Four days of glorious choral music

May 17th, 2011 | By | Category: Personal Reports

Author: Amy Willoughby (CHOIR REPORTER),
Bella Voce, USA

During the first week of May, I had the privilege of attending the second American International Choral Festival in my home city of Reno, Nevada. My first experience with an Interkultur event was as a participant in the World Choir Games in Shaoxing, China in July of 2010. What a novel thing it is, to have participated as part of a tour group in foreign land, one choir among a thousand in a huge immersive event, and later to experience a much smaller, more intimate festival in a place very well known to me.

And yet, this smaller festival retained the character of the much larger World Choir Games. Choirs travelled both from neighboring states and from around the world to compete, the competition process was very similar; we even got participant badges on neck lanyards!

The choral festival started for me on Wednesday afternoon when my choir, Bella Voce, took the stage at the Pioneer Center for an Evaluation Performance. When we were on the risers, the judges in place, it was both a thrill and a feeling of “Ahh, here we are again.” To have the judges come onto the stage and give us feedback truly is a privilege and also a unique opportunity for most choirs. There was a news crew there filming, and they interviewed Bella Voce’s director, Jennifer Tibben. Only one thing she said made it onto the afternoon news, the statement that the choirs we’d be hearing were phenomenal. How true that was!

We returned to the Pioneer Center later that evening to participate in and enjoy the Opening festivities. There was the surprise appearance of the Young Voices of the Adventist University of the Philippines who had travel difficulties and weren’t expected to make it that night. After hours of travelling, the children took the stage and gave a fantastic performance, exhausted as they must have been. The audience was very appreciative and enthusiastic, something that continued throughout the festival.

Over the course of the next several days, I became familiar with the qualities of the various choirs, their musical styles, the variety of the lovely costumes that reflected both the cultural background of the choir as well as the genre of the musical category. As it happens, the traditional choir or orchestra uniform in the U.S. in formal settings is often black.

When I first saw the Mt. Saint Antonio College choir, I wasn’t yet familiar with them; their uniforms told me they must be from the US, but they did such a spirited performance of “Khutazo” by South African composer Stanley Gasser that it was hard to say for certain. This is what I loved so much about this international competition—the opportunity to hear a variety of choral performing, a variety of musical traditions, some of which I was not familiar with and wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to hear.

Another great thing was the workshops, seminars and individual coaching sessions available to the festival participants. On Thursday afternoon, my daughter was able to work with Vance George in a coaching session as part of the Sierra Nevada Children’s Choir.

Friday morning the women of Bella Voce got to Nightingale Hall on the UNR campus early to rehearse for our own chance to compete. I was able to drop in and hear the last few competition pieces of the festival, before running back to collect children for the Friendship Concert at Trinity Episcopal Church.

The church was full and the choirs were wonderful, of course. The children of the Sierra Nevada Children’s Choir particularly enjoyed the Indonesian choir, “Paduan Suara Mahasiswa Universitas Hasanuddin”, ranked 74th in the world. What an opportunity for our children to hear them perform in Reno!

There was one more big performance left in the AICF – the sold out Grand Prix concert. The jury members came into the concert hall and took their places for one last evaluation before the decision of Grand Prix winner was made. One last chance to hear these choirs, one last chance to sing “This is my song” by Sibelius under the direction of Ralf Eisenbeiß. As the certificates were awarded, cheering broke out, and it seemed like the Mt. San Antonio College would be the Grand Prix winner. And so it was.


Amy made some photos in Reno, find them on flickr.

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2 Comments to “Four days of glorious choral music”

  1. Sandra Cohen says:

    I attended the one in St Louis in November and LOVED every minute of it. Someday when I’m retired I’ll be able to attend others. So far, I’ve only attended as a spectator/listener. I sing in 2 choirs in my hometown, but we are not traveling/competition choirs. It sounds like a good time was had by all.

  2. hen says:

    Hi Sandra! Thanks for your comment, it seems you had much fun in St. Louis! Hope to see you at other events soon, maybe next year in Ohio? The 7th World Choir Games are from July 4 to 14, 2012 in Cincinnati :)

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