Baden bie Wien, meaning Baden near Vienna, was the most wonderful city. Housing 25,000 people, it doesn’t feel like a city but more like home. The smiles were welcoming, the eyes looked deep and the eyes sparkled with the joys of residing in Austria.
Day 1: We arrived in Baden on ____ morning (honestly, I have no idea what day it is now). We checked in to the hotel, and at a fast pace ate lunch and arrived in the center of town. After mingling with other choirs, a parade began! All the choirs processed through the streets singing “Viva la Musica,” a catchy tune that never leaves your head. We were greeted by local choirs that sang songs in our native language. A children’s choir sang to us and UGA (winners of the Ave Verum competition. Congrats, guys!) about the Lord, which was so neat. It hardly phased us that we were standing in 90 degree weather, wearing all black.
The rest of the evening was spent eating at a quaint pizzeria (pizza + egg = awesome), stopping at our newfound favourite ice cream place, watching a firework show and listening and dancing to “Greg Is Back,” an outstanding a cappella group. We have no idea who “Greg” is or why he left, but we’re glad he’s back!
Day 2: We slept in a little bit and headed over to the Casino Baden (hahaha and yes, the competition was held in a casino. Interesting to say the least) to hear three competing choirs perform their sets. We were inspired, which encouraged us to work hard in rehearsal and perform well in the first round! I ate schnitzel for dinner, and after finding out that we made it to the Grand Prix the next day (!!!!), we performed a second set at St. Stephen’s Parish Church, where Mozart premiered the famous “Ave Verum Corpus” (Baden prides itself in this). The church was stunning and there was standing room only–townspeople gathered in and so did we.
It was a great night, and we attempted to sleep amidst the excitement. Except that’s not really true, because we were so tired that most of us fell right asleep!
Day 3: We woke up, looking forward to a great day of rehearsing, performing and competing. An A Cappella Choir tradition is that we hold pinkies on special occasions, such as competition announcements, prayers and certain songs. Before our Grand Prix performance, we sat backstage, holding pinkies and praying. The prayer ended, and for a few seconds we all just looked at each other with glowing faces. It was time, and we whipped out the big guns!
A fantastic performance was followed by “public singing” in the main square. Each group sang two pieces and cheered one another on. It was so enjoyable to sing in the bright sun for such friendly people. Baden hosted us so graciously!
Afterward, I and two friends enjoyed a cappuccino at a coffee shop and walked around the city center for a while. Big, black clouds gathered in the sky, so we walked back to the casino to hear judge’s comments. The judges gave helpful feedback, but by that time my stomach was in absolute knots! We trudged back to the theatre after a long day and sat through what felt like forever and a day until they announced the Grand Prix winer: University of Georgia Hodgson Singers. We later found out that we came second by 0.8. I’ve gotta be honest, I had a short cry and went on a walk with some friends to process. Too invested? Probably. But it was an excellent learning experience, and we were thankful that the Hodgson Singers handled themselves with such class. To read about the other awards we received, click here.
Day 4: The morning after, we were tired yet filled with refreshed vision for the next leg of the trip and thankfulness for the experience. We led the church service at St. Stephens with “Kyrie” by Praulins, “Alleluja” by Karai, “Sanctus” by Palestrina and “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”, an A Cappella favourite. Dr. Dan Lawhon had the opportunity to play the same organ that Mozart’s hands had touched.
That afternoon, we toured Heiligenkreuz Abbey, the oldest currently-functioning monastery in Austria. It has been around since the 12th century and was fascinating! It was unbelievable to sing in the beautiful halls, enclosed rooms and stunning cathedral. To see the end of our passionate “Kyrie,” click here.
The countryside was beautiful, and we were told that the hills we passed are the beginnings of the Alps. We stopped at a coffee shop that Strauss frequented and were worn out by that time! It had been a demanding week. Our last evening in Baden was probably my favourite. I ate at “El Greco,” tucked away in a courtyard, with Dr. Copeland and some other friends. The conversation was lively, the food excellent and the weather perfect.