World Choir Games 2014, Riga Latvia

In July 2014, the Robinson Singers and Select Women's Ensemble will journey to Riga, Latvia and make their second trip to the World Choir Games.  You can help the ensembles journey to Latvia by making a donation today.

 

Please check back here for more news as we begin the year-long preparation for this amazing experience.

 

This trip is not required for any student and is outside of the FCPS school year calendar.  The trip is sponsored by the Robinson Choral Parents Association.

 

If you would like to make a donation, please download the brochure below.

Read about the2012 World Choir Games - Robinson's First International Choral Competition

During the days of July 4-8, 2012 the Robinson Singers and Robinson Select Women’s Ensemble had the opportunity to participate in the 2012 World Choir Games held for the first time ever in the United States.  This event which spanned two weeks, included 364 choirs from dozens of countries all over the world who converged in Cincinnati, Ohio for an incredible event unlike anything I have ever witnessed during a lifetime of being a part of choral music.
 
Our experience began with attendance at the opening ceremonies which featured the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and the 100-voice May Festival Chorus.  It was truly an Olympic-style beginning complete with a performance the John Williams composition, Call of the Champions which started the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City.  The Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and May Festival Chorus provided additional music that was uniquely American from Gershwin to American folk music such as Shenandoah.  Flags from every participating nation were carried and you could feel the energy inside of the packed US Bank Arena.  After the Peace Bell of the Choir Olympics rang seven times, the Choir Games were set to begin.
 
The next morning each ensemble was set to enter the Qualification Round of the Games.  Being an ensemble that never participated, we had the option of participating in the Open Competition or see if could make it to the Champions Level of the Competition which was for those choirs who had competed successfully in the past and earned Gold Diplomas in the Open Competition.  After much consideration and discussion this fall the students and I decided to try and Qualify for the Champions round.  When we arrived for our sound check that morning I could tell the students were ready to go and were performing to an incredibly high level of focus, energy and determination.  No audience was allowed into the concert hall for this round, so it was me, the singers and three judges.  One from the USA, Italy and China.  I thought that we would be notified of our status later in the day, but I found out that our category would be determined right after we performed.  That was an intense hour.  After we finished our performances, the singers took a seat on stage and after receiving some feedback about our performances each choir was notified that they would be entered into the Champions category.  The looks of joy and accomplishment on the faces of the students was overwhelming.  I’ll never forget that moment.  Having never gone to an International Competition like this, being a public-school choir (which was rare, most were magnet schools or private organizations) and reaching that achievement was indescribable in words.
 
Over the course of the next days, the students had the chance to attend concerts for the various competitions which were almost impossible to get into.  The crowds were overwhelming.  The energy was everywhere.  In the convention center there was a men’s choir from China singing the Biebl, Ave Maria and there riding the escalator I was transported to a place of music-heaven.  The students stood in awe.  Singers and Select Women’s also took advantage of the space in the convention center to share some of our music throughout the week and as crowds gathered the reception for their efforts was incredible.  Students exchanged choir pins with other students and many photos were taken with other singers from around the world as an instant binding of friendship through music occurred.
 
Over the next two days Select Women’s and Singers the had the opportunity to perform their competition set again.  This time for an international panel of seven adjudicators, and a full-house of enthusiastic audience members.  Again, the singers in both groups did not fail to deliver incredible performances.  For me, the worst part was waiting each day for the performance times to come.  Once we got to the venue and started our pre-performance routine it was like being a part of something so special and knowing that everyone around you knew it too.  The time on stage for each group brought out the very best in each singer and as a teacher to be a part of that was something I will always cherish.  The audiences responded well to both groups and each ensemble received standing-ovations after their last song.
 
As the students left the stage there were tears of joy for what we had accomplished, but also the realization that the performance was really one of the last times the students would have to sing together.  The students have never been able to keep singing together after the school year ended and the true gift of this experience really hit home.  This work didn’t start overnight.  We set the goal of going to the choir games over a year ago and in order to make it happen it required an unprecedented amount of dedication and support from the students, parents and community to make it happen.  The students rehearsed at the end of the year when their friends were off enjoying the time away from school, seniors returned to rehearsal when they didn’t have to be in school at all and the level of focus and preparation only increased during that time period.  As Congressman Gerry Connolly said at our farewell concert, “the students had already won.”  There was a goal set, there were obstacles to overcome, perseverance was required and in the end the result of the collaborative hard work was nothing short of incredible.
 
To end our days of performances we had the opportunity to perform in a “Friendship Concert” in a church just outside of Cincinnati.  The concert started at 3:00 and people arrived to get a seat around noon.  Because our schedule changed from the Open Category to the Champions Level, we had to drop out of our previously schedule Friendship Concert.   The WCG Staff worked feverishly to find us another venue and I’m so thankful they could.  Just when I thought this experience couldn’t get any better, it did.  There were a group of choirs scheduled to perform that day, the church was packed, so much so that the Fire Marshall was called to make sure it was safe.  Before we were going into the church to perform all of the choirs were together in a gymnasium adjacent to the church.  While the groups were waiting to go in and perform, each of the choirs took a turn performing songs for each other.  As fate would have it, there was a girls’ choir there from the Czech Republic who happened to know the exact same piece that Select Women’s Ensemble was singing – in Czech.  So our students combined and had the chance to sing music of another culture WITH the students from that area in the world.  What an incredibly organic learning experience!  The energy and excitement in the room as the choirs performed for each other was inspiring to say the least.  The audience inside of the church loved the performances and also provided a wonderful dinner to all of the singers.  It was the best way to conclude our performances.  It wasn’t about competition, but sharing music directly and touching people’s lives.  The audience responded well to our folk music and there was not a dry eye in the audience after Select Women’s performance of Jordan’s Angels.
 
The awards ceremonies were incredibly majestic.  Each director and a representative from each choir processed on the arena floor and the choirs cheered enthusiastically as they appeared on the video screens.  To sit on a stage with dozens of choir directors from around the world was truly humbling.  As we received our Silver Medals, it was truly a wonderful moment.  Not because of the award, which was an incredible accomplishment, but for the process of how we got there.  Our Principal Mr. Meier always talks about “doing the little things the right way, and the good things will follow.”  I couldn’t help but think of that as we received those awards.  We live in a time of instant-everything, and to set long-term goals and to finish commitment is such a great lesson for the students to learn.  Not everything is easy or instant and doing things the right way each rehearsal truly does make a difference.
 
None of this would have been possible without the support of a school, administration and staff like Robinson Secondary.  My colleagues in the music department are tremendous.  I am so thankful for the parents who supported the students financially and with their time to volunteer to wash cars, chaperone or to do whatever needed to be done and most especially to Diane Bond the RCPA President. I'd like to thank my wife Tiffany who was there 100% of the way and supports all of the things I do with the Robinson Choirs.  We were very fortunate to host our farewell concert and rehearsals at Lord of Life Church in Fairfax and I want to thank Pastor Ron Qualley, Gary James, Nancy Ewing the entire staff for their support and for many in the congregation who offered words of support and attended the concert.  I am so lucky to work with an incredibly gifted accompanist, Michael Thompon.  He loves working with the students and cares about thier success.  Many thanks to my good friend and travel agent Rick Sicilio of Classic Travel and Tours who helped us tremendously.

 

Lastly, I want to thank the students.  There is one story that can sum up how wonderful they are.  On our way to Cincinnati, our small bus broke down and we didn’t have enough room on our large bus for everyone.  We were on the Interstate in the middle of nowhere, it was over 100 degrees and it looked like we wouldn’t make it in time for the opening ceremonies.   As we tried to figure out a plan to get everyone there, multiple text messages started coming in to me from the students, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine and this will still be the best trip ever.”  They were right, we made it in time and the entire experience of World Choir Games changed the lives of the singers in both Robinson Ensembles, and it certainly changed mine.  I couldn’t be more grateful for the music and memories that will last a lifetime.

 

-Mike Horanski

July 2012