Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Day at the World Choir Games

It's extremely difficult to reach dominance in any profession. However, watching Henry Leck, the founder and artistic director of the Indianapolis Children's Choir, work his way through a day at the 2012 World Choir Games, I knew I was watching a man who had done just that. 

We boarded a bus at 6am and would be in Cincinnati only for a day.  Henry was teaching a workshop in the morning, and there was a public concert that night.  The ICC was not there to compete. 

No medal ceremonies, no ranking, no wondering who's the best choir.  Henry's philosophy, that music should not separate people but rather draw them together, has done no harm.  His choirs have performed on five continents, for religious, government, and corporate leaders, and with an array of professional entertainers.  The artistic quality of the ICC has never been compromised and the singers never fail to amaze.

The real work began in Junior Ballroom B, on the 3rd floor of the Duke Energy Convention Center.  This particular group of kids, culled together from two choirs, had never sung together.  To get the optimal sound, the choir needed to be 'voiced'.  This was fascinating to watch.  In a mere 10 minutes Henry went through the whole choir, section by section.  Two adjoining singers would sing the same note.  In an instant Henry would determine if being next to each other still produced the ideal sound.

Then the workshop "Changing Choral Sound" began.  Few attendees were aware that they were about to be treated to one of the best children's choirs in the world.  Henry taught several visualization and movement exercises.  A couple of measures of "Let There Be Peace on Earth" were sung to exhibit each technique.  Two measures, over and over, each with nuances not heard before.  I overheard one of the workshop attendees exclaim, "They sound so beautiful!  I just want them to sing the whole song!"

After the workshop, Henry sat down for a TV interview, convinced a Russian musician to help the singers with a challenging Russian piece, ate lunch, and headed off with the singers to the hotel.  Then it was off to the sound check at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, dinner, a little rehearsing, then waiting for their cue.   

The ICC was the last choir in the line-up for the Music of the World Celebration concert.  It had been a long day, but Henry and the singers were ready.  Their final piece, "One Song at a Time" resonated with the audience.  The song made one believe in possibilities.  If we all work together, stand side by side, could we really change the world - one song at a time - as the lyrics would lead us to imagine?

Yes, it is possible.  All of the choirs that descended upon Cincinnati demonstrated that.

Then, ICC took the stage and without the incentive of winning a prize, the choir sang its heart out.  The singers performed with artistry that brought a tear to one's eye and the audience to its feet.  And that possibility?  Henry had it glowing a little brighter.