So Many Choices...
So, with so many great choirs in the world, how does one decide where to go and whom to see?
It all began with Youth Choir Kamer (Remember Episode 1?). In the summer of 2019, the University of Houston Concert Chorale competed in the grandaddy of all choral competitions, The European Grand Prix (EGP). The contestants consisted of winners of the six member competitions. We had won the Bela Bartok International Choral Competition (Hungary) in 2018 and, so, were eligible.
University of Houston Concert Chorale in the BBCC finals.
They performed beautifully and won the competition in spite of the fact that I had mis-read the rules, and 21 of the 32 singers had to learn one of their pieces that morning.
(Go to 01:50)
The EGP was held in Arezzo, Italy in 2019. I felt that the UH singers performed well, and I suspected that we were in the hunt. But then came Youth Choir Kamer. They were, to put it simply, spectacular. To no one's surprise, they won the competition that evening. Instead of feeling dejected, I was inspired. Kamer represented the next level for my students. As I told Dean Andrew Davis upon my return, "I need to go over there and figure out what they do." It seemed an impossible dream because of my own professional schedule, which while wonderful is also very, very busy.
Then COVID hit, and everything shut down, and, like performing artists worldwide, I was suddenly not so busy any more. In the Fall of 2020, I realized that when COVID was over, it would still take some time for choral activity to resume to its "normal" pace. I applied for a Faculty Development Leave and, after receiving approval months later, began designing my study. I decided to focus on England, Sweden, and the Baltics. All are hotbeds of choral activity. And I decided to focus on the same kinds of choirs I conduct, collegiate-aged mixed choirs, and volunteer symphony choruses.
The wonderful, much-loved, Houston Symphony Chorus
So, here is the list. It is fluid, and, primarily because of COVID, it changes every day. And as long a list as it is, it, sadly, omits some very distinguished ensembles. Finally, the reader will notice that there are some professional choirs thrown into the mix simply because they were performing or rehearsing at a time when I was nearby, and I couldn't resist. In most cases, although not all, I will get to observe rehearsals and interview the conductors and their administrative staff. This list is in the approximate order of my visits.
Royal Holloway; (Rupert Gough); England
Norwegian Soloists (Grete Pedersen) at the Lund Choral Festival in Sweden
Sofiavokalensemble (Bengt Ollén) at the Lund Choral Festival in Sweden
Swedish Radio Choir (Kaspars Putninš) at the Eric Ericson Choral Conducting Competition; Sweden
St. Jacobs Kammerkör (Gary Graden) at the Eric Ericson Choral Conducting Competition; Sweden
Bel Canto Vilnius (Egidijus Kaveckas); Lithuania
Jauna Muzikas (Vaclovas Augustina); Lithuania
Kamer (Aivis Greter); Latvia
Maska (Jānis Ozols); Latvia
Jazeps Vitols Academy of Music; Latvia
Somerville College Oxford (William Dawes); England
St. Edmund Hall Oxford (James Whitbourn); England
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus (Simon Halsey); England
London Symphony Chorus (Simon Halsey); England
BBC Symphony Chorus (Neil Ferris); England
Emmanuel College Cambridge (Peter Foggitt); England
Trinity College Cambridge (Stephen Layton); England