November 29, 2021     Encore Tours

Prelude 2021: Recapping our Journey to Budapest


This November, a group of music directors and their guests joined the Encore staff for Prelude 2021 in Budapest, Hungary, for a wonderful weekend filled with learning opportunities, delicious gastronomical delights, engaging cultural experiences, incredible musical highlights, and many other fun surprises! After initially postponing the event due to COVID-19, it was wonderful getting back to travel and reconnecting with music directors from across the country. Prelude is truly a unique event, and we cherish the opportunity to bond with our ensemble leaders, take in new cultures, and share in the universal language of music.

For anybody who may be unfamiliar, Prelude is our annual professional development weekend for ensemble leaders, taking place in a musically significant international destination. The long weekend is centered around the exploration of personal and professional development, offering unique opportunities for networking, cultural experience, and artistic development. It may seem to good to be true, but Prelude is free for qualifying ensemble leaders (and one guest) who meet the minimum requirements. You can even earn professional development credits through our partnership with University of the Pacific!

This year’s event was slightly different than past years, however, with the implementation of several new travel protocols, we were able to safely and smoothly enjoy all of the amazing opportunities that Budapest has to offer. Directors and their guests were treated to an organ concert at Matthias Church, a private event at the Liszt Academy (including privileged rehearsal access), an evening concert by the St. Istvan Philharmonic Orchestra in the Grand Hall, a guided tour of the Hungarian Parliament building, an equestrian show at Lazar Equestrian Park, visits to concert venues for touring ensembles (including the brand-new House of Hungarian Music), and so much more! With luxurious accommodations at the Prestige Hotel Budapest, various food and wine tastings, and several exquisite meals, this was a truly unforgettable event.

Our long weekend began with a quick meet-and-greet at the hotel, before being whisked away to Matthias Church by our fabulous tour manager. Located atop the Buda Castle hill, Matthias Church is one of the finest churches in all of Hungary, and perhaps one of the most unique churches in all of Europe. Inside the church’s breathtaking Neo-Gothic interior, we learned about the local history before being treated to an organ recital by the church’s Director of Music.

“St. Matthias Church is beautiful inside and out, with wonderful acoustics. I think it should be heavily promoted as a concert venue for touring groups,” said one of the attendees. “The organist was excellent. Hearing the organ live greatly enriched the visit,” echoed Rachel Clifton, Assistant Director for the First Coast Wind Symphony in Jacksonville, Florida.

For many attendees, the welcome reception is an excellent opportunity to visit with friends and network with fellow directors. This year, our welcome reception took place at the Fisherman’s Bastion, where everybody was able to enjoy a champagne toast with spectacular views, before heading inside for a sumptuous meal. “One of my favorite events of the trip,” said David Hamilton, Director of Wind Ensemble at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts. “What a nice highlight looking out over the Danube and visiting with Prelude friends!” added another attendee.

Our visit to the Franz Liszt Music Academy, the most prestigious music university operating in Hungary, was filled with the type of behind-the-scenes highlights that have become a staple of Encore Tours. Following a guided tour of the facility, we were able to sit in on an orchestral rehearsal as well as a private music lesson featuring a pianist and violinist. “What an amazing facility!” exclaimed Rebekah Wozniak-Gelzer, Vice President and Music Librarian for Festival Chorale Oregon. “[It was] wonderful to sit in on an actual lesson, and to slip into an orchestra rehearsal. There is no facility in our state that comes close to that.”

“Excellent idea,” added Artie Clifton, Music Director for First Coast Wind Symphony. “It added educational insight and a personal touch to the visit.”

“I’m trying not to use a ridiculous amount of superlatives here, but really, the trip was fantastic,” said Kathryn Harsha, Chorus Manager for the Peabody Children’s Chorus. “The food, the events, the people, the staff. We were treated like royalty, which has only made coming home that much more difficult!”

Another attendee echoed those sentiments, stating that “Prelude is a very special and unique opportunity to get to know the Encore Staff and fellow ensemble directors while experiencing the best the host city has to offer, from amazing local musical experiences, top hotels, spectacular local touring, and scrumptious dining.”

Food has always been an important part of culture, and we pride ourselves on selecting restaurants that are both authentic and delicious. Through our shared meals, we can learn about a country’s history, traditions, and societal norms. “The food and the entertainment were excellent, showcasing another part of Hungarian life and culture,” said one of our attendees. “[It was] great being in the Hungarian countryside, eating traditional Hungarian food and enjoying Romani music and dancers,” stated another attendee.

This isn’t some sort of dream; this is real, and it’s spectacular. “Personally, I don’t understand anyone who would turn down a free trip to Europe, but maybe that’s just me,” affirmed Wozniak-Gelzer. “Even if you have no plans or desires to visit the city being showcased, you should go anyway because you will probably be surprised at what you find. My director and I have no current plans to take our choir on tour to Hungary, but we were both entranced by what we saw and heard at Prelude in and around Budapest. When we attended [Prelude 2016 in Prague], we had already planned to bring our choir there, so we didn’t need to be sold on the idea. However, attending Prelude gave us ideas that we incorporated into the time we were there on tour two years later. As music is a large part of our lives, seeing a city or an area through music-minded people is always a worthwhile experience.”

Want to learn more about taking your ensemble on a performance tour with Encore? Request a quote for your next trip, and you could be attending Prelude in 2022!

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