1:13 p.m., Oct. 19, 2010----At the end of the month, the University of Delaware Chorale will travel to the Basque region of Spain to make its second appearance in an international choir competition.
The UD Chorale is one of two American choirs out of the 22 choral groups chosen to compete in the 42nd International Tolosa Choral Contest to be held Oct. 29 through Nov. 1. The other American choral group is a civic choir from Salt Lake City, Utah.
Prof. Paul D. Head, chair of the Department of Music, director of choral studies and director of the UD Chorale for 14 years, says he feels confident in the ability of this year's choral group as it takes its 48 voices overseas.
“They are among the most talented I've had since I've been here and certainly the most motivated, so I think it's looking very encouraging,” Head says of the Chorale, which is comprised of an evenly split number of men and women.
“It's very prestigious to be invited in the first place,” Head says of the Tolosa Choral Contest.
The group was asked to participate in the contest because of its 2007 first place award at the 10th International Choir Festival in Tallinn, Estonia. In that particular contest, the Chorale competed against 40 other choirs from around the world and was selected for the grand prix round, in which it was chosen over five other finalists.
While Head says the invitation to the Tolosa Choral Contest is great exposure for the University, the greatest value of the trip is the motivation it brings to the students because, like any competitive endeavor, it helps them focus on the task at hand.
“In this case, it pushes your musicianship to a higher level,” he says. “You scrutinize more closely to technical aspects and work to understand the composer's intentions to a greater degree. Any competitive arena causes you to simply ramp it up a little bit to do what you do well, even better.”
When the Chorale arrives in the Basque area of Spain, members will travel to a series of small villages and perform in local churches before moving on to the main festival performances and competition.
Once in Tolosa, the Chorale will stay in a youth hostel with a Ukrainian college choir and a Hungarian children's choir.
Along with competing against choral groups from various European countries, the UD Chorale will have other contenders such as choirs from Japan and the Philippines.
Head says the cultural value of the trip is equally great, since the students will be able to not only test their talent against other groups but also see and hear what other choirs all over the globe are doing.
“This is a good ensemble,” he says of the Chorale. “As I told them in rehearsal a couple of weeks ago, 'If you lose to a choir in Tolosa, you best be there to hear that choir, because they're going to be really good.' As important as competing is the opportunity to hear an ensemble that is that good.”
Along with the UD Chorale now having competed in two international festivals, it has performed four times for the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) in the past 10 years.
The Chorale has planned a local concert before traveling abroad, which Head says should act as an exhibition round for the students. The “Farewell Concert” for the UD Chorale will take place at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 21, at St. Helena's Church in Wilmington. Admission is $10.
Article by Katie Speace
Photo by Evan Krape