Winning Choir at Awards Ceremony World Choir Games 2018 © Nolte Photography

8 emotional moments in the history of the World Choir Games

About our most cherished memories connected to the largest choir competition in the world

World Choir Games 2023

When the World Choir Games were conceived for the first time in Linz, Austria, the idea had been inspired by the Olympic Games and their ideals, and the aim was in fact to peacefully unify people and nations through singing in fair and friendly competitions.

So the World Choir Games were born and became are an international choir festival taking place every two years on different continents.

Since their first edition in 2000, they have always been faithful to INTERKULTUR’s anthem “Singing Together Brings Nations Together”. Over the past 22 years, each edition has gathered hundreds of choirs from all over the world, fostered new connections and friendships, stimulated learning through individual coaching sessions and evaluation performances with renowned conductors and choral experts, and supported the prosperity of the choral world.

Over these 11 editions, history in the choral world has continuously been made and it would hardly ever possible to pin point the most memorable moments of this grandiose competition. However, we have decided to ask our colleagues and friends their most cherished memories connected to the World Choir Games.

Each one of them clarified that handpicking one single memory over the span of almost two decades was a arduous task, but here are 10 of the most emotional moments in the history of the World Choir Games they remember more vividly and hold dear in their hearts:

1. Witnessing the Pride of Choirs From the First Parade to the Final Award Ceremony
Günter Titsch, President INTERKULTUR, World Choir Games & World Choir Council

The parade of choirs is a traditional highlight of the World Choir Games. It is always a great pleasure for me to watch it and see the pride of participating choirs to march behind their national flags. The people from the various nations - some of them dressed in national costumes, in school uniforms or club colors, with well-rehearsed choreographies and instrumental accompaniment - spread an infective enthusiasm and great joy. I get excited about it every time.

One of the most touching moments for me at every World Choir Games is the Awards Ceremony when choirs learn their results and the Champions of the World Choir Games are crowned. I enjoy awarding the trophies to the choir conductors and to witness their joy and pride about their successes very close – the reward for their hard work over the last months and years. It is not for nothing that choirs which achieve excellent results on stage are often celebrated in their home countries like the Olympic Champions in the field of sports. For me, it’s always a big honor.

2. Being Inspired by Choirs Defying Limits
Wang Qin, INTERKULTUR First Vice President

At every World Choir Games, I really enjoy the Opening Ceremonies, when the hosting country is welcoming all participants from all over the world. The entry of the flags of all participating nations, the raising of the World Choir Games flag, when the hymn of the World Choir Games is being played, are always moving me to tears, because then our mission becomes visible: The World Choir Games is open to everyone and brings people from all over the world together on one stage.

But when you ask me for special moments at the World Choir Games, I will never forget, then some very special choirs are coming to my mind that really proofed how the World Choir Games are open to really everybody and provide a stage for everyone: I met the Tianjin Dolphin Hearing Disabled Children’s Choir from Northern China, which is the only choir in the world composed of hearing-impaired children. Also, I remember a heart-felt performance of the Changsha Dream of Wings Blind Children’s Choir, also from China. All young singers are the blind students from Changsha Special Education School and participating in the World Choir Games was a huge honor for them.

And then there was Paros Chamber Choir from Armenia, the only choir in the world mostly comprised of wheelchair users and other singers with disabilities. Getting to the World Choir Games was a huge challenge for them and seeing them performing on stage in a fantastic performance is an experience I will never forget.  These pictures in my mind will always show me that we are really able to achieve our mission of bringing people together on the stages of the world and unite them in peace, joy, and harmony.

3. Seeing the WCG Motto “Participation is the Highest Honor” Coming to Life
Prof. Dr. Ralf Eisenbeiß, Honorary Artistic President INTERKULTUR

In Sochi 2016, we were able to welcome a choir from Afghanistan that was based in an area where all music and music-making was forbidden. There, for so-called religious reasons, no one came into contact with music for generations. Nevertheless, these young people had heard about the Choir Olympics and its idea. By whatever means, they secretly learned notes, rehearsed a program and, with the adventurous participation in the "Games", fulfilled a lifelong dream, namely to be part of our big singing choir family. Our Choir Olympic motto is "Participation is the highest honor" and this example illustrates the power that music can exert against all odds. This makes happy everyone, the people who get to experience something like this and especially us as the organizers. Unfortunately, these are only moments, because if you know history, you know that especially in Afghanistan nothing has changed for the better. But that there is this spark, the will to experience humanism, and that one could contribute to it oneself, makes me happy. This is just one of many impressive episodes that I can relate. It shows the whole greatness of our Choir Olympic Movement.

4. Working Alongside Valuable Colleagues in Making a Difference
Iris Huting Byrd, Director of Project Management, INTERKULTUR China

My best moment of the World Choir Games was when I worked with Prof. Dr. Ralf Eisenbeiß in Shaoxing in 2010. Watching and assisting him in every small meeting with NOC, and getting ready for the World Choir Games, made me feel like a sponge receiving so much positive energy and knowledge. And, of course, I also took great pride in the knowledge that we were helping more than 20,000 people share their cultures at a wonderful event.

5. Being in the Midst of An Endless Euphoria
Sebastian Ferstl, Senior Manager IT/Head of Marketing

I cannot choose a single moment in the history of the Games. Every single event in my last 16 years with INTERKULTUR has been beyond special for me. Therefore, I would answer: my most impressive experience of an INTERKULTUR event is the moment when, during the Award Ceremony, the moderator announces the winner of a category and the choir runs to the stage screaming with euphoria, crying out of joy, and singing their national anthem.

6. A Grand Arrival Against All Odds
Henriette Brockmann, Marketing Communications Manager

Marlik Choir from Iran had applied to the 11th edition of the World Choir Games, but the process of getting visa had not been easy. Actually, it had been so tortuous that the choir’s hope to join had become really low. Until, only two days before the date of their competition, they finally discovered they had received permission to travel to Flanders, Belgium - at a time when the event was already in full swing!

They therefore joined the competition as the only non-European choir in the event live on site. They had their competition performance only the after their arrival and it felt like everybody on site wanted to see and support them on stage – team members, WCG staff, media teams, journalists, etc. Watching their tears, joy and relief after the performance reminded all of us what a great thing participating in this event is for each and every one involved.

7. Bringing Choirs Together and Seeing Your Hard Work Turning Into Reality
Jelena Dannhauer, Project Director World Choir Games

It’s not easy to choose, but there is one moment I have not forgotten...

2012 was the first WCG I organized as a Project Manager. So, it was obviously quite stressing for me and I was very nervous. After having landed in Cincinnati, set up the offices, and prepared everything, the first choir finally arrived to register.

They entered the building and started to sing. There I realised: This is real, the Choir Games are about to start, I have made it (at least until here), and choirs are arriving!

You sit for months in your office in Germany, organizing everything from your own desk, and it all seems so abstract, sometimes even unreal… until the event happens: Then you realise that you are actually moving choirs around the world and bringing them to an event to sing together!

It is a wonderful feeling and it is very emotional to see your hard work turning into reality. I still remember this moment in Cincinnati as if it were yesterday.

8. Seeing Choirs Showing Up for Each Other
Dagmar Titsch, Film & Media Production

One moment I remember in particular is a surreal event that happened in Shaoxing at the 6th edition of the World Choir Games in 2010.

On Monday evening the peace bell chimed in Shaoxing and the Closing Ceremony came to an end. Both the Awards Ceremony and this edition of World Choir Games were now over.

The audience was starting to get up from their seats, we were saying goodbye to our guests… Everything seemed normal and, clearly, for a moment we had forgotten that at the World Choir Games everything is always possible: suddenly, from behind the stage, we hear someone screaming: “Wait! One of the Champions has not been on stage to get their trophy!” We ran backstage and there was an upset choir and a disappointed choir conductor from Hong Kong who had missed their moment at the Awards Ceremony in the category “Mixed youth choirs”.  The children were crying. I was trembling. Others stood there, stunned. How could this happen? Never before a Champion of the World Choir Games had missed the closing performance! But apparently they had not heard their name during the awards and the team backstage had thought they had decided not to participate in the Closing Event.

It was at this moment that the true spirit of the World Choir Games, once again, took over: while some started trying to calm things down, others immediately began organizing the “World Choir Games after the World Choir Games”: On a stage that was already being dismantled, the voices of the Voices of Unity choir form the US suddenly ran across the backstage area and started singing. It didn’t take long to create the ambience of a small concert hall. Everyone joined in to help, arranging chairs, pulling back up the heavy bell, moving the piano back on stage.

Finally, the singers of the SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School choir from Hongkong went back on stage, accompanied by a thunderous applause of all the present people. When the choir started to sing its piece, all became quiet. A wave of strange feelings began wafting over the stage and touched everybody. We, compassionately, let our tears run. What else can you do in such a moment, when no words of consolation exist?

Finally, the American choristers of “Voices of Unity” hugged the Chinese singers with incredible euphoria and pride. The children of the SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School choir and their conductor were now smiling again.

What is YOUR World Choir Games story? 

The World Choir Games are truly magical and prove indeed that music is the common language of the world that serves as a link between cultures and nations and with its force can bring people together in whatever circumstance.

These were the best memories our colleagues and friends hold most dear in their hearts. Now, we want to hear from you!

Have you ever took part in the World Choir Games? What is the best memory you still carry with you? Go on our Facebook or Instagram page and comment under the post “8 Emotional Moments in the History of the World Choir Games” to let us know!

We will feature your answer (and your choir) on our pages!

And while you’re at it, you might want to check the next edition of the World Choir Games, as it might be time to make some new memories!

More about the World Choir Games