Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without one of Voices International’s festive concerts. The delightful mix of classic and modern Christmas classics is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit.
City Savvy’s Rhona Richards met with Voices International’s Director, Thomas Raoult, to find out more about this exceptional choir and his role within it.
How did you become involved with Voices International?
I studied music in France, Switzerland and Luxembourg and was told that I had a talent for conducting. In 2010 I returned to Luxembourg and shortly after I was asked to become the Musical Director of Voices International.
When you’re conducting there’s a unique energy between you and the choir. There’s no instrument between you and the performers so you can feel the energy of the singers. Although I also conduct orchestras and bands, my passion is working with voices and I recently completed my Masters in Choir Conducting.
Do you come from a musical family?
Yes, absolutely. My Grandfather was solo oboist in the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich and was also Director of the Lucerne Festival. My Grandmother was a piano teacher. We always had music in the home and it was natural for me to play. I started playing the flute when I was seven and that is still the instrument I play to the highest level. However, I also play guitar, base guitar (which I learnt as a teenager when I wanted to be a rock star!), piano and church organ. My daughters are are also musical, the youngest, Clemence, wants to be a professional cellist, so a passion for music is definitely something that runs in the family.
Tell me about Voices International?
Voices International was founded in 1997 by Peggy Jenks and a few enthusiastic singers who wanted to “get together and sing“. Seventeen years later the choir has over eighty members.
Voices International really lives up to its name as its members represent thirty five different nationalities. We perform two seasons of concerts each year, the first in June and the second in December. All the money raised is given to local and international charities.
I think our repertoire is unique as, although the majority of the songs are sung in English, we also include pieces in other languages (examples are French, Latin, Hebrew, Italian, Czech, Chinese, Swedish, Spanish, German, Polish, Greek, Amharic, African, Dutch, Hungarian, Slovak, Japanese, Scottish, Irish, Swahili, Ladino and Luxembourgish to name a few)!
Is it challenging to work with people of so many different nationalities?
The most difficult thing for me is to get people who speak different languages to pronounce the words of the songs in exactly the same way. For example, the British pronounce their vowels in a very different way to the French but, if everyone sounds the words differently, the choir will sound out of tune.
And Voices International is responsible for some romance………
Yes, I met my wife Christine through the choir. She’s has a beautiful voice and, in fact, I heard her voice before I saw her. She had missed my first rehearsals with the choir but then came to a weekend workshop. I asked the choir to sing and suddenly I heard a voice that stood out from the others. It was Christine’s. But, it’s funny because the first time we spoke she kept apologizing to me because she thought I was annoyed that she hadn’t been to rehearsals. A few years later we’re married and have a baby boy. Our whole story is tied into Voices International.
The future for the orchestra
Well, first we have the Christmas concerts and this year promises to be very special. We have more men singing then ever before which means that we’re able to do more complex harmonies. The songs sound wonderful.
The choir has gone from strength to strength and we’re now asked to perform at festivals all over the world. In 2012 we sang in New York in the Lincoln Centre, at the UN General Assembly and we also appeared on ‘Good Morning America’. We’ve been invited back to New York this year and we’re very excited about that trip. In December 2013 we sang in Vienna in the Goldener Saal (The Golden Hall) which is the home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. It was one of the best experiences of my life. The atmosphere of the Goldener Saal is amazing. It’s a musicians dream and to be there with Voices International was very special.
Don’t miss Voices International’s 2014 Christmas Concerts at the following venues:
- Saturday 6 December: Bonnevoie church – 19:45
- Sunday 7 December: Niederanven church – 17:00
- Saturday 13 December: Luxembourg-Grund St. Jean Chruch – 19.30
- Sunday 14 December: Koerich church – 17:00
Entrance is free with a collection being taken for local and international charities. Be sure to get to the venue early as the performances are always full to capacity.
Photos published with permission of Voices International