.” BYU Singers then traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam, and gave a concert in the historic Hanoi Opera House. In attendance were BYU president Kevin J Worthen, his wife, Peggy, and BYU international vice president Sandra Rogers. The Military University of Culture and Arts Choir performed with BYU Singers and presented President Worthen with a special gift: a picture of the Temple of Literature, the first university in Vietnam. The group’s second collaboration in Hanoi was with the National University of Art Education Choir. A local composer conducted the combined choirs in a musical piece he had composed himself. In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), BYU Singers joined the prestigious Saigon Choir for an outstanding concert at the Conservatory of Music Concert Hall. The BYU group also visited Hạ Long Bay, the Reunification Palace, and the Củ Chi Tunnels. One of the tour highlights was working with and learning from many diverse people. “Hearing the other choirs really enlightened me,” says BYU Singers member Jennifer Bate. “They sing with a lot of energy and conviction because their dynamics and inflections are just spot on. . . . It really inspired me to be an expressive singer.”

BYU Singers

Exploring Belgium, France, and Poland

Adventuring through countries dotted with castles, palaces, and historical landmarks, International Folk Dance Ensemble shared a wealth of cultural dances and music along the way. The group visited Belgium, France, and Poland this summer and represented USA culture in the Hello!Schoten World Dance Festival and the Eurofolk International Folklore Festival. The group began their tour by visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. “Seeing her house personalized [her story] and made it seem closer to home. We talked about how important it is that we harbor a love for people of all different nationalities and beliefs,” says dancer Cassidy Brown. “It’s not only important that we love them but that we help them when times of crisis come.” After driving through picturesque countryside to Brussels, Belgium, the group gave their first performance of the tour at the Theatre Wolubilis. Among the packed audience were special guests under the patronage of First Vice President of the European Parliament Ms. Mairead McGuinness, including European Union officials and also civic and religious leaders. The next day, Ms. McGuinness provided the group with a private tour of the European Parliament building in Brussels. “Their goal is to have peace in the world,” says dancer Andrew Duncan, “and as we come to understand cultures from different countries, I believe that’s possible.” Members of International Folk Dance Ensemble showed their appreciation by performing a hard-shoe Irish number and singing the hymn “Irish Blessing” in honor of Ms. McGuinness’s home country. The group then traveled to France. In Normandy, they visited World War II sites commemorating D-Day and the soldiers who fought in the war. “[The Omaha Beach Memorial Museum] had so many details about specific people and their jobs,” says Brown. “It was moving, it was sad—but it was encouraging to think what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers did for us to enjoy our freedom today.” The dancers also visited the Palace of Versailles and performed in the Massy Opera House. Donning the name of BYU American Folk Dance Ensemble, the group then traveled to the Hello!Schoten festival in Belgium. As part of the festivities, the group taught and learned dances alongside other participants from countries such as Serbia, Malaysia, Belgium, Mexico, and Russia. “Not only were we performing our show, but we were watching others and learning dances,” says Brown. “It was a cool opportunity. Our group wasn’t just focusing on us but focusing on others.” During Schoten’s sold-out closing ceremony, the audience showered the BYU students with applause. The singing and dancing went late into the evening as performers celebrated with and bid farewell to the friends they had met. The end of one festival marked the beginning of another. The BYU group packed up once again, this time to head to Eurofolk in Poland. Between performances, they visited the Holocaust museum in Majdanek and the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Kraków. American Folk Dance Ensemble also met up with the Polish State Folk Ensemble, who taught the BYU group two different styles of Polish folk dance. It was the sharing of dances that made the tour successful. “Being able to dance with and talk with so many different groups from so many different areas from the world was eye-opening,” says Brown. “It was fun to experience dance as a universal language that connects us to each other, even though a lot of us can’t speak the same language. [Dance] helped us understand each other.”

International Folk Dance Ensemble

A Passion for Music in Australia

The BYU Wind Symphony hit a high note in the Land Down Under on their May tour. As they traveled throughout Australia, the BYU Wind Symphony held workshops with primary schools and universities—and still made time to sightsee. After arriving in Sydney, the Wind Symphony toured the iconic Opera House. The group members admired the beautiful vaulted ceilings and listened to the Australian World Orchestra practice for an upcoming performance. Later the students performed with one of the country’s best wind symphonies, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony. The members of the BYU Wind Symphony also joined Mormon Helping Hands to volunteer at the Greystanes Disability Services center. Alongside youth of the Penrith Australia Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they provided service by gardening and cleaning the center. The group then traveled inland to Canberra, the capital city. The Wind Symphony members shared their love of music by holding a workshop and charity benefit concert at Canberra Girls Grammar School. All the proceeds were given to the Australian Red Cross. “The girls were all eager to learn and make music together. The two girls I sat next to asked so many questions and excitedly shared their life stories with us,” says trumpet player Abby Bates. “I actually just talked on the phone the other day with two girls I met. We’ve maintained a friendship, despite the distance and age difference.” In Melbourne, the group attended an Aussie rules football game and later visited the southern coast. At sunset on Phillip Island, “[we] watched tons of penguins up close coming from the ocean, and [we] could hear the sound of waddling feet as they came by,” says clarinet player Jade Bliss. The last stop on tour was Brisbane. In addition to forming bonds at workshops and rehearsals, the students also made furry friends at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where they were able to hold and take pictures with the koalas. Nearby, they held an open rehearsal with Queensland Wind and Brass. Conductors and band students from the general public were invited to come listen. It was a great learning opportunity for the community as they watched Don Peterson direct the BYU Wind Symphony. In Brisbane City Hall, the Wind Symphony collaborated with musical theatre star Patrice Tipoki and also composer and guest conductor Ralph Hultgren, whose compositions the symphony performed throughout the tour. Tipoki joined the Wind Symphony for three spectacular performances in three different cities. “[Tipoki] has a stunning voice, powerful, expressive, and filled with great finesse,” says Bates. “She is so talented and yet maintains an incredibly humble and gracious attitude.” After giving ten concerts, the members of the Wind Symphony left Australia having learned lessons from the musicians they performed with, both professional and novice. “I was impressed by how much passion the students played with,” says Bates. “It’s obvious that they have a clear love for music beyond performances or praise from others. It made me want to play more like them.”

Wind Symphony

Breaking Language Barriers in Germany and Switzerland

BYU Living Legends fascinated thousands throughout Germany and Switzerland with their culturally rich show, Seasons. The songs and dances featured a unique blend of Polynesian, Native American, and Latin American cultures that are not common to Europe. Despite the differences in culture, the members of Living Legends were able to connect with those they performed for. “Dance and music are one of the few ways we can break down barriers,” says performer Mariah Matua. “This is a way we can push through all that and realize we have a lot more in common than we do in differences.” The group’s first performance in Neumunster, Germany was well-attended and the audience enjoyed clapping along with the music in the Native American “Hoop Dance.” Their clapping kept time as a trio danced with multiple hoops in rhythmic and dynamic movements. Afterwards audience members tested their own skills with the hoops. In Hagen, Germany the audience was amazed to hear the performance in their own language. Living Legends group members performed the vocal elements in their show completely in German, accompanied by prerecorded narration. Spectators were amazed to hear the performance in their own language and enjoy the beauty of the extravagant costumes and remarkable dancing. One of the most memorable and largest performances was a free, outdoor show at Konstablerwache Square in Central Frankfurt, Germany. Of tens of thousands of commuters who pass through the area each day on their way to one of the busiest train stations in all of Europe, many were drawn in to watch as Living Legends performed in their vibrant regalia. “The performance was breathtaking,” said Ralf Grünke, associate director of public affair for the Europe Area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint. “This was a celebration of diversity, of love, of humankind, and of life itself.” When the group traveled to Ludvigshafen, Germany, group members visited St. Annastifts Children’s Pediatric Hospital and performed for the patients. “It was very humbling to perform at the hospital because were able to give the children something they weren’t able to see daily,” says Living Legends performer Jessica Lopez. “[It] allowed me to learn that the tour was not about us.” During the tour, the group visited several cultural sites. One of the most influential was the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. The group was emotionally affected as they walked through the barracks and crematorium to learn about the fatal history. “It was a very somber experience,” says Living Legends performer Jared Cuessy. “It was inspiring that people are forgiving.” In Horgen, Switzerland, Living Legends performed in Schinzenhof Hall for a pack audience, some of whom had traveled up to four hours to see the performance. Later in Lucerne, Switzerland, the group rode the steepest cogwheel railway in the world that reaches Mount Pilatus’s summit at 7,000 feet tall. The tour came to an end as the group gave their last performance at the renowned Berlin University of the Arts. The venue was filled with diverse attendees coming from all parts of eastern Germany. “Hindus, Jewish, Muslim, and politicians came to take part in the performance,” says Ralf Bartsch, from an interfaith society. The audience members personally thanked BYU Living Legends for their beautiful presentation. Cuessy says, “Even though language barriers existed we were still connected. Even if we touched one life it was time well worth. There are so many results we will not be able to see, the impact of one life is more than enough.”  

Living Legends