Published on June 13, 2014 by Philip Poole  

Samford University's A Cappella Choir placed in two choral competitions during a recent tour of Europe. Forty-four choir members made the trip, which ran from May 20-June 2.

The choir tied for second in the large mixed choirs category at the Florilège Vocal de Tours competition in Tours, France, and was one of four choirs in the overall finals. This was the second year for Samford to participate in this competition, which was won by the University of Utah.

"We were told that the margin was incredibly close, as close as you can get from a 7-member jury," said director Philip Copeland.

In addition, the choir received the Prix Á Cœur Joie International prize, awarded to a non-French speaking choir for the "quality of its musical performance and pronunciation of a work written by any French composer after 1750." The choir's performance of "Yver, vous n'estes qu' un vilain" by Claude Debussy earned the prize.

Copeland received the conductor's prize for excellence in choral conducting at the competition.

Earlier the choir participated in the annual Ave Verum competition in Baden, Austria. Samford won third prize in the first round and finished second in the finals, which was won by the University of Georgia.

"Later, we were told that the difference in our scores was .8, a very slim margin to say the least," Copeland said.

At the Baden competition, the choir also won a prize for "best interpretation of a piece written after 2000."

Copeland noted that Samford competed against schools with much larger programs and student bodies. Utah and Georgia have student populations of 31,000 and 34,000 respectively, while Samford has a student population of about 4,800 from which to draw choir members.

"Coming in second in two major international choral competitions is both an honor and a frustration," Copeland said. "We competed against incredible programs, and we were beaten in both by much larger schools.

"Our focus in these experiences was to use the 'competition' as a medium for the 'communication' of the many messages that were in our music. In the end, we were only competing against ourselves and our own standard of excellence."

In addition to the competitions, the choir sang at St. Matthias Church in Budapest, Hungary, and participated in a master class led by the director of the internationally-famous Vienna Boys Choir. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.