Chamber Singers Land International Win

The Chamber Singers won the 13th International Maribor Choral Competition Gallus in Maribor, Slovenia in April. They were the only American choir invited to participate.
The competition is part of the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing, a “contest of contests,” that is organized annually by one of the member organizations: Concorso Polifonico Guido d’Arezzo in Arezzo, Italy; Béla Bartók International Choral Competition in Debrecen, Hungary; Florilège Vocal de Tours, France; the G. Dimitrov May Choir Competition in Varna, Bulgaria; the Certamen Coral de Tolosa in Basque Country, Spain and the Maribor competition.
The singers were extended an invitation to compete as a result of their second place finish at the Tolosa International Choral Contest in Spain last year.
“Singing in the Chamber Singers is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Caroline Vaughn, a senior vocal performance major. “I love being a part of this small-ensemble teamwork experience.”
The 36-member group carried 11 works in their repertory for three days of performance and competition. At the opening concert, each of the 12 competing choirs performed two selections from their native country in their native language. The Chamber Singers performed “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from the Broadway musical Gypsy and “My Soul’s Been Anchored in the Lord,” a Moses Hogan-arranged spiritual.
“That concert was not judged and the intent was to show who we are as a culture,” said Tim Messina, an undergraduate vocal performance major. “You don’t get more American than Broadway and spirituals.”
On the following day, the choir performed twice. “After the first performance, we were exhausted,” Messina explained. “But we hyped ourselves up and ended up performing the next four songs better than we’d ever performed them. If we didn’t make it, we were winners to ourselves.”
The singers credit their studies, time spent singing together and their leadership. “Dr. Crane expects us to work hard and do our homework, but also to look for things to fix. That humility set us apart,” Vaughn said. “We were just there to sing. This is who we are as Americans and as ECU students.”
Kimberly Ness, a master’s of music degree candidate studying choral conducting, said that the quality of the Chambers Singers isn’t derived solely from the voices in the ensemble. “It’s not each singer’s individual ability as much as our collective ability to read music and rehearse efficiently. The repertoire we prepared for Slovenia we learned in one semester, and it was the hardest rep we’ve learned yet.”
“That’s what makes the Chamber Singers special,” Vaughn said. “It’s a group of people where everyone has the same feeling about music and dedication to it.”
The Chamber Singers were the last choir announced into the final five. Ness said she didn’t think the ensemble would make the cut because the judges had already announced a mixed ensemble as a finalist.
“The European judges were listening for a specific type of sound,” Vaughn said, “but then I realized that this was actually happening.”
At the final concert on April 12, the Chamber Singers performed Petr Eben’s “Cantico delle Creature,” Eriks Esenvalds’ “Heavens’ Flock” and a work by Claude Debussy in Latvian. Their performance bested a youth choir from Latvia by 0.3 points. The other three finalists represented Ireland, Slovenia and Sweden.
The ensemble received a 2500 Euro cash prize and will be invited to participate in the 2016 European Grand Prix for Choral Singing competition in Varna, Bulgaria.
The ECU Chamber Singers consists of auditioned undergraduate and graduate students, and is the select choral ensemble at ECU. They maintain a rigorous rehearsal and performance schedule, and focus predominantly on unaccompanied choral literature suitable for advanced chamber choir.
See the winning performance at www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1sg8ICvDXE.
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