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Biggest Choral Event On The Planet Hits Auckland

05 Jul 2024

The Olympics of Choral Singing is arriving in Aotearoa this month, set to blow minds - and perceptions - out of the water with performances that break stereotypes.

All things creative get put in boxes. Siloes or genres that make it easier for others to quantify, and lead their expectations.

But the good creative things like to put those boxes through a shredder.  The World Choir Games, set to hit Auckland from 10-20 July, is one of those.

From the outside, it appears easy to classify and think you know what you're going to get - with the sheer mention of the word 'choir' evoking images of church gowns and stiff, stationary performances of O Fortuna for many.

It might also sound small-scale and niche.

If that's you - and you think you know choral music - you couldn't be further from the mark.

Size matters

First, let's get the size and scale in perspective.

The arrival of the World Choir Games 2024 will be the largest choral music event New Zealand has ever hosted - it's the biggest event of its kind on the planet and a huge deal for New Zealand to land the hosting rights.

The last event was held in Gangneung, Korea and was considered a huge success - with predictions Tāmaki Makaurau's event will be able to lift the benchmark even higher.

11,000 singers will be showcasing their skills over the 10-day event - making up 250 choirs and coming 40 countries across six continents (Antarctica the only holdout...).  

To put that size in perspective, the last Olympics in Tokyo - considered the biggest event on the planet - had around 11,000 competitors, the same number coming to take part in the World Choir Games.

The event is forecast to generate over $10 million in GDP and nearly 67,000 visitor nights for the Auckland region in July - traditionally a quiet month for Tāmaki Makaurau.  Another example that the arts injects more than just culture into the economy.

In other words - this is a major event, in anyone's language.

Homegrown talent gets the spotlight

Just like the New Zealand athletes fulfilling their dream of going to the Paris Olympics later this month, another group of talented and dedicated New Zealanders get to fulfil their 'biggest stage in the world' choir ambitions - only they get home-ground advantage.

There are 51 choirs from across Aotearoa taking part in the World Choir Games - an opportunity that may otherwise not be achievable to them.  The chance to share Auckland's leading stages with some of the best choirs on the planet, to rub shoulders with international peers and to perform in front of new audiences is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.

Local choir, All Together Now, also has the accolade of the biggest choir at the World Choir Games -  176 singers. that's compared to the smallest at the event, Bianglala Voices from Indonesia, making the trek with six vocalists. 

Best in the world coming to our backyard

Best Of IK_WCG © Nolte Photography (5).jpg
Photo: Nolte Photography.

While the local choirs will get a great local reception, there's going to be plenty of interest in the variety the rest of the world are bringing to our shores.

For some, it will be about being crowned the best - with 28 competitive categories at two separate competition levels - Open and Champions, with the most popular competition categories are Folklore and Indigenous Music with accompaniment, and Secondary School Choirs - each boasting 32 choir performances.

Auckland's Chinese community is expected to turn out in numbers to get a taste of their culture, with a whopping 88 choirs coming from China.

But it's not all about reaching the podium for all involved - being able to have their hard work and talent acknowledged on a global scale will mean everything to many.

That includes the world’s first and only choir for hearing-impaired children, Little Dolphin Hearing Disabled Children's Choir from the city of Tianjin - and the heart-melting smiles and positivity from the likes of DC Junior Choir from Zimbabwe.

From Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Fiji - you don't get more of a cultural melting pot than the World Choir Games - which makes Auckland the perfect city to host.

Artistic and Games Director John Rosser enthuses, “The World Choir Games is perhaps the most inclusive singing festival and competition on the globe, and almost certainly the most fun! What’s more, the 250 choirs coming to Auckland have fully embraced what the Games have to offer by enrolling to sing in an astonishing 550 activities between them. 

"For audiences, this means a chance to hear and see a truly wonderful array of choral music genres and performance styles, the like of which our country has never experienced before.”

From harmonising to headbanging 

While you can expect incredible voices - predicting what they'll actually be singing could be tricky.

No genre is off-limits, and stylised modern takes on musical classics are always on the cards. Renditions of Metallica, to modern pop classics to original works and the music has had stood the test of time over the centuries will make it an event to tickle the most eclectic of tastes.

There are opportunities to not only introduce New Zealanders to new musical offerings, but to get them involved too.

 There are 15 workshops spread out over the course of the Games with experts and thought-leaders from all across the globe - to accompany four awards ceremonies, nine Celebration Concerts and a vibrant Parade of Nations along Auckland’s Quay Street. In all - 15 venues across the region will host 61 free daytime Friendship Concerts. 

International exposure

While the world is here - and watching online and on social media - they'll be treated to a taste of Aotearoa. The platform to show off New Zealand's cultural traditions will be taken with both hands.

Kapa haka will be a feature throughout the event, combining this truly New Zealand artform with choral musical precision - including a performance from Ngā Tūmanako at Night of Song and Dance - and there will be a strong local flavour to the Olympics-style Opening Ceremony at Spark Arena (10 July), complete with an international flag parade, national anthems and a breathtaking show featuring over 200 local performers.

Anyone who attended the epic opening ceremonies of events like the FIFA Women's World Cup or the Rugby World Cups hosted in this country will know those who attend will be in for something special. 

As will the closing ceremony, where the WCG2024 Official Song Te taukaea tangata / Breathing In, Breathing Out - composed by Don McGlashan and Hana Mereraiha - will be performed at the Closing Ceremony by Marlon Williams (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāi Tai) and Ria Hall (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui), accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonia and backed by the 600-voice Festival Stage Choir.

There's no question this is going to be an event that leaves a lasting imprint on many - those who perform, those who attend, and those who are inspired to follow in the path of creativity from what they witness.

It's a time to stand up and show the world what Aotearoa creativity is all about - an opportunity not to be missed.


Written in partnership with the World Choir Games 2024 (10-20 July) in Auckland. Click here for event info and to secure your tickets.