Every July, singers, dancers and musicians from all around the world flock to the small Welsh town of Llangollen for the annual International Musical Eisteddfod, a six-day festival that celebrates musical competition, performance and international peace and friendship. The festival attracts around 4,000 performers competing in more than 20 competitions each summer. The festivities culminate in the Choir of the World event, where the champions of the five categories–mixed choir, youth choir, female choir, male voice choir, and open category–compete. The winning choir receives the prestigious title of being the best overall choir of the festival, a cash prize of 3,000 pounds and the coveted Pavarotti Trophy—named after Italian operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
Few have the opportunity to experience this honor, but for three Chapman University alumni, each have conducted their own choirs to this very victory.
Paul Smith ‘81 won with the Northridge Singers of California State University, Northridge in 2003; Justin Miller ‘09 with the Westminster Chorus in 2009; and most recently, Jonathan Talberg ‘91 with California State University, Long Beach’s Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Choir in 2016.
“Choir of the World was certainly one of the absolute highlights of my musical career,” said Talberg. “It was a really special experience.”
To have three winning conductors all from the same alma mater is a rarity. Chapman is the only university to have this many representatives in Choir of the World winners, says William Hall, Ph.D., professor of music and mentor to all three conductors.
Miller lists Hall’s mentorship along with Chapman being one of the few higher education institutions to offer an undergraduate degree in conducting as factors to the University’s extraordinary track record in this competition.
“Having three Chapman alumni win Choir of the World really goes to not only the incredible quality of instruction and mentorship, but also to the opportunities to conduct, which most people do not get until they are a doctoral or graduate student,” he said.
The International Musical Eisteddfod was first held in 1947 as a way to promote lasting peace to a world that was still healing from World War II. Annual festivities includes: an opening gala concert, the traditional Eisteddfod parade, a colorful procession where competitors are dressed in their national costumes; a variety of food and craft stands; and impromptu singing and dancing in every corner. The festival celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, from July 3 to 9.
Display photo at top/The Bob Cole Chamber Choir from California State University, Long Beach and their conductor, Dr. Jonathan Talberg ’91 celebrate after winning the Choir of the World in summer 2016. (Photo/Gene Peterson ’99 (M.A. ’06)).