The Delaware Choral Scholars’ next pursuit…
New Zealand 2024
The World Choir Games and more! Read about it here.
The World Choir Games is an International Competition sponsored by the German organization, Interkultur. The Games run every other year, each time on a different continent to create an experience something like the Olympics for Choir.
In the summer of 2024, the festival will be held in Auckland, New Zealand.
Having just taken a big prize in Wales at the Llangollen Eisteddfod Competition, we’re eager to take it to the next step and join about 200 other choirs from all over the world in this landmark event.
Given the expense of the trip, and the logistics of moving a choir to the other side of the world, the target size of the choir will be 36 singers, selected by audition. Additionally, regardless of the size of the choir, we are committed to reserving up to one-third of those positions for current undergraduate students from the University of Delaware. Beyond that, anyone is welcome and invited to apply, including alumni, former DCS participants, or other good humans seeking a choral nirvana experience of the highest caliber of music making.
In addition to three rehearsal weekends over the course of the coming year, (fall, winter, and spring) there will also be a four-day intensive rehearsal period in Napa, California where we’ll do homestays with the friends and former students from my time of teaching at Vintage High School. That will likely culminate in farewell concerts at the church we attended back in the 90s, as well as an additional concert at a friend’s beautiful church in San Francisco.
But most importantly, several days on the West Coast will help close the time zone gap on the way to New Zealand, which is effectively only five hours different than that of California.
WHAT WILL THIS PROJECT COST?
Expenses and Inclusions
While airfares have not been published yet for next summer, our best estimate is a total cost of $3599 pp including RT airfare to – and home-stays in – California, RT airfare to New Zealand, 4* accommodations in New Zealand during the ten days of the competition, and all associated festival fees.
As I have said in the past, we will not leave a qualified singer behind due to the inability to pay for the trip. But instead of offering a base award for every singer this time around, there will be an opportunity on the application to provide information about your current financial status and what it will take to make this possible for you. I suspect most everyone will receive some level of financial assistance that will bring down the total package price, but the more people can afford to pay, the more singers we’ll be able to fund. (e.g. If the top 24 singers have tremendous financial need, we end up taking a choir of 24 instead of a choir of 36. It’s simple math.) See additional info about cost and booking your own flights in the FAQ section belowl
ITINERARY (subject to change)
July 1: Alternate arrival date for those traveling to San Francisco on their own. Early arrivals gather and stay overnight at youth hostel near Union Square.
July 2: Group departs EWR for San Francisco, with coach transfer to Napa, California (picking up those who previously arrived in San Francisco en route
July 3- 5: Intensive rehearsals in Napa
July 5: Evening Concert at Calvary Presbyterian Church, San Francisco, California
July 6: Day time rehearsal. Evening Concert at Napa First United Methodist Church, Napa, California
July 7: Sing in church service at Napa First United Methodist Church
July 7: Evening departure from SFO for New Zealand
July 8: Cross international date-line. This day will simply disappear.
July 9: Arrive Auckland, New Zealand. Touch up rehearsals and check into hotel
July 10-14: COMPETITION SESSION ONE
July 15: Down day with possible concert in neighboring village
July 15-20: COMPETITION SESSION TWO opening with the PARADE OF NATIONS. (Ask somebody who went to Wales what THAT feels like. A very compelling reason to do both sessions.)
July 21: Closing Concert and Banquet somewhere near Auckland
July 22: Fly home – or wherever else you wish to go in the South Pacific region
If you have external sources that can help with your funding, that will most certainly allow us to take a larger group. This in turn will assure a greater chance of success in competition as we want each section to be deep enough in case we lose a singer to illness, etc.
ABOUT THE AUDITION PROCESS
As it is already apparent that there will be more people interested in this project than I can possibly take to New Zealand, the following audition process has been put into place:
- First step will be a lengthy application where you need to provide passport information (or your plans to obtain one), your availability for rehearsal weekends, your availability for one or both competition sessions, and a financial need statement that provides us some sense of what kind of funding we will need to provide.
- As part of the application, you will be asked to submit an mp3 file of you singing your voice part (high quality recording please) on Samuel Barber’s Mary Hynes. PLEASE DO NOT STATE YOUR NAME ON THE AUDIO RECORDING. We’d like those to be heard with complete anonymity.
- Additionally, you will be asked to upload a video link (unlisted YouTube) version of the same audition. The audio files will be juried by three of my colleagues who have a reputation as leaders in the choral profession in the United States. (Jo-Michael Scheibe retired from USC, Richard Bjella retired from Texas Tech, and Carolann Buff currently on faculty at Indiana University. These are big dogs!) They will rank each singer and send those rankings forward to the project management team.
- At this point, we’ll look at the total composition of the group, issues related to balance, vocal timbre, and how each individual will fit into the ensemble to create a singing community of the most positive manner. (I’ll reiterate my mantra from the past. “It’s fun to win,” but I’d never set winning a contest as a priority over fostering a choral community that is kind, compassionate, and mutually supportive.) Total emotional buy-in is the trademark of the UD choral tradition.
TIMELINE FOR THE AUDITION PROCESS
Monday, Jul 24: Applications and Audition submissions go live. (Check www.delawarechoralscholars.org)
Sunday, August 6 (11:59 pm): Applications and Auditions DUE!!! (Audition piece is Barber’s “Mary Hynes” in case you want to get a running start!)
(August 7-18: Auditions reviewed by external reviewers.)
Friday, August 25: Audition results released!
Friday, September 8: Acceptance and Deposit ($500) due to confirm your place.
Monday, September 11: Offers made to alternate candidates on Waitlist
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Below are many of the FAQ and details for the trip. Click individual tabs to reveal the answer!s
HOW DID YOU DETERMINE AIRFARES AND WHAT IF YOUR QUOTE IS NOT ACCURATE?
Airfares are published 331 days before a flight actually departs. Since we are looking at a round trip booking with a return on July 22, 2024, we won’t be able to negotiate with the airlines until at least the 25th of August. For calculating this itinerary, I’ve used an average of fares for travel in the same time period this summer assuming we might enjoy some level of advantage by booking really early.
That said, group bookings are rarely a bargain, and the possibility exists that flights will roll out much higher than anticipated. Should that scenario take place, here are the next steps…
First, I’ll take to the fundraising trail to see if I can offset the difference without raising the cost of the trip. If that’s not successful, we’ll go with a small choir, but again, not less than 24. Finally, if it turns out to be cost-prohibitive in the last place, I’ll pull the plug for the entire project by the end of August. I don’t think that will happen, but regardless, you will know that before the initial deposit is due.
WHAT IF I HATE HOME-STAYS? CAN I STAY IN A HOTEL IN NAPA INSTEAD?
First of all, the home-stays will be hosted by our (Paul & Carol’s) friends, and former students who were in my choir when I taught high school in Napa in the 1990s. I think you’d be crazy to miss out on that.
But… if you’d rather stay in a hotel during your stay in Napa, (you can indicate that preference on the application form,) we’ll attempt to find you a room within walking distance of the rehearsal venue downtown. An initial search suggests that will run about $400 a night for a double occupancy room. We’ll be there for five nights.
CAN I BOOK CHEAPER ACCOMMODATIONS IN NEW ZEALAND, LIKE AN AirBNB?
This one is a hard “NO.” As mentioned previously, Interkultur is primarily and tourism company that runs choir festivals. They choose the hotels in proximity to the competition and performance venues and we are obligated to use the properties they provide. This has already been built into the total package cost.
CAN I BOOK MY OWN FLIGHTS IN AN EFFORT TO REDUCE THE COST OF THE TRIP? AND WHAT IF I WANT TO EXTEND MY ITINERARY?
Regarding booking your own flights, that’s a hard “sort of!”
The current budget model reflects two separate bookings for those traveling with the group: one round-trip ticket from Newark, NJ to SFO, and a second round-trip booking from SFO to New ZEALAND. THERE ARE ONLY TWO NONSTOP FLIGHTS MOST DAYS OPERATING BETWEEN SAN FRANCISCO AND NEW ZEALAND – each of which depart and arrive within an hour of each other. YOU MUST TRAVEL ON ONE OF THOSE FLIGHTS, WHETHER WE BOOK IT FOR YOU OR YOU BOOK IT YOURSELF. We’ll provide specific information about those flights as soon as we have it ourselves, again 331 days out.
Should you wish to fly to California early and meet us there you will need to plan to leave at least a day early to arrive in San Francisco by July 1. To that end, I’m holding a block of rooms in a youth hostel near Union Square for those who choose this option. That would cost you an additional $75 – $150 to spend the night in the youth hostel depending on the accommodations you choose. When the main group lands at SFO, the bus will make a stop to pick you up at Union Square en route to Napa.
WHAT IF I WANT TO GO TO NAPA EARLY, OR STAY NEW ZEALAND LONGER?
I suspect many will want to do this and book their own flights, which of course, will come off the cost of the package price. But we will want everyone to make the transfer from SFO to New Zealand at the same time. Currently, there are only two carriers that fly that route nonstop. United and Air New Zealand. And they depart/arrive within an hour of each other. We are likely to insist that if you don’t go with the group booking, you make sure YOUR booking includes one of those two flights.
HOW MUCH TIME WILL THERE BE FOR SIGHTSEEING DURING THE FESTIVAL?
My guess is not much, though there are a couple down days. We are not planning to organize excursions. That will be on you. I’m told that the South Island is absolutely stunning. The flight to Christ Church is about 90 minutes. If there were enough people that wanted to do that for a week after the festival, we’d make a separate group booking with a later return. Again – there will be a place to indicate your interest in that on the application form.
ARE THERE OTHER EXPENSES?
I suspect the hotels will include breakfast. For the most part, other meals will be on you. (Some will likely strike gold with really nice homestay people. Ah, the inequities of life!)
Rehearsals in Napa will likely be held at the Methodist Church downtown where there are myriad dining options to fit just about any budget. But you will need to budget accordingly to cover lunch and dinner while in Napa and in New Zealand.
You will need a valid passport that has at least six months of validity after our departure date, and an NZeTA endorsement (sort of like a visa) that will cost about $25.
Performance attire will be the same as that for this most recent project in Wales. (Which will likely be adopted by the UD CHORALE in the coming year as well.) If you are not currently in possession of the current outfit, you should be able to get that done for less than $100. Details regarding specific attire and where to procure that will be provided upon acceptance to the program.
CAN I BRING A SPOUSE OR SIGNIFICANT OTHER?
I’m going to respond with a very measured “YES” on this one.
There will be capacity issues when it comes to home-stays in Napa and again with ground transportation in New Zealand. There will also be an option to upgrade to a hotel in Napa, which would solve that problem but will result in additional costs.
There are certainly workarounds to ground transportation in New Zealand as I don’t believe we’ll be doing a lot of ground travel once we arrive. We’ll have more details about that before the audition process is complete.
Finally, you should know there is no scholarship funding for significant others.
WHAT IF I’M CHOSEN FOR THE CHOIR BUT MY BEST FRIEND – SIGNIFICANT OTHER – MOTHER-IN-LAW IS NOT?
This is a real issue!
You can read about the audition process below, but since it’s already evident that there will be exponentially more applicants than we are able to accept, there will be some difficult decisions to be made. This is why I’m engaging an external jury of internationally renowned colleagues to assist with auditions. [See below]
Once you learn of the audition results, you will have until Friday, September 8th to confirm your place in the choir by submitting a non-refundable deposit of $500. Once you make the deposit, you’re committed. If you back out for any reason, you lose the deposit.
Similarly, if you are accepted and do not make the deposit by the due date (Friday, September 8), your position will be forfeited and we’ll move on to the next singer on the waitlist. Those with extenuating circumstances making it impossible to make the deposit in a timely manner should reach out directly to Dr. Head ASAP.
WHEN ARE THE PRE-DEPARTURE REHEARSALS?
There will be a rehearsal weekend in the fall (either Sept 22-24 or Oct 13-15), a rehearsal weekend in the winter, (either Feb 9-11 or March 15-17), and a rehearsal weekend in the spring (May 17-19 or May 31- June 2). Ideally, all those accepted will attend every rehearsal. Your availability expressed on the application is a binding contract and will be used as criteria for choosing finalists for participation in the choir.
Once all applications are submitted, we’ll set firm calendar rehearsal dates based on the availability of the entire group. If you are local, it is expected that you will find a substitute for your church job or other local engagements since you will have clearly stated rehearsal times and dates by the end of August.
I also plan to bring in several clinicians over the process to rehearse with us to help us refine our game during the preparation process.
WHY ARE WE STOPPING OVER IN NAPA FOR FOUR DAYS?
Our final set of rehearsals will be in Napa, California where friends and former high school students have graciously volunteered to host us in their homes while we rehearse all day and present a couple of test-run concerts. [Insert PDH’s weepy eyes here!] My high school teacher, Dan Earl will likely be in attendance as well. I taught in Napa from 1988-1995, so most of those “kids” are the age of the parents of my college students now. I anticipate this will not only be a very productive time and an incredibly poignant experience as well.
California is also a nineteen-hour time difference from New Zealand. OR… you look at it the other way, a five-hour time difference for your body to adjust to – like flying to London. You just lose a day of your life while you’re on the airplane. (BUT, you get it back coming home!! :-))
WHAT WILL THE REPERTOIRE BE LIKE?
If we enter four different categories, each has very specific guidelines for repertoire selections. (You can read about this on the Interkultur website.) At this writing, I plan to enter the divisions for MIXED CHOIR, SACRED MUSIC, SPIRITUALS, AND CONTEMPORARY CHORAL. The latter requires the world premiere of a new work commissioned specifically for this context. I’ve already contracted John Frederick Hudson to compose this piece.
My rep list is a work in progress, but here are things on my current sketch pad:
John Hudson Commission
Maura Saule – Peteris Vasks
White Stones – Thomas Lavoy
Tuttarana – Reena Esmail
O Jesu mea vita (transcription of Si Ch’io Morire) Claudio Monteverdi/Coppini, 1609
Christus Factus es – Anton Bruckner
How Faire the Heaven – William Harris
Ita miss est – Carl Rütti
My Lord What a Mourning – William Dawson
Ezekiel – Stacy Gibbs
I’ve Been in the Storm – Jeffrey Ames
Some kick-ass piece that Arreon (assoc conductor) is going to find for us.
Likely that Esenvalds, Runestad, and/or Lauridsen might show up in the fourth set. Work in progress.
WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO DO THIS CRAZY PROJECT?
While I’m not keen on the exclusivity of selecting 36 singers from a pool of amazing humans I’ve worked with over the past 33 years, (Yes, at least one of my high school students is applying as well!) I believe with every part of my being that an experience like this is transformative in a way that irreversibly alters your perceptions of humanity for the rest of your life. The travel part. The singing part. The community part. The doing something bigger than yourself part. It’s all part of the equation.
While there will be many deserving applicants who are not selected for this project, I encourage you to apply regardless, noting that tenacity counts in subsequent audition processes. There are blueprints on the table for South Africa in 2025, and who knows where after that. Simply know that I don’t take the responsibility of selecting a choir like this lightly. Seeking choral excellence is never worth crushing one’s spirit in the process. Conversely, persevering to achieve greatness is one of the most valuable of human attributes.
WHAT IF I WANT TO SEE A RECORDING OF THE INFORMATIONAL ZOOM MEETINGS?
If you could not/cannot attend any of the informational ZOOM meetings but would like to hear about the project in real time, here are links to the meeting recordings
AND FINALLY, A NOTE TO MY CURRENT STUDENTS
The acceptance list for this project will roll out within hours of the callbacks for this year’s UD CHORALE. The two processes are not connected, nor will there be any cross-pollination in the preparation process for New Zealand and the daily business of CHORALE. In fact, Chorale has a huge year this year (dates will be released in the next few days as well) with several important projects that will harken back to the caliber of the pre-pandemic days. Do not attach your success in one of these endeavors to that of the other. And likewise, I’ll be careful not to let the DCS project drift into the daily rhetoric of Chorale rehearsals.
ARE YOU AN AUDITORY LEARNER YEARNING FOR A LIVE ZOOM SESSION TO ASK A FEW MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS PROJECT?
There will be two ZOOM sessions for those who’d like to discuss the project and application process in real-time. (Please register in advance on the interest form and we’ll send you a link for each session.)
ZOOM SESSION ONE: Monday, July 24 @ 10:00 -11:00 am ET
ZOOM SESSION TWO: Saturday, July 29 @ 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGE FOR SESSION #2
ZOOM SESSION THREE: Monday, July 31 @ 6:00 – 7:00 pm ET