BYU Singers members discuss first place win in international choral festival

633
Members of BYU Singers celebrate after winning the Fleischmann International Trophy Competition. The choral group recently traveled to Ireland for the Cork International Choral Festival. (Courtesy of Sandefur Schmidt)

On Sunday, May 5, BYU Singers participated in the 69th annual Cork International Choral Festival in Ireland and placed first in the Fleischmann International Trophy Competition.

The choir is led by professor Andrew Crane, who has been the BYU Singers director since 2015. Crane explained the choir has been preparing for this competition for the past year, with intense rehearsals.

BYU Singers is different from other choral groups on campus because it is made up of only 41 voices, and is the most advanced group with a rigorous audition process. The choir performs challenging classical music pieces, especially when rehearsing for a prestigious competition like the Cork festival.

“I really enjoy the process of preparing for it,” Crane said. “I love working on this for a long time and rehearsing and picking repertoire and seeing the students grow and progress … So doing the actual thing is just the icing on the cake.”

To fit the competition’s music requirements, the choir learned multiple contrasting, complicated pieces. Crane brought in a choreographer and a former competition adjudicator to give the choir some tips and critics to perfect its craft.

“We just did everything we could to prepare, to have our pieces as polished as they could be,” Crane said.

BYU Singers perform at St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral. The choral group recently traveled to Ireland for the Cork International Choral Festival. (Courtesy of Sandefur Schmidt)

Festivities in Ireland

Once the choir arrived in Ireland, the festivities began. The Cork festival provided BYU Singers several opportunities to perform throughout the week, apart from the main competition on Saturday.

“We were able to visit some iconic Ireland landmarks like the Cliffs of Moher and Blarney Castle, give a musical devotional for the local LDS branch in Cork and even visit a local elementary school to perform an assembly where we sang and taught songs to over 700 students,” soprano section leader Samantha Gordon said. “We also had lots of free time to explore Dublin and Cork on our own.”

Gordon is a graduate student studying choral conducting and has been a member of BYU Singers for four years. She shared her favorite part of the trip was connecting with people in Ireland.

BYU Singers perform for an elementary school in Cobh, Ireland. The choral group recently traveled to Ireland for the Cork International Choral Festival. (Courtesy of Sandefur Schmidt)

“All of the locals I have interacted with have been so kind and welcoming, and it’s been cool to see how choral music can have such a profound impact on so many people from so many walks of life,” Gordon said.

McKay Cancienne, an alto section leader, said she felt emotionally moved by their time interacting with the young students of an elementary school in Cobh, Ireland.

“It was such a beautiful experience and I felt, just for myself, that was the most impactful day of the tour … the chance to share our talents and God’s love for them in that little gym,” Cancienne said.

The choir also performed a concert in a chapel on the campus of the University of Cork.

“At that concert we were able to win over some local fans who then proceeded to attend all of our local performances during the Cork International Choir Festival,” BYU Singers tenor Matthew Paez said. “It was fun to have local groupies!”

Competition

After exploring Ireland and joining in the city-wide choral celebrations in Cork, the ensemble gathered to compete for the coveted Fleischmann International Trophy.

The competition consisted of 10 choirs from around the world — Latvia, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Norway, Germany and more — who each prepared four songs to perform for a panel of judges.

BYU Singers perform at the Cork International Choral Festival. The group took home first place in the choral competition. (Courtesy of Sandefur Schmidt)

“All this preparation was for 12 minutes of music, all this months and months of preparation,” Crane said.

Julia Gee, an alto in the choir, shared despite the high from performing, she still felt unsure how the results would pan out.

“It’s hard to know what the judges will like in such a subjective art form, and comparing such different tone qualities,” Gee said.

Ensemble members explained they all had several conversations about charity and gratitude to avoid the toxicity that can come with competition.

After calculating scores, the competition judges announced third, second and first places. When BYU was announced as the first place winner, the students celebrated while Crane took the stage to receive the trophy.

Blake Wayment, a BYU Singers baritone, shared his perspective as a third year member of the ensemble.

“Last year, we were in a similarly prestigious competition in Spain and just fell short of the first place prize. It stung! So, to bounce back and win this competition felt incredibly fulfilling and humbling,” Wayment said.

Reflecting on the win

Members of BYU Singers expressed their excitement about the win, but also the deeper meaning it represented for them.

“Performing music at such a high level requires so much grit, humility and trust, and forces you to look beyond yourself in pursuit of collective excellence,” Gordon said. “And it’s rewarding to see all of that hard work and sacrifice pay off.”

The choir’s commitment and perseverance also inspired the students in spiritual ways.

“I think each of us tried to lock in on how we could share God’s love through our music, and share our gratitude for each other and this experience and the beautiful music we were singing,” Gee said. “It all came together in a heavenly way.”

Alex Keogh, second bass and publicity specialist for the choir, echoed this thought.

BYU Singers director Andrew Crane holds the Fleischmann International Trophy. The choral group recently traveled to Ireland for the Cork International Choral Festival. (Courtesy of Sandefur Schmidt)

“To us, this wasn’t just a trip or a competition but a ministry. It’s always important to us to help others feel God’s love through the music we create,” Keogh said.

Graduating senior and member of BYU Singers Hannah Klassen explained she is grateful to leave the ensemble at a place where many more opportunities are on the horizon.

“I truly believe that some of the most good and the best image that the Church can put for itself out there comes through its performing arts groups,” Klassen said.

Crane expressed his gratitude for such a hardworking group of students.

“No matter what I ask them to do, they always rose to the challenge and they came out victorious against some really top choirs around the world,” Crane said. “It strengthened my faith and what I know about BYU students and how wonderful they are and how they can do really amazing things.”

Crane also shared the choir has plans to participate in another international choir and festival in Greece in May 2025, and preparation starts now.

“The light that we have at BYU really does make a difference all over the world, and that’s been really inspiring to see,” Crane said.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email