What are the greatest choirs in the world?
The British magazine The Gramophone assembled an international jury to select the 20 greatest choirs in the world. Number 1?: the Monteverdi Choir, led by John Eliot Gardiner. Not surprisingly, more than half of the choirs on the list are British. Quite surprisingly, none of the choirs are American! The ranking includes a companion essay by American choral composer Eric Whitacre who describes "why British choirs are best."
Meanwhile, Minnesota choirs take a hit in a recent blog post by San Francisco music critic Chloe Veltman. She watched "Never Stop Singing," the documentary about Minnesota's choral tradition, and was not impressed:
"If you sing in a chorus in Minnesota, you will no doubt find the documentary deeply fascinating. But...'Never Stop Singing' couldn't be more dull for anyone who isn't part of the MN scene. The film devotes way too much time to talking about what makes MN such a happy place for choral singing and doesn't make any attempt to engage with the subject in an analytical way. It's largely a case of repetitive back-slapping and self-congratulation."
Nobody has commented on this review, so here's your chance.
Having seen the documentary, I agree with her about the movies, and Grammaphone's assessment about choirs. MN Choirs aren't as good as a lot of people here are deluded to think they are. The vast majority of Americans don't sing well and the training in the public schools and church choirs is abysmal at best. So many school directors don't know how to deal with male voices and the change they go through. That is the biggest reason why choirs here aren't on the list. The second is that so much time is spent spoon feeding the groups the music instead of expecting them to be able to sight read and perform on short notice difficult literature, until most of our choral groups can do this we don't deserve to be ranked among the best.
Here's one American rebuttal to Eric Whitacre's essay about the claimed superiority of British choirs. Choice quote: "Mr. Whitacre’s article takes a precarious position on the primacy of British choirs, especially when one considers that his own rise to fame and fortune was (and to a great extent still is) bankrolled by the American choral ensembles who commissioned, premiered, published and bought his octavos."