Colorado Children’s Chorale singing national anthems for World Championships

The Colorado Children's Chorale is the first to sing national anthems for each gold medalist in the history of the Alpine World Ski Championships. They learned 14 new national anthems in 14 languages, to go with the American national anthem.
Special to the Daily |

VAIL — Someday, someone is going to challenge a member of this year’s Colorado Children’s Chorale with, “I’ll bet you don’t know the Croatian national anthem.”

And they’ll lose that bet because the Colorado Children’s Chorale knows Croatia’s national anthem, and 14 others.

For the first time in the history of the Alpine World Ski Championships, the event has a choir in residence, the Colorado Children’s Chorale. They’ll perform live the gold medalist’s national anthem for each of the 11 medal ceremonies at Championship Plaza.

The Vail Valley Foundation organized these World Championships, the same as they did in 1989 and 1999. You learn a thing or two when you’ve been through it before, and the VVF decided it would be fun for the winners to hear their national anthems sung by a choir.

The Colorado Children’s Chorale performed during the 1989 and 1999 World Championships opening ceremonies, and they did so well that the VVF contacted the Children’s Chorale last February with this idea.

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“After we peeled some people off the ceiling, we decided it was a grand idea and we were going to make it happen,” said Cheryl Shoemaker, the Children’s Chorale’s marketing director.

They already knew the American national anthem. Beginning last June, the children started learning the other anthems they’d likely need.

About a year ago, the Vail Valley Foundation sent them Olympics results, which amounted to a cheat sheet because it gave them a pretty good idea who the winners might be, and whose anthems they’d be singing in the 11 World Championships medal ceremonies.

“We really want to bring something unique to Vail and Beaver Creek that no other host city has ever really done,” said Kate Peters, the Vail Valley Foundation communications manager.

Just like it sounds

“It meant lots of phonetic work,” Shoemaker said.

The pop group Abba, you might recall, doesn’t speak much English. Lots of opera singers work the same way when they’re singing Italian and German.

The Children’s Chorale spends a week or so each summer in the Antlers in Vail. This summer each condo cluster had its own national anthem, and each group taught theirs to other condo clusters.

They learned the Finnish anthem first because one young singer’s family is from Finland. He knew the tune and taught it to the rest of the choir.

Sometimes they taught using phonetics, sometimes with skits and dances.

By the time their week their week at the Antlers was up, they knew six of them.

They sent the kids home with recorded track of the anthems, sort of like homework, and most them actually did it. One of their staffers is a graduate student in linguistics, which helped with learning how to pronounce words in languages such as Croatian, Italian and even Norwegian.

Sweden’s was the toughest, said Austin Aanerud and Katy Hollis. It’s long — two full verses — with no chorus to repeat. And the Swedish language contains sounds that don’t generally occur in nature.

“We take it in chunks and repeat it until it gets in your head,” Hollis said.

Learning so many languages at the same time is a challenge, Aanerud said.

“Sometimes letters in one language don’t make the same sounds when you hear them in a different language,” he said.

The American national anthem would be one of the hardest, said Hollis and Aanerud. It’s long and difficult to sing, but they know it already.

About the Colorado Children’s Chorale

The Colorado Children’s Chorale tours internationally, so the World Championships isn’t their only opportunity to perform these anthems.

While they’re in town, along with the national anthems they’ll perform concerts in 12 local schools in 10 days.

“They’re middle school kids, so you have to keep them busy,” Shoemaker said. “There’s a limited amount of homework they can do.”

The Colorado Children’s Chorale is a professional performing arts organization that annually trains 500 young performers from more than 180 Colorado schools. It was founded in 1974

The group in town for the World Championships is a comprised of 36 middle school age children from across metro Denver.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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