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From Carnegie Hall to the Olympics, BYU performers dazzle audiences during summer tours

In a single summer, Brigham Young University performing groups delivered more than 100 shows and countless workshops to thousands of people worldwide.

Each year these groups, from the School of Music and Dance Department, leave Provo to share their love and energy with people around the globe. Living up to the university’s motto, “The world is our campus,” students traveled to nearly every continent, including North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The Chamber Orchestra’s tour of the eastern United States was filled with firsts for many of the student musicians. Not only did they bring their energy and sensational music to more than 7,000 people during their tour, they also learned about the roots of American culture and history. The group traveled to Washington, D.C.; Boston; New York City; and other historically significant cities.

They were also afforded the opportunity to perform for a full house at Carnegie Hall, one of the United States’ most famous venues for classical and popular music. Carnegie Hall is known for its beauty, history and acoustics. Playing in the hall built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was a definitely a first for Chamber Orchestra and director Kory Katseanes.

During the tour a special outreach performance was arranged at a boys’ home for troubled teens in Rochester, New York. After the remarkable presentation, all who were present experienced feelings of peace, including one prison guard who responded to the show by saying, “This was the most relaxing hour I have had in 20 years!”

Living Legends took its production, "Seasons," to Chile and delighted more than 18,000 audience members with a captivating storyline and an authentic performance. "Seasons" incorporated themes from Chile’s own Latin American heritage, as well as the cultural heritage of Native American and Polynesian music and dance.

Pablo Penailillo, the single Chilean member of Living Legends, recalled how the audience would stand up and sing along to the cueca, the national dance of Chile, and clap and cheer to la negra, a popular dance that originates in Mexico.

Synthesis, the “Big Band” from BYU, was selected to perform at five international jazz festivals in England and Scotland, where visitors found more jazz per square inch than in New Orleans. The group made their way through Birmingham, Marlborough, Wigan, Durham and Edinburgh, and performed ten different times.

Everywhere they went, the Synthesis musicians were received enthusiastically. Shows were sold out and others were bursting at the seams. People couldn’t help but tap their feet and nod their heads to the beats that resonated first in their ears and then in the heart., said director Ray Smith. Every measure presented a surprise — a complexity of rhythms and beats strung together in new and innovative ways.

Chamber Orchestra, Living Legends and Synthesis originate in the School of Music in the College of Fine Arts and Communications.

Meanwhile, the Young Ambassadors went “down under” to various cities on the eastern coast of Australia, as well as Tasmania. Their performance, "The New American Songbook," featured popular music from the 1960s through today, with a few Broadway hits mixed in. After a 25-year absence from the country, the Young Ambassadors were pleased to return with the opportunity to perform this show, which even included a few Australian folk songs.

A highlight of the tour was the Young Ambassadors’ performance for the legislators in the Queensland State Parliament in Brisbane. The group’s presence was recorded in the minutes of Parliament — a first recognition of its kind for BYU. Mike Reynolds, speaker of Parliament, said afterward that he was impressed with the musical skill of the Ambassadors. Reynolds commented that in a time when academic institutions “have eliminated the academic music programs, BYU has chosen to showcase this important medium.”

The Young Ambassadors are produced by the School of Music in cooperation with the Department of Dance.

The International Folk Dance Ensemble was privileged to take its dancing to Central Europe and share the stage with some of the continent’s finest performing folk ensembles.

The performance was a celebration of cultures. Ed Austin, artistic director, said, “The production is steeped in tradition — a patchwork of mankind’s finest expression— an attempt to preserve fragments of diversity that might otherwise be forgotten.”

The U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, April Foley, called the production a “triumph” and extended her appreciation for the “tireless, young ensemble that showcased the cultural heritage of the United States.” Ambassador Foley also presented the group with the Ambassador’s Award for Cultural Diplomacy, which recognizes those who “display exceptional talent and exceptional service to the goal of friendship between America and Hungary.”

A special occasion was afforded to the Ballroom Dance Company, which had the opportunity of performing at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Cultural Festival in The People's Republic of China. This event highlighted the diversity and spirit in the arts from around the globe.

The occasion to take part in the Olympic festivities was a bright complement to BYU. Tour coordinator Rex Barrington explained, “The opportunity was granted largely because of the impressive reputation BYU performers have established in China over the years.”

In the three weeks of their tour they also performed in Hong Kong and eight other cities throughout China, five of which would later host Olympic sporting events.

A strong relationship with the Chinese Performing Arts Agency led to a full taping of their performance, with an estimated 480 million people watching on China Central Television this summer.

During the tour, dancers were also able to share feelings of peace and comfort after the country experienced a devastating earthquake in central China, which took almost 70,000 lives. Brad Peterson said, “They received us wholeheartedly — their eyes were full of light and appreciation.”

The International Folk Dance Ensemble and Ballroom Dance Company both originate in the Department of Dance of the College of Health and Human Performance.

Performing Arts Management represents the touring ensembles that originate from the School of Music and the Department of Dance.

Writer: Ed Blaser

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