Chamber Choir Prepares to Perform at the China International Choral Festival

By Anna Kristine Oldroyd, College of Fine Arts

The University of Utah Chamber Choir is known for its impeccable intonation and unique ringing tone quality. Under the direction of Barlow Bradford, the Chamber Choir has travelled nationally and internationally participating in festivals and competitions, including the European Choral Gran Prix Choral Competition in 2015, where they came in first place. This year the choir has accepted an invitation to be one of four headlining choirs to be featured in the China International Choral Festival in Beijing. This is the largest choral festival by far in China, and of the four choirs invited, they are the only one from the United States. The choir will be featured in many solo concerts, including performing as part of the festival opening ceremonies that will be televised nationally on CCTV.

The two-week tour will begin with a full week of concerts in Taiwan, where the choir will perform in some of the best halls in the country. They will then travel to Beijing for festival concerts and a masterclass. In that masterclass, the choir will act as a demonstration choir that Bradford will utilize to teach principles of effective sound production and choral tone. There will be two Chinese student conductors that will get a chance to conduct the choir with Bradford assisting them in their gestures and technique.

The Chamber Choir is tasked with putting together a full 90-minute program. Bradford has chosen an eclectic range of music in periods, genre and difficulty. They will begin with the choral favorite “Os Justi Meditabitur” by Bruckner, which Bradford says “gives a nod to both renaissance and traditional choral literature.” Out of respect for the Chinese culture, this is one of very few sacred pieces included in the program. They will then perform a set of three songs by Elgar, then three songs by contemporary composer Paul Mealor, and ending the first half with new compositions by Christopher Bradford, who is a percussion major at the U. The second half of the concert will begin with an 18-minute challenging work by Joby Talbot that is written in 16 part a cappella style, where the singers sing a total of 10 languages. Following that work, the choir will sing two songs on the subject of the Moon, the second of which is a Chinese pop tune arranged by Bradford. The following work, “Mongolian Boots,” imitates the sound of galloping horses and uses a custom-made Mongolian instrument called a Horse Cello. The neck of the instrument is in the shape of a horse head and its unique microtonal sound imitates the neigh of a horse. The choir will end with two English pieces “Danny Boy” and “Fascinatin’ Rhythm.”

The choir plans to do some sightseeing, but will spend the majority of their time singing and exchanging with their gracious hosts. Bradford believes that some of the best touring experiences his students can receive are ones that involve educational outreach and exchanges with other singers.

“Last year on our tour to Costa Rica, we collaborated with two universities and it was a fantastic experience,” he said.

The Chamber Choir has won many international competitions, but Bradford says it’s more important to him that his students have experiences that broaden their worldview than to receive another trophy.

“It’s always fun to win. It’s even more fun to just perform well and have the group learn to be real musicians.”

The Chamber Choir will embark on their trip to China on July 11 and will return on July 25, 2018.