Two years ago, the University of Houston's Moores School of Music Concert Chorale took its rich harmonies across the pond and made an instant splash on the international choir scene. Soon, the group will return to Europe to participate in France's prestigious vocal competition Floriège Vocal de Tours.
Under the direction of Betsy Cook Weber, the chorale is among nine international choirs selected for this exclusive festival. The event runs May 27 - 29 in Tours, France. The chorale will represent the United States at this event.
"We are excited to represent the university and to be the sole American choir at this event," said Betsy Cook Weber, Concert Chorale director. "Events such as this are inspirational on many levels. Students are inspired to work harder, and I am inspired to teach harder than ever before. It also gives our students confidence that their talents are on par with the best in the world."
In 2009, the Moores Concert Chorale took top honors in the chamber choir division at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in Wales. That performance left a lasting impression on the festival's audience and helped enhance the group's international reputation.
Since 1972, Floriège Vocal de Tours has hosted the world's best vocal groups. Each year, the festival's jury selects one choir for its top prize Grand Prix of Ville de Tours. This honor is presented to the group that has consistently received high marks from judges during each stage of the competition.
"The competition will be daunting," Weber said. "Previous winners have included professional groups. The invitation alone is quite an honor for us, and we are working very hard to prepare for this event."
To reach the Grand Prix round and compete for the festival's grand prize, the UH Concert Chorale must first perform in qualifying rounds that require three works performed a capella: one composed before 1750, another composed between 1750 and 1900 and a third selection composed after 1900. Following the qualifying rounds, choirs will then be selected to participate in the event's finals, which require each group to perform a work written after 1950, a work written after 1940 by a French composer and a free choice of work from any period.
The chorale also will compete in several of the festival's sub-competitions. One of these will recognize the best performance of a world premiere composition. For this particular contest, the group will debut "The Door Ajar" written by Moores School of Music director David Ashley White.
"It is a sublime piece," Weber said. "I can't think of a better place to premiere it. David's support is very motivating for the students. It's a very special feeling when we can perform one of his works."
Houstonians can experience the Concert Chorale during its many performances on campus and around the city. At 8 p.m., March 25, members of the chorale will perform at the Cypress Creek Christian Community Center in Cypress, Texas. And at 5 p.m., March 25, the chorale teams up with Grammy nominees Ars Lyrica Houston (led by UH music professor Matthew Dirst) for a performance at Zilkha Hall in downtown Houston.
The group also will preview the selections that will be performed in France during the following concerts in Houston:
- 4 p.m., March 20 - St. Paul's United Methodist Church (5401 Fannin St.)
- 5:30 p.m., May 15 - All Saints Catholic Church (214 E. 10th St.)
- 7:30 p.m., May 16 - St. Phillip Presbyterian Church (4807 San Felipe St.)
- 7:30 p.m., May 24 - Moores Opera House at UH
The Moores Concert Chorale is UH's premiere large choral ensemble consisting of mainly junior and senior music majors. In addition to its 2009 performances in Wales, the chorale has performed before members of the Texas Music Educators Association in San Antonio in 2005 and 2008. In 2007, the group was the invited choir to perform at the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Miami.
The chorale is among the ensembles based within the Moores School of Music. Other award-winning groups include the Moores School Symphony Orchestra, Moores Jazz Ensemble, Moores Opera Center, Concert Women's Chorus, Spirit of Houston Cougar Marching Band, Wind Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble.
The Moores School of Music offers bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. It serves approximately 600 students annually. Areas of study include composition, conducting, performance, theory and musicology. Its faculty consists of internationally recognized performers, composers and scholars. A majority of the school's concerts are performed in the 800-seat Moores Opera House. For more details on the Moores School of Music, visit http://www.music.uh.edu/.