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Volume 24, Number 10 — October 2017

MECCA Singers enchant Audiences from Abingdon to Hungary

In May, 14 members of the Highlands Youth Ensemble traveled to Pecs, Hungary, to compete in the 20th International Chamber Choir Competition.
In May, 14 members of the Highlands Youth Ensemble traveled to Pecs, Hungary, to compete in the 20th International Chamber Choir Competition.
Additional photos below »

July 11, 2007

Members of the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy have continued to sing and enchant audiences from Abingdon to Hungary this summer.

In May, 14 members of the Highlands Youth Ensemble traveled to Pecs, Hungary, to compete in the 20th International Chamber Choir Competition.
The HYE was invited to the competition in 2006 by Dr. Peter Hoppal, director of the Reform School Choir in the city of Pecs, which is located southwest of Budapest. For four days in late May, the members of the HYE were hosted by members of the Reform School Choir, living in the school dorms, visiting sites in and around the city, and competing over the course of three days.

Though the choir did not win any awards, they did win the hearts of the Hungarian people and audience members from other countries, and received ovations at their concert performances. Among the judges' comments were:

? "A very enthusiastic, lovable ensemble."

? "Very good voice qualities, a 'youthful' sound and singers who pay who close attentions to the director's intentions!"

? "We welcomed this chorus with joy on this occasion, for with their program they added more color. They enriched the palette of the festival."

The HYE members who traveled to Hungary included Tyler Berrier of Johnson City; Sarah Compton of Johnson City; Luke Dotson of Meadowview, Va.; Ryan Dowling Soka of Bristol, Tenn.; Benjamin Loy of Johnson City; Emily May of Elizabethton; Will McConnell of Johnson City; Johnny Dreyzehner of Abingdon, Va.; Ramsey Gross of Johnson City; Rachel Grunstra and Grace Grunstra of Bristol, Va.; Steven Mott of Bristol, Tenn.; Florenica Rusinol of Johnson City; and Bianca Whitlock of Kingsport.

Following the competition in Pecs, the students also traveled to Budapest for a few days of sightseeing.

The trip to Hungary was made possible by the generous donations of many in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, including those who contributed funds at two cabaret events the HYE presented in October and February.

To reciprocate for the opportunity to perform and travel in Hungary, the HYE will play host to members of the Reform School Choir in 2008. Fund-raisers to help pay for the Hungarian students' stay in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee will be held during the 2007-08 season.

Closer to home, five members of the MECCA, either through the East Tennessee Children's Choir or the HYE, were featured in Barter Theatre's production of Oliver! Portraying members of Fagin's gang in the production, which is playing at Barter through Aug. 18, are Joseph Brooks, Sarah Smith, Kurtis Gross, Gretchen Gross and Rachel Boyd.

James Hollingsworth, resident musical director for Barter Theatre, worked with the children for Oliver! "They learn music quickly, have excellent pitch and a professionalism about them not usually found in children," he said. "I was worried about working with them in the recording studio, but they rose to the challenge and recorded their parts faster than the adults. I believe good music education is extremely important for our youth. I'm sure [these] students will look back some day and realize the lasting impact the MECCA program had on them."

For more information, visit www.meccacademy.org.

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Closer to home, five members of the MECCA, either through the East Tennessee Children's Choir or the HYE, were featured in Barter Theatre's production of Oliver!