Luxembourg voices go international
By: Unni Holtedahl
Voices International is, as the name clearly indicates, an international choir based in Luxembourg, under the talented direction of Thomas Raoult. With members from more than 20 countries singing in almost as many languages, they are truly a reflection of multicultural Luxembourg.
When the choir was asked to participate in New York’s biggest international choral festival, as the only choir from the EU, they didn’t hesitate to “go international”. The Rhythms of One World was organized for the first time this year by the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation, a non-governmental organization (NGO) affiliated with the United Nations. The festival was created to celebrate the signing of the UN Charter on June 26, 1945.
The universal language
Chairman Steve Anderson was happy to take the choir from his current home country to his native one for this very special occasion, and to celebrate the choir’s 15th anniversary.
“The planning for this festival began a year ago, and activities intensified each week the closer we came to the departure date. Preparing a 50-person multinational group for a trip across the Atlantic Ocean is not a task for the weak-at-heart”, he declares.
With so many people participating in one form or another, the festival was also an expensive proposition. Although the trip was for the most part ‘self-sponsored’, the choir did receive some financial assistance, primarily from the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ferrero International S. A. and Engel & Völkers, along with other business and private contributions. Additionally, the choir’s dancing ladies were outfitted compliments of the online boutique Mademoiselle Grenade.
Anderson had high expectations for the choir’s participation in the festival:
“I hoped that it would raise our profile both at home in Luxembourg and abroad, strengthen the esprit de corps of the choir and of course that we would have a great time in NYC”, he says.
The concerts took place in such prestigious venues as the Lincoln Center and the UN General Assembly Hall. Onstage, Voices International shared rhythms with distinctive choirs from South-Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Australia, Canada, Norway and the USA, constituting a 350 voice-strong proof of the power of the universal language of music and of intercultural understanding. Together they inaugurated two massed choir pieces, one of which was written by the festival’s Emmy Award-winning Artistic Director Gary Fry.
In the same spirit, the choir’s solo performance gave an attentive New York audience a glimpse of Luxembourg’s multiculturalism, through a repertoire spanning the distance from Renaissance France - via New York in the roaring 1920’s - to Argentinean tango,and through their characteristic “shouting out” of each country they represent.
Good Morning America
The choir’s diversity, switching easily from classical to jazz to a cappella, is also one of its major strengths for director Thomas Raoult, along with the constant enthusiasm and energy of the singers and musicians.
“All this made us more than able to perform at such a high level, and we were really ready for it. I see this as a starting point”, he proudly says, already planning a mass for next Easter as a new step for his choir.
In addition to musical and cultural exchanges in one of the world’s most exciting cities, Voices International also had their 30 seconds of fame, live from Times Square, on the ABC television show “Good Morning America”, attracting close to 5 million viewers daily. The choir returned to Luxembourg inspired and with a taste for more. In fact, they have already started the initial discussions concerning next year’s festival choice.
“We more than achieved our goals. The collective sense of accomplishment was extraordinary, and after our intense preparations we felt quite comfortable and deserving to be called one of the seven fine choirs selected from around the world, Steve Anderson summarizes.
“It was every bit worth the effort, seeing 50 virtually-perpetual smiles from the moment we arrived at Findel Airport for our departure until we landed back there eight days later”, he adds, still smiling himself.