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Moores School of Music Celebrates Renowned UH Choir with Send-Off Concert

Director of Choral Studies Betsy Cook Weber talks upcoming performance and overseas competition.

The Moores School of Music’s (MSM) Concert Chorale members aren’t ones to shy away from the stage — especially on the international level.

Under the direction of Betsy Cook Weber, the Concert Chorale has made a name for itself by racking up awards at choir competitions around the world. Just last year, they won the coveted Grand Prix award at the 2018 Béla Bartók International Choir Competition in Debrecen, Hungary, which qualified them to compete in the European Grand Prix (EGP) competition in Italy this summer. They are one of only six choirs from around the world invited to compete.

To commemorate their win in Hungary and celebrate their trans-Atlantic travels, friends, family and music lovers from across Houston are invited to join the Concert Chorale for a special send-off concert on Friday, August 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Moores Opera House. 

We spoke to Weber, professor of music and director of choral studies, about the importance of Concert Chorale’s status as European Grand Prix (EGP) for Choral Singing finalists, how students prepare for international competitions and what the send-off concert means. Learn about this and more in our Q&A with her! 

As the Grand Prix winners at last year’s Béla Bartók International Choir Competition, the Concert Chorale has the chance to compete in the annual European Grand Prix competition. What’s special about the upcoming EPG competition performance?
Since the Grand Prix’s inauguration in 1989, only three choirs from the United States have ever made it to the Grand Prix. So, we’re really honored to be one of now four choirs to represent the US! In the choir world, this event is watched all over with great interest. The fact that the Concert Chorale became Grand Prix finalists really highlights UH and the Moores School of Music’s reputation as a place where excellence is a tradition. 

Why is this an important opportunity for MSM students? How will this benefit them going forward?
To prepare for the EGP, our students had to work very hard, independently. The Concert Chorale adjourned around May, and the bulk of the music was learned and memorized over the course of this summer. They had to practice assignments every week and send the recordings to me, so I knew they were on top of it. The work load is considerable, but their musical skills get stronger. It also takes a certain amount of courage to show your craft in front of an audience. So, they learn stage presence, how to deal with nerves and the kind of schedule a performing artist must manage, all of which is challenging. 

This concert is free and open to the local Houston community. Why should music lovers be excited about attending this concert?
The send-off concert is really fun! A lot of Concert Chorale alumni come back to cheer the students on, parents of singers come, colleagues arrive. It’s a real family event. It’s also a chance to see how the students will perform at the Grand Prix since the works selected for the send-off concert are works the choir will perform at the Grand Prix. It’s also an opportunity for the local and UH community to witness the Moores School of Music's brilliance.