Chamber Choir invited to competition in Austria

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Northwestern State University’s Chamber Choir has been invited to participate in the Ave Verum International Choral Competition in Baden, Austria on May 31-June 2, 2019.

NSU’s Chamber Choir was one of 10 choirs chosen from around the world along with ensembles from countries including Russia, Slovakia, Czechia, Ukraine, Hungary and Italy. Northwestern State was the only choir from the U.S. selected for the competition.

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“It shows that people are beginning to notice that we are doing great things at NSU,” said Director of Choral Activities Dr. Nicholaus Cummins. “We are premiering a new major work by internationally renowned composer Richard Burchard. We placed second in a competition against choirs from 20 nations last year. I have received lots of offers for other competitions and festivals.”

The competition is in honor of the location of Mozart’s “Ave Verum Corpus,” which premiered in 1791 in Baden. This competition only occurs in odd years. The opening round features the 10 selected choirs which all sing in a night concert in the town square called the Long Night of Choral Music. The next day, four choirs are selected for the Grand Prix de Ave Verum. The winners receive a trophy and cash prize for the competition. The last American choir to win was the University of Georgia in 2013.

“I did not expect to be invited so quickly to another international competition. It says a lot about our choral program at Northwestern State University,” said Amanda Charles, a graduate student in vocal music performance from Houston. “I arrived at NSU the same semester that Dr. Cummins took his position so I’ve seen the transitions that we have had to go through as a choir together. These competitions have pushed us as a group in the direction that we needed to go. We now have stronger work ethics, can take constructive criticism well, work well with each other and are more independent learners.”

Last summer, the Northwestern State Lyric Choir won a Gold Medal in the Female Choirs category at the 3rd Budapest International Choral Celebration and Laurea Mundi International Open Competition and Grand Prix of Choral Music. The Chamber Choir received a Laurea Summa Cum Laude diploma in the Mixed Choir category and a Laurea Cum Laude diploma in the Musica Sacra (Sacred Music) category.

“We were invited to Singapore Orientale Festival as well, but we cannot go because we are already going to Austria,” said Cummins. “Many conductors and composers have emailed and messaged me based on how we did last summer. It really was a completely life altering experience for our choral program.”

The international competition has led to a new sense of confidence among choir members.

“I knew that our choir was one of the best in the world, but I’m so happy to see us finally getting to prove that on the world stage,” said Michael Martin, a junior vocal music education major from Pineville

Baden is near Vienna and is well-known for its spas. Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and many other well-known composers wrote music or lived there. Because of Baden’s rich history, composer and choral director Wolfgang Ziegler founded the Ave Verum International Choral Competition in the city. An international jury will judge the competition. Ziegler asked Cummins to submit recordings of NSU’s choir after the Laurea Mundi competition. More than 40 choirs were considered for the event.

Martin said last year’s competition in Hungary has had a positive impact on the Chamber Choir.

“The main aspect that it has changed is the overall work ethic. The students, including myself, truly want to rise to the occasion and show the world what NSU is capable of doing,” said Martin. “The competition in Hungary taught me that the world has limitless talent out there. We spent plenty of time having sectionals while we were there and cleaning up every little detail of our songs. It taught me to always be on my game because no one wants to mess up on an international stage. It taught the choir to work as a cohesive unit. We really came together as a group, and I was so proud of our work.”

Charles said the NSU choir will go into the Austrian competition much better known.

“It does change things for me and for the group. We all want to make sure we are doing our part as a member of this program,” said Charles. “We want to make sure we are representing not only our university well, but Louisiana and our country as well. I am so proud of each and every person in the Chamber Choir. We have really became a little family because of these past experiences and I am so grateful for them.”

Members of the Chamber Choir are raising funds to cover their travel costs for the event. For more information, contact Cummins at (318) 357-5755 or at cumminsn@nsula.edu.

The NSU Chamber Choir