Let the singing begin

In the same spirit of fellowship as the Olympics, united around a common goal, over 3000 individuals from 64 countries around the world have come to Cincinnati to compete in the 7th World Choir Games, for the first time hosted in the United States.

“Hundreds of choirs and thousands of visitors have come to Cincinnati to share their cultural heritage and to celebrate our global community with music, the common language of the world,” World Choir Games.

When we got our tickets several weeks ago, I was interested in experiencing the World Choir Games at some level, and I also wanted to plan something special to do on the 4th since we didn’t have a family event to go to this year. It turned out that the Opening Ceremony was being held on the 4th of July. Two birds.

What a perfect night it was.

The magnitude of this event hit me as Mark and I were trotting around the Fountain Square looking for one of the Art for All exhibits. We ended up behind a group of young singers from somewhere in the far east or Asia (Don’t hold me to it. I’m geographically challenged. )  I realized that this was a very big deal for quite a few people, including this group of students who could only have been excited to be on this international trip.

The opening ceremony was held at the U.S.Bank Arena on the riverfront. The television screens provided good close-up shots of the speakers and activities. And provided the content for several of my photographs. As you can see, it was dark; I was at a great distance; and I was using my little Nikon Cool Pix without a tri-pod.

We noticed blocks of color signifying groups of individuals, undoubtedly choir members, in the audience. There was one particularly enthusiastic group waving their flag that I found out later to be Russian. (See qualifications on both photography and geographical knowledge above).

The opening, welcoming, and thanking comments from all involved did take quite some time when you added it all together, as these things often do.

The MC’s, Carol Williams and Clyde Gray, from WCPO news kept the program moving, but there was a letter from President Obama to read and politicians to hear from, and as I said above, people to thank.

I’ll just show you the program:

Procession of Choirs (I didn’t actually notice this part, so I’m not sure if they scratched it from the program, or did it in a quiet, ‘Okay, everybody go to your seats’ kind of way.)

Introductory Remarks (Carol Williams and Clyde Gray)

Procession of Honored Guests (Again, I missed this part. Maybe I was busy trying and failing to photograph a waving flag.)

Presentation of the flags. This was a fascinating part, to me, and really drove home the significance of these world games. (I’ve included the photo below  so you can fully appreciate the quality of the photos in the slide show below. If your country is here and you don’t see your flag, maybe it looked something like this photo. Yes. I’m pretty sure that was your country’s flag.)

The flags of the 64 countries with choirs in attendance were presented by the boys of Cincinnati Boys Choir. Some are pictured in the slide show below.

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The program continued with The National Anthem of the United States. (A very patriotic moment. Especially with the awareness that perhaps many of the people here were visiting our country for the very first time. And let’s face it, few bands are going to do it better than the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra with the May Festival Chorus.)

Here they are. Probably should have mentioned this before, but it got lost in the welcoming comments and thank yous section. The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and the May Festival Chorus, along with some fascinating guests, provided an abbreviated musical history of our great country. More on that later.

The orchestra and singers performed the World Choir Games Anthem after our National Anthem. This was followed by Welcoming Remarks spoken in German by Gunter Titsch, President of INTERKULTUR, and in English by an interpreter. Very cool.

Mayor Mark Mallory, pictured here during the playing of the National Anthem, offered his welcoming and thanking remarks after Gunter Titsch.

Oops. I’m back to the banner that is spangled with stars. A feel-it-in-your-gut kind of moment and great way to spend the 4th of July.

I’m going to fast-forward through the opening ceremonies and just say that in addition to the above we saw a video and heard live comments from Werner Geissler, Vice Chairman, Global Operations, Procter and Gamble. And as P&G was the generous Presenting Sponsor of the event, he was entitled to whatever time he wanted. In my opinion.

Opening Declaration by the Honorable Rob Portman, United States Senator (OH).

Ringing of the Peace Bell. (A nice touch, I thought, even if it did take four seemingly fit gentlemen to to accomplish it. The bell is pictured here, but the actual ringing of the bell I didn’t photograph. Oops again.)

Then the music really got going with the performance of “I Can — The Official Song of the 2012 World Choir Games” by Kirk Franklin along with the Cincinnati One Song Choir. Awesome. And you don’t have to take my word for it. You can watch a very nice short video about it, along with highlights, at Cincinnati.com.

At this point the program was turned over to Maestro John Morris Russell who made a tribute to the late (and great) Erich Kunzel, then proceeded to tell the story of America through music.

The traditional White Oak Singers performed Native American Drumming — a soul-stirring welcome.

The orchestra played a nice rendition of “Yankee Doodle,” followed by “Shenandoah” sung by the chorus. Absolutely the best I’ve ever heard. Loved it.

The Comet Bluegrass All-Stars played “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” and “Back Up and Push.”

Soprano Jacqueline Echols sang an amazing “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess. Tenor Steven Cole entertained with “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” also from Porgy and Bess.

They were followed by the orchestra and chorus’ renditions of

“The Promise of Living” from the Tender Land.

“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” from Buck Privates.

“76 Trombones” from The Music Man.

Jacqueline Echols, Luther Lewis, and the CSO Classical Roots Community Choir performed “Maybe God is Trying to Tell You Something” from The Color Purple, and “Let Freedom Ring.”

The orchestra and chorus ended the program with “Ode to this Land.”

All in all, a very moving and entertaining evening. I’m glad we didn’t miss it.

If you live nearby, I hope you are able to attend some of the 2012 World Choir games events.


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