Exchange choirs can be the best addition to your performance tour experience. No matter the age or ensemble type, everyone benefits from cultural immersion experiences. Including a performance with an exchange choir abroad could be exactly what your ensemble needs. Here we’ll tell you what exchange choirs are and how they make traveling even better!
It is well known that exchange programs exist to educate students about other cultures in ways they otherwise could not experience at home. Exchange choirs are local choirs that traveling ensembles can perform with while abroad. These unique experiences make traveling to another country even more enriching. Performing with local choirs brings you closer to the community you’re visiting. Not only do you get to know the culture, but you also get to know the people. KI works to incorporate exchange choirs whenever possible. We know that if you are looking for educational opportunities for your ensemble, exchange choirs are essential.
Naturally, when an ensemble travels abroad, they are often unfamiliar with the language, customs, or geography of the destination. Exchange choirs can ease that cultural shock by creating an intimate space where a shared love of music becomes the core focus. Meeting people who can introduce you to a new culture makes the time abroad even more special and enlightening. You don’t have to feel like a stranger in a strange land. The Minnesota Boychoir collaborated with the Cór na nÓg Youth Choir on their performance tour to Ireland this summer. Mark Johnson, the artistic director for the choir, said, “I will never forget the audiences singing along to familiar Irish tunes in our concert repertoire, and our exchange opportunity with Cór na nÓg Youth Choir in Dublin was THE fitting way to end our tour … their team of helpers and incredible voices of this ensemble made us feel right at home.”
Even top professionals in the community believe in cultural exchange for choir, as seen by the National Association for Music Education. Clayton Parr, director of choral activities at DePaul University, said, “If music is to function as a bridge between cultures, as performers we must be ready to move out of our comfort zones and experience music in a completely new way.” Working with another choir, you can learn how they might construct their repertoire and how they communicate with each other.
One of KI’s great friends, Rollo Dilworth, also agrees that “learning comes through collaboration and exchange.” Dr. Dilworth believes bringing respect and attention to music outside of “traditional” or “dominant cultures” is essential to cultural exchange and music education. When you watch another ensemble, you can see firsthand how their culture approaches choral performance as an art. When there is a chance to collaborate with a local choir, the potential differences in perspectives and approaches to the art is revealed, and learning opportunities emerge. You just might experience choir and performing in a whole new light after an exchange concert.
Learning in Action
On their tour of Austria, the St. John’s Boys’ Choir from Minnesota visited the mountain village of Bad Ischl, east of Salzburg. They performed at the church Evangelische Bad Ischl with a local school choir that performed in traditional Austrian clothing.
The Concordia Choir finished their performance tour of Italy with an exchange concert. Their Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Michael Culloton, said, “Our final concert was a shared program with Coro Musicanova and their conductor Fabrizio Barchi. It was the most special way that we could have ended the trip! Their singing was exquisite, and our collaborative performance of Monteverdi’s Cantate Domino was spectacular. Following the concert the choir serenaded us at the bus with Billy Joel’s piece called And So It Goes, so we followed suit and sang Bernstein’s Somewhere from West Side Story for them. A very moving experience, and one that we will treasure forever.”
In Vienna, the Cantabile Youth Singers performed with the Canta Diem Choir at the Jesuitenkirche. They got a tour of their venue by the parish organist, who also performed with them. Every Sunday, the church hosts a choral performance at 6:20 PM just to have the perfect light of the sunset. Only the locals would know that’s the best time for a performance. These tidbits of knowledge only scratch the surface of what you can learn from these cultural immersion experiences.
Artistic collaboration is a great tool for youth choirs to learn, but every kind of choir should have the opportunity. The key to a successful performance is listening to each other, and yourself. Learning how to listen to a choral group from a different background than your own strengthens your ensemble, and you can take this new knowledge back home with you and apply it to your artistic process.
Wherever you travel, community is important, and our choir communities are everywhere. The most important impact that exchange choirs provide is a better appreciation of the world and its cultural differences.
If you’d like to learn more about performance travel tours with KI Concerts, let us know!
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