The International Choral Festival returns to Missoula in 2019, bringing singers from around the world to our mountain town.
Eleven choirs will come for the four-day event, three from the United States and eight from around the world.
“It’s just exciting to see it all come together, to bring that culture together, and bring it to Missoula," Executive Director Jennifer Cooper said.
The festival, which runs every three years, receives hundreds of applications, through which the festival’s artistic committee sorts over several months.
They select participants based on quality, first, second and third, with factors like age, size or country of origin as afterthoughts, she said.
“It doesn’t even matter what history they have,” Cooper said. “It’s just the best choirs from around the world.”
This year, the festival ended up with a pretty good cross-section of choirs, varying widely in size, age and stylings, from traditional to modern.
More than half of the choirs are youth choruses, Cooper said, including the Shenzhen Yantian Foreign Language Primary School choir (China), the Eller Girls’ choir (Estonia), the Pannon Children’s Choir (Hungary), the Boys’ Choir Dagilėlis (Lithuania), Veus-Cor infantile Amics de la Unió (Catalonia) and the Phoenix Girls’ Chorus Cantabile.
Their opening-night concert at the Bonner Park bandshell traditionally is youth-focused, but has an all-youth lineup this year, Cooper said.
The Catalonia youth choir is the largest visiting group, with 54 members, while the Daarler Vocal Consort (Germany) is the smallest, with just six members.
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The rest of the choirs include the Batavia Madrigal Singers (Indonesia), Pedavoces (Finland), the Sunday Night Singers (Palmdale, California) and the University of Montana Chamber Chorale.
Cooper was very happy their selection process naturally led to a diverse mix of choirs, with just one participant having to drop out of the festival (a choir from Paraguay).
“Everybody has something different to offer,” she said. “We have a lot of concerts, but you’ll never hear the same thing twice.”
The choirs themselves range from traditional choruses to more modern takes on a capella music, and some choirs can cover all their bases, like the Batavia Madrigal Singers, who Cooper said recently took home three awards from a French choral festival, including an award for best staging, first place in the mixed choir category, and the audience award.
The festival will begin Wednesday, July 17, with a performance at Out to Lunch in Caras Park. Following that will be the second iteration of the choir crawl, where each chorus will decamp to one of four downtown locations (the Top Hat, Conflux Brewery, Dana Gallery and the Florence Building lobby) to perform informal 15-minute concerts.
There will be a free shuttle service from the Adams Center to downtown on Wednesday, to ease parking concerns, Cooper said. It will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
She encouraged anyone interested in the festival to attend the choir crawl to get a feel for the different choirs and which concerts they might want to prioritize for the rest of the festival. Admission to the other performances require a $20 festival button.
That money goes directly to the festival, which is mainly volunteer-run (around 100 people this year, with another 160 hosting choir members in their homes).
“It’s just a really big effort, and it’s amazing that people do that,” Cooper said.
A full schedule can be found on choralfestival.org/2019-festival.