By Brian Newhouse
Police vans, buses, and ambulances are lined up for a whole block outside Munich's main train station these days. Bavaria braces itself each week as about 10,000 new refugees arrive from Syria and elsewhere. This southern state in Germany tries to welcome them — sorting and sending in a very orderly German way, and extending a caring hand.
Bavaria also extended that hand to eight choirs this weekend from around the Continent, and one from the States. They were all here to do their best in the Let the Peoples Sing choral competition on Sunday, Oct. 11. Bavarian Radio broadcast and streamed it live, and millions tuned in across Europe.
This is one of the best parts of my job as Managing Director of Classical Programming at MPR/APM. We're members of a European organization that sponsors this bi-annual contest for amateur choirs from around the globe. The performances are always at a high level, and I get to be on the jury. Deciding who's the best among the nine final choirs is the ultimate geek-fest for any choir nerd.
While most of the choirs come from Europe, this year the fantastic Young People's Chorus of New York City represented the USA. (Full disclosure, I nominated them to compete.)
The New Yorkers sang a powerful short program by American composers, and the audience of 400 clapped long and loud afterward. Then a superb choir of young women from Denmark's second-largest city, Aarhus, came to sing — and the Aarhus Girls' Choir was awarded the first prize in the Children and Youth category. Its performance held up as seven other choirs — from Latvia, England, Bulgaria, Austria, Sweden, Germany and Romania — came and sang. The Danish girls were also given the overall top prize of the beautiful Silver Rose Bowl. There was much rejoicing in Denmark.
But this morning in the jury room, we rethought and rehashed last night's results and realized that the American choir should share that first prize with the Danish girls in the Children and Youth category, making it the first American choir in the Competition's 54-year history to win (or co-win) its category.
So I dropped a quick email to the Young People's Chorus director, Francisco Núñez, who at that moment was 35,000 feet over the Atlantic. Núñez immediately wrote back, saying that his singers — who'd left Munich, despite its warm welcome, a little crestfallen — were suddenly belting out midflight the opening line from "New York, New York." You know how it goes: "Start spreadin' the news…"