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Vox Virtual, An International Music Festival, Is About To Launch

Most of us can't travel overseas right now but we can at least be aurally transported by way of music. Ten vocal ensembles whose members come from 15 different countries will perform in a new, weeklong festival called Vox Virtual beginning August 22nd. They include ANÚNA from Ireland, Insingizi from Zimbabwe, Ensemble Rustavi from Georgia, and Cantus from the U.S.

Vox Virtual is the brainchild of the Dutch/Icelandic group Olga and the international touring company Classical Movements. Olga singer Philip Barkhudarov, who lives in Reykavik, says, since almost all of these groups have had their in-person shows cancelled, it didn't take much to get their fellow artists on board.

"We have a lot of friends in different groups and ensembles around the world," he says. As soon as Barkhudarov and his bandmates started calling those friends "one thing led to another and we realized, 'Wow, this can be a big thing.'"

While they might live in different corners of the globe, many of these vocal ensembles are familiar with each other. Barkhudarov discovered the Kansas City-based ensemble Isaac Cates & Ordained when he found a video performance of theirs that blew him away. After he shared the video, the two singers connected. Turns out Cates was already familiar with Barkhudarov's work in M'anam, a vocal ensemble that also features ANÚNA composer Michael McGlynn.

"Most choir babies," like himself says Cates, are "always listening for great, inspiring, new music and things of that nature."

Cates says he's honored to be one of the groups representing the U.S. in Vox Virtual.

"For us to be a part of a global music festival I think is just the best way to represent unity in these times," he says.

The pre-taped performances include a collaboration between Olga and the French group Les Itinerantes doing an a cappella version of Dolly Parton's Light Of A Clear Blue Morning.

Barkhudarov says, "if ever we needed some light, it's now."

"I mean, we have to just deal with what the universe gives us. I can at least sing in my shower and that makes me a little bit happy every day," he muses.

Vox Virtual will be livestreamed on Facebook and Youtube. The festival also features Q&A with the musicians and workshops on such topics as composing, the history of gospel, Georgian polyphonic folk singing and incorporating sign language into vocal performances.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Elizabeth Blair
Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.