The colorful travel posters of scenes from Austria that ring the choir rehearsal room at Wilson High School cheerfully assert, "There's more to Vienna."
The posters are there to remind students why they are struggling to master four classical choral songs in the original Latin.
The choir has been invited to represent the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States in the International Youth Music Festival that will be held in Vienna, Austria, July 10-22. The songs are a competition requirement.
Wilson is the first District public school -- and only the third school from the Mid-Atlantic region -- to participate in the world competition against musicians and singers from 43 other countries.
The top three finishers in the competition will perform with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra on Austria's national radio and television network as part of the 14th annual program, and also perform in neighboring small towns.
In addition to learning its repertoire for the festival, the choir must raise $87,000 to pay the travel expenses of 50 of the choir's 90 members who plan to go, accompanied by 10 school administrators and teachers.
The choir already has collected between $9,000 and $10,000.
Students also have sold candy and tickets to the winter concert tomorrow night, while 40 to 50 of their parents have organized money-raising committees, held bake sales, Austrian crystal sales, poinsettia sales, raffles and developed a direct-mail campaign to solicit donations from local associations, said Damon Cordom, a parent volunteer who is handling publicity.
"It's probably the most ambitious fund-raising activity in the history of the school," said Wilson Principal Michael A. Durso. "I think that we're going to make it, but it's not going to be easy. This is not the kind of activity where bake sales and car washes will put them over the top. We will need some additional help from the community to really put us over."
Parents and students have been asked to pay at least $400 of the expenses, Cordom said. Wilson High, at Nebraska Avenue just east of Wisconsin Avenue, has an enrollment of about 1,500 students. They live in some of the city's most affluent neighborhoods; but the school boundaries also penetrate into poorer neighborhoods along U Street NW, a popular corridor for drugs and other illegal activities.
Scott Fischer, 17, a senior, who is saving money for his expenses from his part-time jobs at a retirement home and a toy store, said, "We're going to raise the money because we all want to go. But after we raise the money, we're going to have to work so hard to compete with the other choruses. These European groups . . . Latin is the language they sing all the time. But we'll all work very hard."
The judges will ask the Wilson choir and its competitors to perform one of the "Four Sacred Pieces" written in Latin by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, as part of each participant's three-part, 25-minute concert.
Each choir will also perform songs written by a composer from their native country and songs of their own choosing. Wilson has rounded its program with the music of American composers Robert Shaw, Alice Parker and others, and Negro spirituals.
For the young Wilson choir, the Verdi pieces, written in Latin in the 19th century, will be difficult to sing, said Luvenia George, director of the Wilson choir and chairman of the music department.
Since few of the choir members know Latin, she is teaching them how to pronounce the words.
The songs also require a kind of specialized voice training, she said.
She already has taught the chorus "Ave Maria," the first of the Verdi pieces, which it will perform during the winter concert, along with songs by Bach and Handel.
"The standards are more difficult in Europe," said George, who came to Wilson as a voice teacher in 1978. "The students are more polished and their vocal abilities are somewhat more advanced. It's a challenge, but the Wilson students will rise to the occasion. They're proving they can meet the difficult standards, and they are working very hard."
Since the choir must both rehearse and raise money, George has scheduled performances for various groups in return for a donation and publicity for the cause.
For example, they plan to appear at the Dec. 22 meeting of the American Cardiologist Association in Bethesda and receive $150.
"It's exciting to be one of the few schools in the nation to be chosen," said sophomore Adam Messersmith.
But Bill Bremmer, 16, a junior said, "The choir needs a bit of an attitude change. If we were asked to compete now, we'd be in trouble. The real pressure hasn't really sunk in yet."