For 30 years, the World Youth Choir Foundation has provided an extraordinary, high-level choral experience for singers from around the world
The mission of the World Youth Choir is to turn young artists, ages 17-26, into Global Citizens, introducing them to cultures, singing traditions, and people they would not otherwise have a chance to experience.
Since 1989, there have been 1000+ singers from 65 countries in 35 sessions under the leadership of 47 internationally acclaimed conductors.
58 singers from 29 different countries gathered on July 18th in Saint-Affrique, which is in the Occitanie region of France.
In the occasion of the 30 anniversary of the choir, Plate-forme interrégionale hosted this session in partnership with a team of local partners (Arpa Occitanie, JM France and Centre européen de Sylvanès).
They met at Cap Vert, a large accommodation and training complex, where they lived, ate meals, and practiced together.
After getting-to-know-you games, the choir introduced themselves and soon enough friendships formed. By the end of the session, the group of strangers turned into a family, as many reflected on the final night of the session.
“The World Youth Choir is a project that fills your heart up to the brim. It opens up your eyes and ears to the ways of making music that you’ve never experienced before, and it makes you realize that music makers from different cultures and much more similar then they are different,” says Elias Aaron Johansson from Sweden.
Over the ten days of rehearsal in Saint-Affrique, the choir had time to get to know each other better through different activities, such as the WYC Alumni Welcome with interactive games and the All Star Evening, an open concert for the singers to showcase their personal or local repertoire. The All Star Evening also showed off different cultures from around the world, as choir members shared traditional dances, food, and drink from their countries.
The repertoire for the concerts went through different aesthetics and vocal traditions representative of the five continents; from Colombia to New Zealand, via Venezuela, USA, Sweden, Jordan, South Africa, the Philippines, Japan ... and of course traditional French songs!
Two world premieres were on the program, with "I am the world" by the Irish composer Séan Doherty, and "Falling stars" by Jakub Zafrański.
They also performed works by major composers of 20th and 21st century: Abu-Khader, Alcalà, Bibiloni, Britten, Hann, Hernandez-Morales, Hogan, Marshall, Matsushita, Poulenc, Pizzetti, Ravel, Whitacre - and Vila i Casañas, this sessions’s conductor.
Josep Vila I Casañas, Spanish Catalan composer, conductor and pedagogue, was the artistic director of this session. He conducted some of the most prestigious vocal ensembles (Orfeó Català, Cor de Cambra from Palau de la Música Catalana, Swedish Radio Choir, Orfeón Donostiarra …)
Bryan Chong from Malaysia described the session as “A life changing experience - a start to something precious.”
Also outside of rehearsal, choir members had the chance to explore Saint-Affrique, though as many would tell you, this usually involved a trip to the local grocery store for snacks or an ice cream break to ward off the sweltering summer heat, or a trip to the pool.
After rehearsals, the choir was ready to set off and share the music they had prepared with the world. Their first concert was in Gaillac at the Abbaye Saint-Michel in the frame of the Puycelsi festival. There were certainly some nerves, but after the concert, there was an atmosphere of elation that spread through both the choir and their audience.
“It is a privilege to work with these talented, inspired, and dedicated people from all over the world. The amount of joy, curiosity, and openness has reached a level that I have never seen and experienced before,” said Patricia Flury, the soprano section leader from Switzerland.
Their next concert was at Abbaye de Sylvanès, a European cultural center, where they were welcomed as a part of the Sylvanès Music Festival, one of the main local partner. They had the chance to hear (and dance to) the Sirbalalaïka (a professional French world music group) and enjoy further cultural exchange in France.
Then, it was off to Portugal. After splitting up into three groups, the choir met in late at night in Lisbon, where they would join the IFCM 2019 World Choral Expo. They additionally performed in an outdoor concert in Cascais.
One of the big reasons for the visit to Lisbon though was the World Youth Choir 30th Anniversary Celebration, held in the new IFCM headquarters. The current session gathered with patrons, World Youth Choir board members, and alumni from previous sessions. This experience truly showed how long lasting a connecting this project builds, as all attendees gathered to sing a traditional Irish Blessing together as one choir.
While the choir lamented leaving Portugal and eating as many Pastel de Nata as they could, France called again. Once back in the lovely Occitanie region, they joined the Choralies festival in Vasion-la-Romaine. A favorite location on tour, the choir enjoyed meeting other choirs from all over the world, including the EuroChoir, a project similar to the World Youth Choir at European level, joining 40 singers under the artistic direction of Juval for 3 years, who had just started their 2019 session.
But, as most good things do, it had to come to an end. The choir parted ways on August 4th, but stayed connected through WhatsApp and video calls to other choir members from around the world. Travel plans were made, and many look forward to hopefully seeing each other in the 2020 sessions, and possibly many other projects they might built together around the world.
Mayuko Tsushida from Japan put it best when she said “I have learned what love is from everyone in this choir. Every moment during the session, my heart was warmed by the kindness, and I have been saved countless times by the beaming smile of the people. I finally understand the meaning of the words, ‘Do you speak music?’ Music connects the world. This experience changed my life.”
Stayed tuned from upcoming audition information for the 2020 World Youth Choir Session.