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St. Louis to host international choral festival

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 17, 2009 - A partnership of arts organizations announced today that the American International Choral Festival would take place in St. Louis Nov. 17-21, 2010. INTERKULTUR, a foundation based in Germany that has coordinated choral events since 1988, is organizing the festival.

“We are very happy to announce that this is the first big event of its kind that we’ve arranged in the United States,” said INTERKULTUR president Günter Titsch via the translation of artistic director Christian Ljunggren at the Sheldon Concert Hall this morning. While its events draw participants from every continent, this will mark INTERKULTUR’s first festival in the Western Hemisphere.

Estimated to bring 2,000 participants from 20 countries, the festival will offer an introduction to many to the United States. Ljunggren hailed St. Louis as an optimal location for this experience. “You have this very strong symbol — the Arch — which will build many bridges with peoples and nations,” he explained. The St. Louis festival will also mark the beginning of a series of three INTERKULTUR events in the United States, culminating with the 2012 World Choir Games in Cincinnati. (To see video from the games in 2008, click here .)

While competitions form the core of the festival, the five days will also host workshops and seminars, gala and friendship concerts, and encounter experiences in St. Louis’ parks and other public places. These options will allow participants — up to 70 percent of whom are young people — to experience St. Louis in a variety of ways.

The local arts organizations hope to both showcase and improve St. Louis’ culture through this exchange.

“The cultural environment in St. Louis is so rich,” said Donna Wilkinson, chairman of the Regional Arts Commission. Along with the American Choral Directors Association, the RAC has joined with the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission to bring the festival to St. Louis. “We have one mission, and we’re very excited about it,” said Kitty Ratcliffe, president of the CVC. “We’ll put St. Louis on the stage for the choral community, both nationally and internationally.”

According to the organizers, while choirs historically have not garnered the same attention as other internationally competitive teams, their popularity is growing. Events like the upcoming festival serve to draw more attention to the talent within and diversity among choirs. “Hearing choirs none of us have ever been able to experience before, it’s an astonishing thing,” said John Romeri, director of music at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis.

Romeri also predicted that the festival will aid local groups. “It’s going to instill interest in choral music,” he predicted. The festival “is something every choral group in town will be excited to have.” He cited the St. Louis Chamber Chorus, the Bach Society, the Archdiocesan Chorus, and the Symphony Chorus as groups that could benefit from the spotlight on choral music the festival will bring.

While the partnership is still planning the event, St. Louisans can expect the performances to take place in a variety of venues. The Sheldon Concert Hall, Powell Symphony Hall, the America’s Center, the Edison Theatre at Washington University, the Cathedral Basilica, Christ Church Cathedral, and the Touhill Performing Arts Center have been confirmed so far.  The festival, organizers hope, will open St. Louis to similar arts showcases in the future. “RAC hopes that this will be the first of many such international events,” said Wilkinson.

For more information or to register for the festival, please visit www.choralfestivalstl.com .

Joe Milner, a junior at Brown University, is an intern at the St. Louis Beacon.