Gael Singers Win Gold in Latvia

ChoirThis summer the Saint Mary’s Chamber Singers and Glee Club won two gold medals at the World Choir Games Competition—aka the Olympics for Choirs—in Riga, Latvia.

“Beyond gold, we brought home a renewed hope for our world,” said Director Julie Ford. “Just days after the downing of a Malaysian commercial jet in the Ukraine, intercultural goodwill overshadowed the realities of our troubled world as choirs from Russia, Malaysia the Netherlands and beyond mixed and mingled, allowing all to witness music’s great power to unite.”

In July, after a three-day boot camp on campus, the SMC Choir headed to Latvia via Helsinki, Finland followed by a two-hour ferry ride across the Baltic Sea. Once in Estonia, they enjoyed two days in Tallin, an 800-year old medieval town described by one singer as “like stepping into a Disney storybook.” They performed before an appreciative Estonian audience, then took a long bus ride to neighboring Latvia.

In Riga, the world’s largest choral festival opened with a Parade of Nations—27,000 singers in 460 choirs from 73 nations. Representing the United States, Saint Mary’s was placed alphabetically between Uganda and Venezuela. All noted the poignant absence of the Ukrainians, unable to leave their country given recent political turmoil, Ford said.

The Games requires ensembles to pass several levels of judging with a rigorous international scoring system. Both the Glee Club and Chamber Singers qualified for medal contention in the top Champions Competition. The Glee Club competed against 29 choirs, receiving a Gold Medal and placing among the top six ensembles in the Popular Music category. The Chamber Singers competed against 55 choirs, receiving a Gold Medal and placing in the top eight in the Mixed Chamber Singers category.

Although highly competitive, Ford said, there were also outdoor friendship concerts and a palpable spirit of intercultural warmth as choirs cheered for one another, showering praise and admiration in between performances. City tours hosted by local guides helped the Choir gain a sense of centuries past and decades recent, including complex Soviet history that continues to challenge the region.

Ford said, “We remain immeasurably grateful for the support of all of those who made this tremendous experience possible.”