In late April, the 25-member University of Guelph Chamber Singers and conductor Marta McCarthy travelled to Mosbach, Germany, to compete in the Mosbach International Competition for Chamber Choirs.
After the first day of singing, the Guelph choir was chosen to be one of three finalists who would perform a second time. “The judges, Frieder Bernius and Marcus Creed – who are world-renowned – praised choir members for their passion and their unique tone quality,” says McCarthy. When the final scores were tallied, Guelph placed third.
McCarthy says, “It was a tremendous accomplishment to win third prize, especially since the other two choirs in the finals were the premiere choirs of universities devoted entirely to music: Hochschule fur Musik von Detmold and Hochschule fur Musik von Mannheim. All the choirs were of extremely high calibre.”
For many of the Guelph singers, the experience of performing in the competition was the most important aspect; placing third really felt like icing on the cake. Singer Maria Miceli says, “We have never sung better or with as much passion, reflectiveness and enthusiasm as we did during the competition. It was wonderful to meet and learn about different cultures from the many members of the choirs, and it was an incredible learning experience filled with new sounds, tastes, people and places.”
Choir member Jerome Chang describes the trip as “an opportunity of a lifetime. One of the most memorable evenings was after the competition and gala when all the choirs from around the world came together to have an informal singalong. We couldn’t all speak each others’ languages, but we could definitely share music together – over good food and drink.”
Craig Bechtel also has great memories of singing with the other choirs. He says, “It was an amazing experience; everyone there had a positive and professional outlook on the competition.” Another member of the choir, Mary Parkinson, describes feeling proud to be part of this hard-working and talented group of people.
The choir members are also appreciative of the generosity of others who made the trip possible. Aleisha Michael says, “I appreciate that the dean and the University gave us financial assistance to bring this trip to fruition. It was wonderful being an ambassador of the University of Guelph in Europe, and I know the University would have been proud of us.”
The Mosbach competition began with each choir performing the first of two 25-minute programs of highly challenging repertoire. The top three choirs performed a second program. During the same weekend, they also performed for appreciative audiences at a church service in Mosbach and at a gala concert celebrating the music of each country represented in the competition. The Canadian repertoire performed by the University of Guelph choir was especially warmly received, says McCarthy.
She adds: “The atmosphere at the competition was extremely positive, with each group cheering for the others and truly using the experience to learn and grow. The follow-up celebrations, which included songs from each culture and joyful intermingling between the choirs, went long into the night. We were proud to be musical and cultural ambassadors for Canada.”