The 11th World Choir Games in Flanders has set a high bar for the next games in South Korea after 22,000 virtual and physical visitors witnessed over 300 choirs competing online and in person.
Fulfilling the promise to be the ‘most inclusive games ever’, the people of Ghent and Antwerp were able to witness choirs from around the world playing on their streets, in their schools and in venues around the cities. Choirs who were unable to attend in person performed online to global audiences.
17,000 spectators were estimated to have witnessed performance in person at the ceremonies, competitions and celebration concerts between 30 October and 7 November. A further 7000 came to see the free, non-competitive Friendship Concerts in public spaces.
The Coronavirus pandemic, which had delayed the games by a year, forced the organisers ‘to completely reimagine the games’. They developed a hybrid digital/physical format built around new technology called Music Box, which allows choirs to sing together remotely without delays and with optimal sound quality. The atmosphere of a typical Olympic Games was created on a global scale with a Virtual Village concept and Virtual Competitions, allowing much larger and more diverse participation.
‘Because of COVID, this event was the most unusual World Choir Games the Choral Olympic Movement has ever experienced’, said Günter Titsch, the President of INTERKULTUR, which runs the Games. ‘The Virtual Village and Virtual Competitions were an excellent solution to make participation possible for those who could not travel to watch and enjoy the Games live here in Flanders.
‘I am delighted that so many international choirs seized the opportunity to participate virtually. I am especially proud of all the choirs who have enchanted us with their beautiful music during the many fantastic concerts over the past week.’
The stand-out choir of the competitions was local ensemble Amaranthe, which won two of the categories. Led by Johannes Dewilde, Amaranthe won the Musica Contemporanea, and became World Champion in the category Vocal ensembles and chamber choirs of equal voices, achieving the highest score of all participating choirs.
Games Director Koenraad De Meulder said, ‘What seemed impossible, we made possible during the 11th edition of the World Choir Games. Being able to sing again, stand on a stage and enjoy together – it was a gift from heaven. We will continue the momentum of the 11th edition and give even more people the chance to sing together.’
Sophie Detremmerie, COO of the Flanders games, was equally effusive. ‘An unexpected success! What an atmosphere, what emotion! Emotion in the singers during the shows and their Competitions, but also in the whole team who did an incredible job to make such a big international singing event possible in the current context. Warmth, connection and smiling faces, that’s what I take away from the World Choir Games 2021 Flanders!’
The next World Choir Games will take place in Gangneung, South Korea, in 2022.