The Azusa Pacific University Chamber Singers traveled to Spittal an der Drau in Carinthia, Austria, July 4–7 to represent the United States in a worldwide choral competition. One of 10 prestigious choirs from across the globe selected to compete in the 50th International Competition for Choirs (ICC), APU’s ensemble became only the 15th American choir to participate in competition history, the only choir from the Western Hemisphere included this year, and the first ever from a Council for Christian Colleges & Universities school.
The Chamber Singers placed first overall and earned individual first-place marks in three categories: classical; obligatory, chosen by the competition committee; and folk music, which showcased music from each ensemble’s 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 has brought together choirs from around the world to compete for prizes and recognition. This year’s competition also drew choirs from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, and Spain. “In the 50-year history of this 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 preparation 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 come from everywhere to form this amazing country,” she said. “Each of us adds a unique perspective, weaving a rich tapestry that celebrates our diversity. In honor of this, 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 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, internment survivor, and went on a seven-hour tour of the former concentration camp. In preparation for this occasion, the Chamber Singers sang at the Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance in April.
The group’s creativity and high-caliber performance reflects the ongoing mission of the School of Music to support musical excellence and artistic integrity firmly grounded in Christian faith. “Earning the top placement in three different competition categories confirms the high craftsmanship of our students and their director, Michelle Jensen,” said Stephen P. Johnson, DMA, dean of the College of Music and the Arts.