The Mormon Tabernacle Choir won't be the only Utah performing arts group to make an impact on Eastern Europe this summer.
The Timpview High School Youth Symphony and A Capella Choir will take a song of democracy to Czechoslovakia and Hungary during a two-week tour beginning July 8. The 120-member orchestra and chorus will perform a dress rehearsal concert July 7 - not in the school auditorium, but at Carnegie Hall in New York.The visit to Eastern Europe by Timpview students, parents and teachers may, in a small way, help write the score for democracies emerging in former Iron Curtain nations.
"We can break down a lot of barriers," said Paul Larson, choir director.
In proposing the tour, Terry Hill, orchestra director, wrote, "The governments of the new democracies are looking for ways to keep Western-style problems from creeping in with Western-style freedom. They look upon the arts as an ally."
The arts in Eastern Europe are seen as a possible solution to drug abuse and gang violence as the countries there convert to an open-market economy and democracy, Hill said.
And while the trip has a political tone, it's more a cultural exchange, Hill said. "It's a people-to-people thing," he said.
A Czechoslovakian music professor requested a youth symphony through MidAmerica Productions, a Manhattan-based organization that arranges for youth symphonies to perform in New York and abroad. Timpview was asked to send in an audition tape based on Hill's reputation as a director of outstanding youth symphonies. The school is the only one in the United States to be extended such an opportunity.
Hill also sees the trip as an opportunity to show that the United States can "produce fine, sensitive musicians" despite inconsistencies in public school music education.
Young, serious European musicians and vocalists study at select institutes and performing arts schools. As a consequence, Hill said, European countries have failed to develop the orchestras, bands and choruses found in traditional American high schools.
"They have a great theoretical background in music. They have a great history in music. But we have a performing background," Larson said. "I think that's what we can teach them."
Much of the music the group will perform was penned by American composers, Larson said. "I think they (Eastern Europeans) want to hear what we're doing musically," he said.
The symphony and chorus are planning outdoor Boston Pops-type concerts, as well as more classical arrangements for cathedral or indoor performances. They will perform a Mozart piece as a tribute to the 200th anniversary of his death.
The program will include a number titled "Songs of Democracy," a composition of Walt Whitman poems arranged by American composer Howard Hanson.
Students are approaching the tour with nervous excitement. They have been rehearsing every weeknight and on Saturdays since June 3.
"We're kind of going to be an example," said Alison Giauque, who served as a capella choir president this past year. Eastern Europeans, she said, are "looking to a lot of Americans and their democratic ways."
"It's kind of scary," said choir member David Simmons. "I don't know the language."
"It will be an eye-opener for both groups, us and them. We'll get acquainted with each other's customs," said percussionist Bob McKell.
Like cost of freedom, the price of the tour does not come cheaply. The total cost is about $350,000.
Private donations make up a small part of the total. Students spent countless hours on fund-raising projects. They sold pizzas on an ongoing basis, peddled chocolate at Christmas and sponsored a spaghetti dinner fund raiser. Some students helped drum up business for a local chimney sweep to earn money.
The Timpview High School Youth Symphony and A Cappella Choir will perform a pre-tour concert July 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the school auditorium. The public is invited. Admission is free.