It all started when Peggy Jenks, a music teacher, recruited a small group of adults to build up the choir in the school production. After the show ended, some of the adults decided that they wanted to continue singing together, and Jenks loved the idea of having an adult choir.
Among the original group was Jij Linster-Besch, Voices International’s current chairlady and only remaining founding member. Linster-Besch has seen the group evolve from 10-12 people to over 60. In fact, she’s been a part of every single major concert the group has performed in the past twenty years.
To celebrate their twentieth anniversary this year, they had the opportunity to sing on the main stage of the Philharmonie as part of the “lunch loncert” series. Both Linster-Besch and second-year member Astrid Wollny were amazed and surprised by the experience.
“It was full!” Wollny said, “People were still coming in, and this was on a sunny day in May!”
Typically, the group performs two seasons of concerts each year, one in December and one in June, as well as other special events. This year for their summer season, on 17 and 18 June, Voices International along with, Estro Armonico will perform Gabriel Fauré’s “Requiem” under the direction of Thomas Raoult, featuring soprano Christine Leick, baritone Ignacio González and flutist Simon Knopp. The concert will also include “Pavane couleur du temps” and “Concerto for flute and string orchestra.”
However, in the past they’ve sung everything from Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” to Toto’s “Africa.”
The group uses English as their main working language due to the large diversity in group. Last season, almost 40 nationalities were represented.
“What I always always love in this choir is the internationality,” said Linster-Besch. “You meet people from such different cultures and countries, and you have different points of views, but we’re all united through our love of music.”
The group has formed a lot of close friendships over the years. The members of the committee even feel like a family at times, says Wollny.
“What’s difficult is that we have a lot of people who come and leave after one season because they have to move or go back to continue their studies,” said Linster-Besch. “It’s always a bit complicated.”
Despite the members coming and going, the group maintains a professional quality through their strict rehearsal schedule and high standards. The hard work has paid off for them, though.
A few years ago, they performed at a festival and Vienna and won a prize for the best choir from a foreign country. They have plans to go back to perform Martín Palmeri’s “Misatango”.
They’ve also been discovered by different groups through the Internet and were invited to go to New York for the Rhythms of One World festival in 2012. They’ve even had the opportunity to sing in front of the United Nations
Both women look back on their time in Voices International with fond memories, especially Linster-Besch who has twenty years’ worth of them. One of her favourite memories took place during a concert in Strassen.
“We came down from the stage and we just moved around the audience and started to sing,” said Linster-Besch. “Then you are so near to the people. It gave me goosebumps.”