Summer Benefit Concert and Tour Wrap-up

Thanks to Sarah Z., here is concluding post about the Women’s Voices Chorus summer concert and tour:

Our European tour had its true coda on Saturday, July 14, when the chorus held its annual summer benefit concert back home. For an enthusiastic crowd of approximately 140 people at the United Church of Chapel Hill, we performed music learned especially for the tour—including pieces in Hungarian and Slovene—plus American favorites from our repertoire.

Allan prefaced each song with informal comments, clueing the audience into our unique experiences abroad. Of particular note: the Hungarian national pride we felt so keenly in Budapest, perfectly expressed in Zoltán Kodály’s “Huszt”; the special pleasure of working with Slovene composer Damijan Močnik on “Blagri,” his setting of the Beatitudes; and the extra appreciation our foreign friends showed for American spirituals like “Deep River” and “Ain’t No Grave.”

The richness of our adventures—musically, culturally, and socially—brought a palpable energy and maturity to this final performance. But we were equally excited by the organization we sang to support: Arts for Life, a nonprofit that provides art activities and education to chronically ill children in four hospitals across the state.

After seeing so much of other places, it felt good to return our vision to the local community. Mary Margaret Fulk, the AFL program director at Duke Children’s Hospital, spoke movingly of how art projects give kids a break from the unrelenting demands of illness management. For cancer patients, transplant recipients, and other sick children undergoing specialized procedures, Arts for Life is an essential program: It helps them express hope and happiness through painting, drawing, sculpting, and other hands-on activities.

What better way to conclude our own artistic journey than to support this incredible organization? If you missed the chance to contribute, you can still do so online via the “Donate” button on the AFL website. And if you want to see what lies ahead for Women’s Voices Chorus, sign up for our mailing list here.

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Lake Balaton

On the way between Budapest and Ljubljana, we stopped for lunch at Lake Balaton, a resort location in western Hungary. Lake Balaton is a huge, shallow lake (the largest in Central Europe), and its emerald green color was shown off to advantage on this bright, sunny day. The beach and streets were filled with European tourists enjoying watersports, swimming, fishing, and sunbathing.

Sailboat on Lake Balaton, Hungary

Sailboat on Lake Balaton, Hungary

We had time to take a stroll along the lake and grab lunch in a local cafe. The lakefront is crowded with little Hungarian restaurants, mostly serving pizza.

Walking along Lake Balaton, Hungary

Walking along Lake Balaton, Hungary

After stopping for lunch, we headed on our way to Ljubljana. Tomorrow morning we’ll go on a city tour, and then in the evening have our performance in Ljubljana Cathedral! Here’s one more picture of a choir member enjoying herself along the lake today before I sign off for the evening:

Choir member Selena protecting herself from the hot sun on Lake Balaton

Choir member Selena protecting herself from the hot sun on Lake Balaton

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Budapest Tour

After our concert today, we had an excellent guided tour of Budapest. Our guide, Nóra Hajdú, was very informative and told us a lot about Hungarian history in general and sites around Budapest in particular. Nóra also accompanied us on our Danube dinner cruise and had lots of fascinating information to offer about the buildings we passed as well as Hungarian culture  (not to mention, she learned English in Scotland, so she spoke excellent English with a charming and distinctive Scottish accent). If you’re ever in Budapest and looking for a great tour guide, look Nóra up! The two stops on our tour were Heroes’ Square and Castle Hill. Budapest is a combination of two cities, Buda and Pest, and our two stops took us to both sides of the Danube.

Heroes’ Square is a large, open plaza near the city center in Pest with a huge monument in the middle commemorating the original settlers of Hungary, who came from Siberia, and two large colonnades flanking it with statues honoring great figures from Hungarian history. The monuments, like many edifices in Budapest, were built in the late 19th century during the time of Hapsburg rule. 1896 marked the 1000 year anniversary of the first settlement of Hungary, so a number of important buildings date to around that time. Today the square was sunny, bright, and over ninety degrees, so it was a beautiful day, but hot.

Heroes' Square in Budapest

Heroes’ Square in Budapest

Choir members Sue G., Gail, and Shelley having lunch in a Hungarian cafe

Choir members Sue G., Gail, and Shelley having lunch in a Hungarian cafe

The second stop on our tour was on the Buda side. On Castle Hill, we saw the Matyas Church, named for a very popular medieval Hungarian king, which is much older than St. Stephen’s and has a colorful tiled roof. Right behind Matyas church is an impressive, mostly outdoor structure called the Fisherman’s Bastion, from which you can get a great view across the Danube.

Allan, our director, cools down by a fountain while listening to our tour guide on Castle Hill in Budapest

Allan, our director, cools down by a fountain while listening to our tour guide on Castle Hill in Budapest

Back view of Matyas Church, Budapest

Back view of Matyas Church, Budapest

Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest

Fisherman’s Bastion in Budapest

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