Festival 2017: Surprises from America

The big surprises during CantaRode International Choir Festival 2017 came from across the Atlantic Ocean. During the three-day choir festival in Kerkrade, both the Alabama University Singers and gospel guru Raymond Wise made a big impression on the audience and the organization.

In the Ascension weekend 26 – 28 May 2017, the CantaRode International Choir Festival was held for the third time in Kerkrade. This time a limited program was chosen. This means that there was no competition and only a limited number of participating choirs. They performed several concerts in Kerkrade, Wittem and Herzogenrath.

Gospel workshop
The core of this year’s CantaRode program was a gospel workshop with the American musician and reverend Raymond Wise. Twenty-five participants from the Netherlands and Belgium signed up for his workshop and they were immersed in the world of this American music style for two days. Wise turned out to be a golden grip. He compensated his small stature with a huge aura and impressive enthusiasm. He took the participants two days on a journey through the history of American music and managed to forge a tight chorus from the individual participants in no time.

The workshop took place on Saturday the 27th of May and Sunday morning the 28th of May at the music school in Kerkrade. On Sunday afternoon a closing concert was given in the Aula Minor of the Abbey of Rolduc. The choir of participants at the workshop gave a performance as if the singers had been performing together for years. Wise knew how to play with the audience. They were swinging in no time. This can still be viewed on films that have been shared on social media.

Afterwards, several participants of the workshop sent messages to the organization, in which they showed to have experienced the workshop and working with Raymond Wise as very positive. Some have even conceived the plan to keep in touch with each other and perhaps to set up their own choir. The fact that such an idea arises clearly indicates that the participants in the workshop and the concert have had an extraordinary amount of fun.

The other important part of CantaRode 2017 consisted several concerts by guest choirs. Three choirs from Belgium, Germany and the United States were invited this weekend. On Friday the 26th of May the opening concert took place in the parish church of Saint Lambert in Kerkrade with performances by children’s and youth choir Cantitare from Belgian under the direction of Jeroen Beckers, the ladies choir Cant’Ella from Germany under the direction of Bine Becker Beck and the University of Alabama Singers from the United States under the direction of Brain Kittredge.

All three choirs provided an excellent concert. Jeroen Beckers let the children and young people of Cantitare make music on an almost professional level. What also struck was the involvement of parents, volunteers and even members of the municipal council, who accompanied the choir. The members of the choir Cant’Ella are singers from all parts of Germany, who meet each other a few times a year to rehearse and give concerts. It is a top choir, which has received numerous prizes and honors. The performances during CantaRode proved again why.

The biggest surprise of the evening – and actually of the entire festival – were undoubtedly the ‘Alabama singers’. The members of this university choir are a few dozen students, most of whom follow non-musical studies such as physics, history or law. In their spare time they sing in the choir in an exceptionally professional manner, as if they were all music students. Their repertoire was very varied. They sang old Italian and German works with equal ease, like the well-known gospels of Raymond Wise, with whom they performed together during the final concert. Special is also that the students are only allowed to sing in the choir during the duration of their study. The performance at CantaRode was therefore also the farewell concert of a few students. It also means that conductor Brain Kittredge has to deal with a choir that changes every year. The audience was very impressed by high lever of their performance.

On Saturday evening May 27, the Alabama Singers and the ladies choir Cant’Ella organized a concert in the almost sold out library of the Abbey of Wittem. On Sunday May 28th both choirs were present in a parish church, to sing during to the weekly Eucharistic celebration. Cant’Ella was present in one of the parish churches in Herzogenrath the German neighbourtown of Kerkrade and ‘Alabama’ sang in the church of Terwinselen, one of the parishes in Kerkrade. In both places the audience was very impressed by the music.

Final day
CantaRode International Choir Festival 2017 closed on Sunday May 28th with a concert at Abbey of Rolduc. In addition to the aforementioned presentation of the occasional gospel choir, CantaYoung also performed here. This is an initiative that originates from CantaRode, to let children sing in Kerkrade and surroundings. Music projects were held at various primary schools, which resulted in several school choirs and the CantaYoung youth choir conducted by Kirsten Lauvenberg-Dortants. The Alabamasingers also gave their last contribution to CantaRode 2017 during the final concert. In combination with gospel music it became a dazzling afternoon and a positive conclusion of CantaRode International Choir Festival 201