It was "the miracle of Sochi", back then at the World Choir Games 2016. Afghanistan’s Noor-e Omid choir competed in the world's largest international choir competition, the so-called Olympics of Choral Music.
During the Taliban regime, religious extremists had censored singing and music in society. It was only after 2001 that Afghanistan’s music scene slowly began to re-emerge and by 2016, the miracle happened: Afghanistan had its first ever polyphonic choir, and it was the country’s first choir to take part in the World Choir Games.
The story left a lasting impression on everyone involved, including the then Artistic Director of the World Choir Games, Prof. Dr. Ralf Eisenbeiß. “In their country, people have not known music for generations, but now these young people somehow heard about the ‘Choir Olympics’, learned sheet music, rehearsed a programme, and fulfilled a lifelong dream by participating in the Games.”
Yet this story is just one of the many "miracles" that happen year after year at INTERKULTUR’s international choral events like the World or European Choir Games. Wherever people of different faiths and cultures come together, a great deal of understanding and tolerance is needed. At INTERKULTUR events, this spirit of acceptance arises naturally – after all, singing together calls for harmony.
And so choirs from countries that are opponents on a political level, such as Iran and Israel, meet in the choir competitions and festivals regularly and peacefully. And different religions connect in a very direct way, as happened at the World Choir Games 2010 in Shaoxing, China, when a German gospel choir visited a Buddhist temple and sang a Christian gospel – to the great joy of everybody on site.
At the European Choir Games 2013 in Graz, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian singers appeared together on one stage as one large festival choir and performed Giuseppe Verdi's Messa da Requiem together.
Such large concerts with hundreds of singers from different countries, cultures and religions have long tradition at the World Choir Games. No one sums up the immense impact better than a singer from Australia who, after taking part in the large festival choir concert of the World Choir Games 2016, said: “Well, this was fantastic, I've never been to such a happening before. It shows what you can do, if you invest in culture and if you invest in youth. Much better than buying weapons and guns: invest in culture and music!”
The debate about singing in public in Afghanistan continues today, with a social media campaign recently overturning a ban on teenage girls singing in public.
On the world stage, singers can discover the great diversity and enthusiasm with which people express their different cultures and religions through song. Find out how you can turn your city into such a special stage that brings people from all cultures and religions together here: https://worldofchoirs.com/wcg/
This article was written by Henriette Brockmann of INTERKULTUR.