ON JULY 9th the World Choir Games begins in Riga, Latvia. For ten days, some 27,000 voices in 460 amateur choirs from 73 nations will compete in categories as diverse as children’s ensembles to gospel. Since 2000 the biannual competition has been organised by Interkultur, a German group that hosts cultural events.
It also produces a ranking of the world’s best amateur choirs that have appeared at its events (an admittedly biased sample). On this basis, China dominates the top 100 league table with 14 choirs (including those from Hong Kong), followed by Indonesia, Sweden and America, with seven each. South Africa is next with six; its Stellenbosch University Choir ranks first place.
The sample bias explains the absence of notable groups like American Boychoir or Monteverdi Choir in Italy, which in 2011 was named the world’s best by Gramophone magazine. Such competitions do not just create rivalries. Choral singing, as a form of guided breathing, has been shown to promote wellbeing.
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Nothing from the Arabs at all. Just Indonesia and Turkey (which has a lively music scene, courtesy of Ataturk’s modernization drive).