The first World Symposium on Choral Music was held in Vienna in 1987. Following a three-city experiment three years later, the IFCM resolved that the event’s location would thereafter alternate triennially between the five continents and would be in “a prominent and attractive city with the facilities, financial support and managerial structure to successfully plan and administer a major international event”.
The stated aim of IFCM in founding the Symposium was to encourage “artistic excellence, co-operation and exchange by bringing together the finest choirs and choral leaders … and to enhance the existing choral life in a specific region of the world”.
While beginning life as something of a global convention for the choral community, the event expanded considerably in the 1990s and has now become a major international arts festival, showcasing to the wider public the best the choral music world has to offer.
A typical WSCM lasts for eight days, but is divided into two halves of four days each. Roughly 50% of the choirs and the presenters will perform during each half of the Symposium, although the audience tends to stay for the full duration, to make the most of the variety offered by this scheduling arrangement.
A WSCM is first and foremost a choral festival. The presence of 24 of the world’s top choirs, who perform both during the day sessions and in evening concerts around the city, attracts not only strong interest from international choral aficionados but also from the wider public. This is easily the finest line-up of choirs music lovers will ever hear in one place.
The Symposium also serves as a global choral congress – a singular opportunity every three years for a significant proportion of the world’s choir leaders to meet, share ideas and be revitalised. Providing much of the inspiration are some 30 practitioners who present a wide range of talks, masterclasses, workshops and live demonstrations for both delegates and the public.
Every WSCM hosts a trade fair – an opportunity for choral conductors and singers to peruse a vast array of sheet music, choir recordings and other items relevant to the choral industry, such as music stands, rostra, acoustic screens, sound equipment, uniforms, folders, bags and assorted novelty items. Individual countries’ choral associations often take stalls too, as do music tour companies and other travel groups.