I had a most marvelous and strange dream the other night. In my dream I turned on the TV and saw a documentary about a group of Very Important People.
Who where they, and where? I first thought this was the World Economic Forum in Davos. Or perhaps one of the infamous Bilderberg meetings. But the background music was odd; it sounded like a choir warming up, singing scales.
The presenter soon dispelled my doubt. This was a meeting of the World Singing Forum, formally abbreviated as WSF, informally nicknamed “President Singers”.
The forum attracts an impressive assembly of presidents, heads of state, world leaders, plus key figures from the world of banking, industry, media moguls, telecom CEOs, and so on. Once a year they meet in a mountain village to sing together for a week.
What a great idea, I said to myself in the dream.
Last year was the tenth anniversary of WSF meetings. The week always ends with a concert where these non-professional but eager singers show the world what they can do.
It didn’t sound great, especially the tenors had a rough going, but a great time was nevertheless had by all. By the singers, who were happy to at least find the right notes; even stumbling and taking baby steps in music can be rewarding and enjoyable. And also by the cheering and enthusiastic audience, happy to see people who usually compete against each other do something with each other for a change — really working towards a common goal, in act and tone, not just words.
That was last year. This year presents an even greater challenge: Thomas Tallis’ motet “Spem in alium”. This is a very difficult piece and the participants have worked all year with the best musical and vocal coaches to learn their parts.
One part is namely not identical with any other part in this piece!
Many if not most choral pieces are 4-part, meaning that only four different parts or melodic lines are sung, by perhaps 20-30 people. This means that in a choir of 40 people 10 singers sing the same melody.
In Tallis’ piece there are 40 singers but also 40 different parts, each one different from the other. A challenge verging on the impossible for non-professional singers.
So why this particular piece? It was chosen because it is a lesson par excellence in unity in diversity.
If you listen to Tallis’ piece without knowing anything about its construction you hear one big, swaying, vibrating concord. No crashes, no collisions or dissonances, all parts moving towards the same goal, the same final chord.
Truly unity in diversity.
And this, the presenter concluded, is what President Singers is all about. This is what these world leaders came here to learn: that diversity can blend and merge with unity, that differences need not be motives for conflict or war, that differences create interesting counterpoint within the same whole.
— This was a dream I didn’t want to wake up from.
Now let’s go on to a dream with open eyes!