Capital University’s Chapel Choir struck a chord with the world recently when it made its first appearance at the World Choir Games competition and walked away with two gold medals, the highest composite score of any American choir that competed, and the bitter-sweet pride of being just 1.3 points shy of winning the Mixed Choir Championship.
The 2012 World Choir Games took place July 4-14 in Cincinnati, the first American venue in the history of the games, which are likened to the Olympics of choral music. Chapel Choir was among more than 360 choirs from six continents, 48 countries and 25 U.S. states to participate. Fifty-nine singers from the 70-voice Chapel Choir took time off from summer jobs and traveling from various parts of the state to participate in the event.
"The Chapel Choir has never sounded better," said President Denvy A. Bowman, Ph.D., who attended the Celebration Concert — an event, which according to Interkultur, the organizer of the games, “features some of the best choirs in the world.” Before the Chapel Choir released the final chord of its finale, I Will Rise, the global audience in attendance raised to its feet en masse in a standing ovation laced with shouts and tears.
The choir competed in two categories at the select Championship Level — Mixed Choir and Musica Sacra — placing second and fourth, respectively, preforming Sing Joyfully, William Byrd; Hymne, Josef Gabriel Rheinberger; Otche Nash, Nikolai Golovanov; Prayer, René Clausen; O Magnum Mysterium, Tomás Luis de Victoria; Ukrainian Alleluia, Craig Courtney; Alleluia, Eric Whitacre; and Hehlehlooyuh, James Furman.
"There are no words that can adequately describe the awe-inspiring experience of hearing and seeing the Chapel Choir perform on the world stage at the 2012 World Choir Games,” Director of Choral Activities Lynda Hasseler, D.M.A., said. “In this high stakes, professionally juried, first-time-ever international competition, the choir sang with world-class artistry, poise, confidence, finesse, expressiveness, and musical perfection. Perhaps most importantly, they sang with heart, soul and joy — the same way they always and inevitably do — and changed lives in the process. I could not be more proud of how our impressive students presented themselves and represented Capital University to the world, and I could not be more honored to be associated with them.”
With a total of 92.38 points on a 100-point scale, the choir was just over a point away from winning champion status in the Mixed Choir category. The choir placed second to South Africa's Stellenbosch University Choir, with which Chapel Choir performed during last summer's South Africa tour. Stellenbosch scored a total of 93.50 points.
"Our score was the second highest score of any choir competing in the five categories that were awarded during that ceremony," Hasseler explained. "We finished slightly behind a choir that has competed and won
championships in multiple international competitions. It doesn't get much closer, and we were thrilled to have performed at our best, with the best."
In the Musica Sacra category, Chapel Choir finished fourth behind Stellenbosch University Choir, which placed first; China/Hong Kong's Diocesan Schools Choral Society, second; and Latvia's Sola, third. Twenty-eight choirs representing Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Russia, Czech Republic and many more countries from around the world competed in Musica Sacra.
Hasseler acknowledged she and the choir were surprised and a bit disappointed in the results for Musica Sacra, but they see it as an opportunity for musical growth and for more cultural exploration through music.
"Going in, we felt like this was our category, given the tradition of the Chapel Choir," Hasseler explained. "The choir sang a nearly perfect performance — and it was so stunningly expressive — I don’t know what I would have changed, even if we could have. We received so much positive feedback regarding this performance and felt confident that we would score higher in Musica Sacra than in Mixed Choirs.”
Throughout all of the categories in the 2012 World Games, judges and choral directors alike were astonished by the quality of singing that happened over the 11 days of choral competition in Cincinnati. The following comment about the Chapel Choir was quoted in a Cincinnati.com news article:
“We heard the (Capital University) Columbus choir as they were warming up before us at Christ Church. It was amazing,” said Dafna Ben-Yohanan, director of the Israeli Ankor Choir, which was performing a Friendship Concert at the Mayerson Jewish Community Center on Monday night. “The standard was phenomenal. We’ve never heard choirs like this. We’re very secluded and we don’t travel that much. It was mindboggling — the perfection, the accuracy, just unbelievable.”
Hasseler went on to say, “The choir and I have already learned many valuable lessons as a result of our first international competition. An international panel of jurors judged us, whose members represent different
cultures and thus who may have been listening for nuances related to their cultural perspective. We're looking forward to learning more from the process, and exploring additional opportunities to perform and compete on the world stage at both future World Games competitions as well as other multicultural events. The opportunity to expand our community through music — the language that connects us all — is the most valuable prize we take from this experience."
For vocal performance major and choir member Darita Seth, competing at the games was a musical denouement of several years of demanding work and extreme focus in pursuit of choral perfection. It made him a better musician, and it broadened perspective beyond the individual to the team.
"I remember after our first competition, how emotional we all were, because it became real to us how this was the culmination of years of hard work, extra time, time from our summer vacation, our time in South Africa, working with two different composers on their pieces, and much more. It meant that we gave our best, and our best was perfection," Seth said. "As a performance major, we focus so much on ourselves, and what we all do individually, but this experience has taught me so much more about teamwork, and looking after the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of each person on our team. This value is what I will treasure for the rest of my life."
Photos by Keith Bowers and Dennis Camp