The Oakdale Youth Choir from Gwent, Wales, is visiting North Harford High School as part of an exchange program.
The program, which gives students the opportunity to sing in another country, began in 1986, when Martha Banghart, choral director for North Harford High School, befriended Nigel Jones, director of the Oakdale Youth Choir, during a visit to Wales.
Over the past nine years, North Harford's choir has traveled to Wales twice. Ms. Banghart, 46, of Norrisville said she hopes its next trip to "the land of song" will be in 1998. This is the Oakdale group's second visit to the United States.
Although the program isn't officially recognized by the high school, Ms. Banghart said it provides an excellent opportunity for students. "It's an exchange program with students who love to sing and are about the same age," she said.
The Oakdale Youth Choir, a group of 29 students ages 14 to 18, sings a variety of music, including spiritual, Welsh and American folk songs. A brass quartet affiliated with the choir has won national awards in the United Kingdom.
Sponsored by the North Harford Choral Parents Association, the Welsh choristers' trip is inexpensive. Students pay for their airline ticket and bring their own spending money. Accommodations are provided by families who sponsor the students. That is reciprocated when the North Harford choir travels overseas.
"Financially, for these kids to take a two-week European or American vacation for the cost of just an airline ticket, it's really a great deal," Ms. Banghart said.
Since arriving April 8, the Welsh choir has given concerts at St. James Episcopal Church in Monkton, North Harford Middle School in Pylesville and the Galleria at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
The group will perform today at 2:30 p.m. at Rehobeth Church, a Welsh church in Delta, Pa.
The Harford School Concerts Committee has arranged for the Oakdale Youth Choir to give three performances Tuesday at Southampton Middle, Abingdon Elementary and Emmorton Elementary schools near Bel Air.
As part of a farewell concert Wednesday, the choir will sing with the North Harford High School Choir. The concert will be at 7 p.m. at North Harford High School. The choir members also will spend one day at North Harford High School with the students who are their hosts.
"Music is indeed the international language," Ms. Banghart said. "It bridges the gap between cultures and people's experience."
Ms. Banghart has taught at North Harford High School for 12 years. She was 1992 Harford Teacher of the Year.