It comes as no surprise that Taiwan is once again holding its annual festival of choral music, the ninth in the series. Not only has the country the money to host such a large-scale event, it also excels in its own top-ranking, home-grown choirs.
The Taipei Philharmonic Chorus, for instance, prominent in next week’s schedules and in some sense the festival’s host organization, amazes most listeners encountering it for the first time. Its never-to-be-forgotten rendition last year of Bach’s B Minor Mass under Helmuth Rilling [reviewed in Taipei Times March 31, 2008] and vigorous participation in Wagner’s opera Gotterdammerung in 2006, when the chorus’ members marched singing down the aisles bearing flashlights, announcing a new strength and direction to the music at its most dense and intractable point, should mark it out as an international presence. And the Taipei Male Choir, though not appearing in next week’s schedule, was ranked number one
in the world by the prestigious
The Taipei Philharmonic Chorus open proceedings on Sunday with a large-scale concert in combination with the Taipei Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the Anteneo Chamber Singers from the Philippines, originally formed out of a college glee club. The other guest lineups take their bow through the week, and then just about everyone joins together for a massive closing concert on Aug. 2.
In addition, workshops and master classes in conducting and choral singing are scheduled to be held daily throughout the festival. The choral workshop participants will later constitute the Festival Choir in the final concert.
Variety marks the visiting groups. This is no festival consisting only of choruses from Handel’s oratorios or Bach’s cantatas. Instead, there’s a cappella, an all-female lineup from Finland, and a five-person team, also from Finland, that combines jazz, pop, rock and (according to their advance publicity) “even classical.”
WHAT: The 9th Taipei International Choral Festival
WHEN: From Sunday to Aug. 2
WHERE: All performances are at the National Concert Hall, Taipei City
ADMISSION: Tickets are available from www.artsticket.com.tw or by calling (02) 3393-9888
Ateneo Chamber Singers from the Philippines
Taipei Philharmonic Chorus
Ateneo Chamber Singers
Philomela from Finland
Club for Five from Finland
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, UK
The University of North Texas A Cappella Choir, US
The University of North Texas A Cappella Choir
Club for Five Festival Choir
Taipei Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
One of the most celebrated choruses due in Taipei next week is the UK’s Choir of King’s College, Cambridge under Stephen Cleobury. One hopes they won’t mind too much the somewhat disparaging review of their DVD of Bach’s St Matthew Passion that appeared in the Taipei Times last year. The point about this choir is that it represents a particular Anglican tradition that stands in marked contrast to the more operatic styles often heard on the European continent. At worst it sounds merely quaint, at best it’s ethereal. But, love it or loathe it, the King’s College forces quite simply perform it better than anyone else on earth.
The University of North Texas has an astonishing record in music education, and its A Cappella Choir is its premier choral unit. We can expect the unexpected from these voices — in the past they’ve even, despite their name, performed in Mozart’s Requiem, so just about anything is possible.
It’s hard to say which concerts are the ones to watch out for because they all hold out great promise. The sheer variety means that the greatest pleasure would ideally come from experiencing all of them, one after another.
For more information, visit www.ticf.tw/index_en.html or call (02) 2773-3691.