Colorado Children’s Chorale learns 14 national anthems for international ski races

February 2, 2015
Photo: Colorado Children's Chorale
Colorado Children's Chorale

Prominent youth vocal ensemble the Colorado Children’s Chorale already has the “Star Spangled Banner” in its repertoire. But lately the choir has been busy learning 14 other national anthems.

And it’s not an easy task.

“I think the German one is really hard because the language isn’t exactly soft and flowing,” choir member Trey Mckeever, 13, says. “You have to say ‘Ks’ and ‘Ts’ together. Like ‘KTC,’ and it’s hard to do.”   

McKeever and his fellow choir members have been rehearsing for their performances at the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships since last spring. The elite international skiing event runs Feb. 2-15 in Vail and Beaver Creek, and this is the first time in its 84-year history it will have a choir-in-residence.

In the past, host cities have used orchestrations during the medal ceremonies. But the Vail Valley Foundation, which is hosting this year’s championships, pushed for renditions with live vocals.

“We really want to bring something unique to Vail and Beaver Creek that no other host city has ever really done,” Vail Valley Foundation communications manager Kate Peters says.

The chorale first learned the Finnish anthem because one of the young singer’s family is from Finland. He already knew the tune and taught it to the rest of the choir.

The ensemble then tackled the French, Slovenian and other anthems from countries the event’s organizers think are likely to earn gold medals this year.

To learn the anthems, artistic director Deborah DeSantis broke the kids up into groups. Each group memorized one anthem and then had to teach the song to another group. DeSantis encouraged the singers to get creative -- some came up with skits or dances to help teach their young colleagues the words and melodies.

“We didn’t want them to feel like this is a huge burden and one more school assignment they have to do,” DeSantis says. “So we made it fun.”

She also gave the children practice CDs, and the singers worked with a linguist to learn how to pronounce words in languages such as Croatian, Italian and even Norwegian.

Elizabeth Hetzel, 12, has been practicing every night.

“I actually sometimes record myself to listen over and see if I’m saying the words right or wrong,” Hetzel says.

Pronouncing the words correctly isn’t enough though. DeSantis wants the choir’s performance to match the emotions that come with winning a gold medal.

“We need to pretend like we’re from that country and we’re singing it for ourselves,” Mckeever says.

The Colorado Children’s Chorale tours internationally. Therefore, the kids will get to perform these songs in many of the countries they visit in the future.