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APU Chamber Singers Win International Choral Competition

by Rachel White

The Azusa Pacific University Chamber Singers choir traveled to Spittal an der Drau in Carinthia, Austria, July 4–7, to represent the United States in a worldwide choral competition. APU’s Chamber Singers, 1 of 10 prestigious choirs from across the globe selected to compete in the 50th International Competition for Choirs (ICC), became only the 15th American choir to compete in competition history, the only choir from the western hemisphere included this year, and the first ever from a CCCU school.

The Chamber Singers placed first overall and earned individual first place marks in three categories: obligatory, chosen by the competition committee; classical; and folk music, which enabled the group to showcase music from their home country. Additionally, they received the Ferdinand Grossmann award for best interpretation of a 20th or 21st century composition for their performance of Eric Whitacre’s “With a Lily in Your Hand.”

“Winning this elite, international competition represented an extraordinary opportunity to position our university and our country through musical excellence,” said Daniel Atwell ’12, APU Chamber Singers tour manager.

Since 1964, the competition brings together esteemed choirs from around the world to compete for prizes and recognition. Along with APU’s ensemble, this year’s competition drew choirs from Austria, Czec Republic, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, and Spain. “In the 50 year history of this esteemed competition, the U.S. has won only twice before, making APU’s achievement that much more meaningful,” said Michelle Jensen, DMA, the choir’s director.

According to Jensen, one of the most difficult aspects of preparing for the competition was deciding what to do about the ‘native/cultural/traditional’ dress component of the folk competition. “Americans don't have a traditional costume, because we came from everywhere to form this amazing country. Each of us add a unique perspective, weaving a rich tapestry that celebrates our diversity. In honor of this, members of the Chamber Singers wore traditional dress from 36 different cultures around the world, each representing a part of not just the United States, but also of APU students, faculty, and staff. In doing so, we honored our collective history while celebrating our unity in the midst of truly God-honoring diversity.”

Prior to ICC, the singers traveled to Germany for the somber commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Buchenwald. On July 2, the group performed a piece by Czech composer Petr Eben, who survived internment, and went on an extensive seven-hour tour of the former concentration camp. In preparation for this important role, the Chamber Singers sang at the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance in April.

The Azusa Pacific University Chamber Singers perform a variety of musical styles and periods ranging from early Renaissance to contemporary a capella. Founded in fall 2000, their high-level of performance draws and blends the best of talent in students desiring to build their education and performance experience. The APU Chamber Singers headline various university events and recitals, churches, high schools, and festivals. In addition to local concerts, the APU Chamber Singers have toured Germany, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Australia, and Italy, including featured performances at the Sydney Opera House and the Vatican. The group currently has 36 members.