Eric Conway, D.M.A.:
Hello everyone, we're back!
On Sunday, June 22, 2014, at 5:35 p.m. the Morgan State University began our second tour this summer. The choir received two grants from two countries in Eastern Europe - Belarus and Montenegro. The choir originally received an invitation from the Embassy in Montenegro to come to their country to lead in a 4th of July celebration in that country. Upon securing funding for our visit, the Montenegro Embassy invited other consulates to participate in this exchange opportunity. The consulate from not to distant Belarus decided to also prepare the way for the choir to share our music as well. They arranged for the choir to visit Belarus prior to flying to Montenegro - thus we are now in Belarus. These grants cover the ENTIRE costs of the tour, plus some money for choir after expenses - the way it should be!
We left Dulles airport again, this time at 5:30 p.m. rather than late evening as in previous international flights. We flew for the first time on Austrian Airlines, partner of Lufthansa. Due to budgetary constraints, this tour group could only total twenty. Of the twenty, only eighteen flew out with the group, as two members of this group were selected to participate in this year's installment of the national HBCU choir: 105 voices of History at the Kennedy Center. This recently iconic event took place the very day that we left, Sunday, June 22 at 4PM. As always, Morgan represented well, with solos in some of the music performed at the Kennedy Center stage.
We had a brief transfer in Vienna, Austria, and then on to Minsk, Belarus, the capital city of Belarus. All passengers and luggage arrived safely. Although we did not have any items confiscated like in Muscat, Oman, one of the choir members was detained for over forty minutes because they suspected that the passport was not legitimate, although she applied and received her passport just this past May 2014. This incident was not so surprising as we made application to receive visas to enter the this country formerly under Communist rule.
Belarus is an interesting country. Many of you know that many of the political boundaries in the Eurasia region have often change quite frequently, depending on who was ruling at the time. Belarus used to be a part of the old Soviet Empire, Prussia, Poland, Lithuania, and USSR. Belarus is east of Poland, west of Russia, north of Ukraine, and south of Lithuania. After the Russian revolution in 1917, the current boundaries were created. As recently as 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus finally became its own sovereign country. Therefore, Belarus is very young country as it now stands.
I found it intriguing when some locals at the airport referred to themselves not as Belarusians but Bela-Russians! I understood from our guide that generally speaking they preferred to be called Belarusians and distant themselves from their Giant neighbor.
I am no expert on Belarus, but when you travel to different countries, you might as well learn a thing or two about their culture and history - so I am just sharing.
We are seven hours ahead of EST once again, but not in the Middle East but in Eastern Europe. We have no performances today, given that we just arrived this afternoon at 3PM. We will have our first performance tomorrow for the Minsk US Consulate for Belarus' equivalent of our Independence Day.
Eric Conway, D.M.A.
Fine and Performing Arts Department, Chair
Morgan State University
1700 East Cold Spring Lane
Carl Murphy Fine Arts Center, Room 329C
Baltimore, MD 21251