A! Magazine for the Arts

Highlands Youth Ensemble to Sing in Hungary

April 24, 2007

Fourteen members of the Highlands Youth Ensemble (HYE) will sing in the 20th International Chamber Choir Competition in Pecs, Hungary, May 24-28. The group will sing two sets of music, all memorized. One will include a required piece, "Turot," which is in Hungarian and is very fast. The others are Americana and Appalachian music. Between the two sets, the choir will be given a composition in Latin that they've never seen before and they'll have only 75 minutes to learn. Some members of the HYE, in grades 9-12, have written their expectations of the trip:

Tyler Berrier, Johnson City: I'm especially looking forward to the architecture and the landscape. Everyone says it's a beautiful country with mountains like ours in Tennessee and Virginia. I don't think I have any fears going into the trip, but I'm hesitant about speaking the language. I know that Hungarian has no Latin background, so it's not related to German or Spanish. I don't want to look and sound too much like a tourist! I've never been to Europe, so to exchange customs and make friends will be fun. I'm excited about going to the opera and hope we'll get to attend one of their performances. It seems like it will be a lot of fun at little cost, about 800 HUF (Hungarian forints), which is incredibly only $4.07! But, honestly, I'm excited about the whole trip!

John Dreyzehner, Jr., Abingdon: I imagine the scenery will look very much like the scenery in the movie Eragon, filmed in Hungary, with its beautiful mountains and valleys. I'm excited to meet kids from other countries with similar interests. I hope to keep in touch with a few who may visit our part of the country next year, and maybe even in later years. Most of all, I'm excited about having this amazing opportunity to experience another culture.

Sarah Compton, Johnson City: I'm ecstatic to be able to go on this trip! I've been to Europe twice, but I'm especially excited about this trip because of the competition! I love to try new foods and learn new languages, and I believe that this will be a great experience. I'm definitely looking forward to meeting new people and trying to decipher a new language.

Rachel Grunstra, Bristol: I'm not sure what to expect. I know it will be different. When we sang at Carnegie Hall I found out how different New York City is. It will be weird to see signs in a language I don't know. Getting lost and not being able to communicate are my biggest concerns. Mike Bus, a Hungarian from Kingsport, came to our choral retreat weekend. He prepared authentic, spicy Hungarian "gulyas" for us. It was so delicious, I took the leftovers home to share with my family! I love trying foods, especially when they represent a culture new to me. I hope to make friends in Hungary. I don't know much Hungarian, just "aldash begeshade" ("glory and blessing upon you"), "kurzinem" ("thank you"), "nem" for "no" and "igan" for "yes." I hope to meet students who speak enough English for us to communicate and write to each other next year. It would be great if they have email!

Rachel Grunstra's younger sister, Grace, will accompany the group to Hungary. To read her comments, click here: