On Friday evening, I hiked down to U.S. Bank Arena for the World Choir Games awards ceremony. It was bustling at The Banks, since the Reds are back in town and playing the Cardinals. It was fun to see the WCG participants, many dressed in colorful team T-shirts, mingling with the crowds around Great American Ball Park in their Reds gear. Lots of folks from other nations had a chance to peer into the stadium and see American fans revving up.
But there was no lack of revving — or revelry — inside the arena for the program. This was not a musical event, but a ceremony in which choirs in eight categories were recognized for their performances and champions crowned. For 20 minutes before the event began, there was a ton of merriment going on as teams did the "wave" around the arena and cheered whenever their own choir showed up on the big video monitors.
Lots of awards are handed out at WCG, some simply for participating. Choirs can choose to compete in an open category, in which they are evaluated but not competing for medals (although they are ranked and can receive gold, silver or brionze "diplomas") or in the head-to-head competitions. By scoring within certain point ranges, singing groups are awarded bronze, silver or gold medals. The ultimate designation, "Champion," is bestowed on the choir that scores the highest point total among the gold medalists in each category. Other medalists send forward their director and one singer to receive the medal and a certificate. When the champions are named, the entire choir races jubilantly to the stage, hugging, screaming and celebrating. Once assembled there and the medal bestowed, the choir's national flag is raised and its national anthem sung, often with tear-streamed faces on the video screens.
Champions were named eight categories. Three were from the United States, including in two largely American categories included in the games for the first time, Barbershop and Show Choirs. Gospel was also broken out from Music of Religions. The most wildly celebrated champion was surely the Choraliers, from Fairfield, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati, which was named the champion Show Choir (amid choirs from other nations and several from universities). Also from Ohio, the Jeremy Winston Choir from Wilberforce University was named the champion Gospel group. The other American champion was a barbershop chorus from Pennsylvania, the Greater Harrisburg Chapter of Sweet Adelines.
The remaining five champions were: Female Chamber Choir: Latvian Voices from Riga, Latvia (where the 2014 World Choir Games will be held); Male Chamber Choir: Newman Sound (Canada); Music of Religions: Stellenberg Girls Choir (South Africa); and Young Children's Choir's: Wenzhou Children Art School Boys Choir (China). The latter category's winners of gold medals were all youth choirs from China, where it's clear such ensembles are prized and emphasized.
More champions are being announced on Saturday morning, and a selection of champions will perform in a concert at Music Hall on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. That concert, as well as the Closing Ceremony at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m., are both sold out.