BYU Singers Win Competition

The BYU Singers made their way from Riga, Latvia, to Klaipėda, Lithuania, where they competed in the 22nd International Stasys Šimkus Choir Competition—but not before a stop in Liepāja, Latvia, to explore the historic Karosta Prison and the Northern Forts along the Baltic Sea. The International Stasys Šimkus Choir Competition began on Thursday, May 12, and included choirs from Latvia, the United States, Angola, Ghana, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Ukraine. The BYU Singers competed over a span of four days in the mixed choir, sacred music, and folk choir categories of the competition. They were also invited, along with three other choirs, to participate in the Grand Prix finals on Sunday. The awards ceremony brought high accolades from the judges. The BYU Singers were awarded first place in the mixed choir category, first place in the sacred music category, and first place in the folk choir category. They received special prizes for best performance of the compulsory piece and best performance of a contemporary composition. The group was also awarded the Grand Amber Prize (best choir overall), and named winners of the Grand Prix finals. After the awards ceremony, the judges invited the Singers to perform four pieces for the participants of the competition. While the BYU Singers were in Klaipėda, they were invited to give a solo concert in Palanga’s Church of the Assumption of Virgin Mary. They sang directly after the church mass, where hundreds were in attendance. Audience members who could not find seats stood, and young children sat in the aisle to get closer pictures of the group’s performance. The Singers’ musical program featured a repertoire from their competition as well as sacred music, including “I Am A Child of God,” with a verse in Lithuanian. On May 16, the group departed from Klaipėda, driving four hours east to Lithuania’s capital city of Vilnius. There they rehearsed with a partner choir to prepare for their final concert on May 17, which took place at the Church of St. Catherine in the heart of the city.

Living Legends Finishes in Cancún

On Monday, May 9, Living Legends performed at the Teatro Peón Contreras in Mérida. The crowd numbered more than 800 people, and performers greeted many audience members after the show. While heat and dehydration presented obstacles, the magnificent venue and enthusiastic audience made for an unforgettable evening. The group toured Mérida on Tuesday and had the chance to visit Chichén Itzá, as well as a nearby cenote. Later, they traveled to Cancún to participate in a cultural exchange at Universidad Anáhuac México. On May 13, director Jamie Kalama Wood and students Kalawai’a Fano, Kawai Lucio, and Abish Olvera were invited to a press conference with Ballet Centeotl, sponsored by Asociación de Oaxaqueños Unidos, to share details about an upcoming performance. Later that day, Living Legends joined with Ballet Centeotl in a performance at Teatro de Cancún for an audience of more than 800. On Saturday the performers participated in their last cultural exchange, meeting with the young adults from a local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cancún. The youth were thrilled to learn dances and songs from Living Legends performers, making for a difficult goodbye when it came time to leave. It was a memorable end to the tour.

Ballroom Bids Farewell to Europe

The BYU Ballroom Dance Company arrived in Halle, Germany, on Monday, May 9. While in the city, the group held a service activity for children in an after-school program sponsored by Hallesche Jugendwerkstatt, a charitable organization that benefitted from the proceeds of the dancers’ performance in Halle. In two performances sponsored by the Halloren Chocolate Factory, the Ballroom Dance Company thrilled audiences at Steintor-Varieté Halle and helped raise more than 40,000 Euros, which Halloren presented to Hallesche Jugendwerkstatt. A particular highlight of the week was when the dancers visited their hosts and charitable partners at the Halloren Chocolate Factories in Halle and Delitzsch. On Thursday the dancers traveled to Stuttgart, where they performed their last show. During their final day of sightseeing on Friday, the group visited majestic Neuschwanstein Castle and Alpsee, a nearby Bavarian lake, followed by a humbling tour of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. The company flew back to Utah on Saturday, May 14, exhausted but joyful after their unforgettable experiences on tour.

An Unforgettable Invitation

During their final week on tour, the BYU Chamber Orchestra traveled to the Eternal City: Rome, Italy. Since the dedication of the Rome Temple in March 2019, local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have continued to build meaningful relationships with government leaders, religious organizations, and humanitarian groups by holding special events at the temple visitor’s center. Elder Alessandro Dini-Ciacci, Area Seventy and Representative of the Church for Italy, seized the opportunity of having the BYU Chamber Orchestra in Rome by organizing a concert to thank the local and global humanitarian organizations with whom The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints collaborates to alleviate the suffering of those in need. Many guests accepted the invitation of Elder Dini-Ciacci, including Senator Lucio Malan, Stefano Prili and Paola Contavalli (Councilors of the Italian Red Cross of Rome), and Tim Hunter (Director – Private Sector Partnerships of the United Nations World Food Program) among others (see full article here). The group took a day to recover and visit some of the iconic sites of Rome, including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Then they held their final concert at Sapienza University, one of the largest and oldest universities in Europe, founded in 1303. The concert was an exchange program between two orchestras from both universities.

Vocal Point in Sunny California

Leaving behind new friends and fantastic experiences in the Midwest, Vocal Point began the final leg of The Magic Tour in Southern California. Hosted by longtime friends and supporters of the group, Vocal Point started the week by filming a music video for their new Disney music project in several stunning private beachfront locations. The video is set to appear on Vocal Point’s YouTube channel later this summer and features renowned guest artists the All-American Boys Chorus and Broadway star Laura Osnes, who played the title role in the 2013 Broadway revival of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The group filmed from sunup to sundown, literally singing the day away. The next day, before preparing for their final performance of the trip, the group was treated to a tour of La Casa Pacifica, also known as the Western White House, an exclusive historical property that was once owned by Richard Nixon. Though this site is not open to the public, a friend of the group arranged this unique tour for Vocal Point members and their tour leaders. The group then traveled to San Clemente High School, where they performed an outdoor concert for an enthusiastic crowd. Since it was the final show of the year—and for some students, their final performance ever with the group—many Vocal Point members welcomed family and friends from hundreds of miles away. High winds did not stop the show from going on, and the concert exuded a special energy, culminating in a standing ovation from the crowd of supporters. It was an exhilarating finish to the performance tour. Before catching a flight back to Salt Lake City, Vocal Point ended the trip in style, taking in “the Happiest Place on Earth.” After a year of studying the history of Disney music, the trip to Disneyland was a fitting conclusion to a busy and rewarding year.

The Last Hurrah

On Sunday, May 8, the Young Ambassadors filled their day with visits to historic tourist sites, including the Korean Folk Village. At the village, which is often used as the set for k-dramas (Korean television dramas), the performers were able to see restored government offices, educational institutions, and religious buildings, as well as homes of nobles, farmers, and villagers. The group then attended church at the Suji Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints near Seoul. They enjoyed the opportunity to meet and worship with the Korean Church members, and afterward feasted on a delicious lunch provided by ward members. The group ended the day at the Hwaseong Fortress in nearby Suwon, which was built to protect the city hundreds of years ago. On Monday the group visited the Gyeongbokgung Palace and watched the changing of the guard. That was followed by shopping, exploring the National Museum of Korea, and more shopping! The group went to the Seoul Korea Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the following day. The temple trip proved to be another amazing opportunity as group members were able to interact and make spiritual connections with the kind, humble Korean people. That evening the Young Ambassadors performed one final time at the Incheon Global Campus Auditorium. The audience was not only excited about the performance, they were also thrilled to be attending their first major public event since South Korea’s COVID-19 shutdown. On Wednesday the Young Ambassadors visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to learn firsthand about the Korean War and see North Korea from a distance. In order to receive clearance to return to the United States, the group took their fourth COVID-19 test of the tour. Another miracle occurred, and again everyone tested negative. To celebrate a successful tour, the Young Ambassadors spent their final day in South Korea at Everland theme park, which is known as one of the top 10 theme parks in the world. The group ended the day on a magical note by watching an amazing firework display set to the music of K-pop band BTS at the park’s gardens. With hearts overflowing with gratitude for their newfound friends and cherished memories from tour, the Young Ambassadors returned home safely on Thursday, May 12.