In April, I attended the World Symposium on Choral Music in Istanbul, Türkiye… a gathering of choirs, conductors and choral experts from around the world who gave concerts and lectures, and held discussion groups and workshops.
The workshops included sessions on Australian and Oceanic music, planning concerts, warm-ups and icebreakers, and the social themes of choral music.
The thought of travelling to Türkiye was both exciting and daunting, as I had little knowledge of the country, and no local language. Istanbul is a very old and vibrant city, a true mix of east and west (the only city in the world which straddles two continents). The people I met were invariably kind, friendly and generous, welcoming to tourists, and after a day or two, I felt quite at home.
The highlight of the Symposium was the opportunity to hear and see performances by some of the world’s finest choirs – and these were as much a visual feast as aural, with some exquisite costumes, as well as movement and dance, which served to enhance the choral presentations in nearly every performance.
The work of conductors was fascinating: in the very best performances, the conductors’ work was already done, and their job on stage was more to encourage and enhance. Outstanding choirs included the Georgia State University Singers (USA), Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Batavia Madrigal Singers (Indonesia), and most impressive of all, the Vancouver Youth Choir (Canada). (See these choirs on YouTube.)
There were several children’s choirs present, mostly from the Istanbul area. I was interested to note the varying quality of their performances, with differing levels of refinement and stagecraft. Approximately 200 children performed in these choirs, of whom only about 40 (20%) were boys: if nothing else, this strengthens the argument for having boys-only choirs such as the NBCA.