BVU Concert Choir brings home first and second place from Italy competition

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BVU Concert Choir brings home first and second place from Italy competition


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Kendall Hazel | Assistant News Co-Editor

The Buena Vista University Concert Choir recently traveled to Italy to take part in the Concorso Corale Internazionale Riva del Garda international choir competition. Forty-seven choir members made the trip to Italy bringing home first place in Mixed Voices and second in Sacred Voices by half a point. The group was under the direction of Assistant Professor of Vocal Music Dr. Merrin Guice and assisted by pianist Deanna Larson.

The BVU Concert Choir not only represented the university, but they also represented the United States as they were the lone American group and lone North American group. The competition consisted of 16 total choirs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Finland, other countries including: Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Ideas to do an international choir competition began as early as last spring, according to Junior Corporate Communications major and choir member Samantha Hirschman. Eventually, spring break was chosen as the best date to avoid missed classes and any summer conflicts. Hirschman was responsible for planning and coordinating the trip, and she explained how the trip was funded:

“The school [BVU] actually put about $600 for every student… They [students] paid for their flight which was $1,000 and then the bus fares which was $150… Food was all on our own except for the meals provided by the festival,” Hirschman said.

In addition to offering $600 to each student, BVU also covered the application fee in order to participate in the competition.

The opening day of competition consisted of a “unity concert” according to Biology major and choir member Josh Fortmann.

“The very beginning we had a unity concert which wasn’t judged. We all just sang with big choirs from all the other countries. It was fun,” Fortmann said. “The next day we had an evaluation concert which was just our choir singing for a panel of judges—no audience or any other choirs. It was a chance for the judges to get to hear us and get advice. Technically, we weren’t scored that day, but it was our first chance to get into the judges’ heads about our level of capability.”

The BVU choir then proved their capability in front of four judges from Denmark, Italy, Russia, and the United States.

They went on to receive first place in the Mixed Voices category, earning a trophy. They also went on to receive second place in the Sacred Voices category. Due to their impressive performances, they were given the opportunity to perform in the grand finale of the competition along with seven other groups.
Forman credits the choir’s success to their different style.

“People were definitely really curious and excited to see us because we definitely have a very different style than European choirs. I think people got really excited when we got on stage because it was going to be a lot different from everything else they [other choirs] had seen that day,” Fortmann explained.

Singing some American classics also garnered the attention of the judges and other choirs.

“We brought along a lot of classic American music just because we knew it was something Europeans don’t hear all the time. We were right. I think they had a ton of fun time watching us,” Fortmann said.

The BVU Concert Choir brought home first and second place honors, but the students also got a chance to experience the Italian lifestyle. When they were not practicing and performing, the students were able to explore Riva del Garda and Milan.

Some students went shopping, some tried new food, and some had the opportunity to visit La Scala, a world-famous opera house, according to Hirschman.

For Hirschman, the chance to perform with the choir was rewarding, but the chance to revisit Italy was a meaningful aspect for her.

“Three months ago I was in Italy for four months to study abroad, and I was given the opportunity to go back. It was an awesome time being back… I had gotten so used to the culture, and I loved it. I had learned some of the language, and on a couple of occurrences, I was able to use the little bit of language I had learned to figure out what was going on,” Hirschman explained.

More importantly, Hirschman felt her favorite part was being able to help plan this trip for her fellow choir members to enjoy.

“My favorite part was that I was able to do seven weeks of work planning this trip and seeing it all go through. It was awesome to be given the opportunity to sing in a different country and sing in an amazing Catholic church, but it was all about being able to follow through with all my hard work.”

The rest of the Buena Vista University community can enjoy listening to this talented group on Sunday May 14 when they host their Spring Major Works Concert. The concert begins at 3pm in Schaller Chapel with no admission fee.

Photo Story by Brittany Poeppe

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Photo Courtesy of BVU Concert Choir