President INTERKULTUR, World Choir Games & World Choir Council
Günter Titsch has created the basis for people from different countries to come together. It is something like the outside world. The artists who fill it with life are the inner world. This is what the Swedish musicologist and choral expert Christian Ljunggren, Honorary Artistic President of INTERKULTUR and initiator of the World Choir Council, says about Titsch’s passion and life’s work. Titsch reaches what Ljunggren, long-time artistic director of INTERKULTUR, calls the outside world in several stages.
Titsch was born on 28 January 1946 in Heidenpiltsch, now Bílčice in the Czech Republic. The Titsch family moved to Hesse in the year of his birth. There the young Titsch came into contact with choral singing at an early age. At the age of 23, he took over the chairmanship of the singing club Eintracht in Grüningen. The association maintains a cultural exchange with the town of Zirc in Hungary. A first momentum in a direction that he later followed professionally.
After different professional stations and experiences, the first International Choir Competition initiated by Titsch in 1988 in Budapest acts as an initial spark. Such a competition across the East-West divide is an absolute novelty. In 1990 the INTERKULTUR Association was founded. With an internationally competent team, Titsch builds up the outside world in the decades that follow. With the World Choir Games, the leading platform for meetings of choir enthusiasts all over the world in the Olympic spirit is created.
Under the motto Singing together brings nations together, Titsch’s organizing team has brought together nearly 10,500 choirs with almost 450,000 active singers from 108 countries. INTERKULTUR events become magnets on all continents. In 2023 it will be the World Choir Games in the city of Gangneung/Republic of Korea, in 2024 in Auckland/New Zealand.
Titsch, an enthusiastic choir singer, recognizes early on in young people the potential to contribute to peaceful coexistence in respect and appreciation. Numerous projects and programmatic approaches are part of the INTERKULTUR agenda to reach the worldwide choral youth in the Olympic spirit and to motivate them to be active. Titsch’s vision, also a personal legacy, is having an impact. More than half of the participants at the World Choir Games are young people under 27.
Openness for everyone, equality of opportunity in access as well as in competition – these are the principles followed by the ancient Olympic Games. They constitute participation as the highest honor. The INTERKULTUR events inspired by Titsch also follow these principles. They are open to all choirs, regardless of their previous competition experience. Traditional choral competitions only allow for the comparison of choirs that belong to the international top class.
Competitions like the World Choir Games bring together people of different cultural, political and religious backgrounds on the common denominator of enthusiasm for singing in choirs. This creates opportunities to test stereotypes and replace them with self-gained judgements, sometimes spectacularly. Choirs from South and North Korea, from Israel and Iran perform together on stage, set signs for peace in friendship concerts.
Titsch’s vision is understood and appreciated. In the universal choral community as well as by outstanding representatives of culture and among state leaders. Nearly 10,500 choirs with almost 450,000 active singers from 108 countries are listed in the INTERKULTUR participation statistics to date. Mikis Theodorakis, who was nominated by
Titsch for the position of Honorary Artistic President of the World Choir Games at that time, who died in 2021, expressed this in a testimony. Choral music in particular, Theodorakis summed up, makes us more human. In his statement on the 7th World Choir Games Cincinnati, former US President Barack Obama emphasized that the power of art and music brings us together and helps us to reflect on who we are and what lies ahead.
The INTERKULTUR e.V. support association, inspired by Titsch, is also committed to goals that go beyond the organization and evaluation of music festivals and choir competitions. Support is given to children’s and youth choirs, especially from financially weak countries. Furthermore, amateur choirs from Germany and abroad that can demonstrate intensive and sustainable youth work.
Other support projects are aimed at young choral conductors, young musicians and singers, for example by awarding scholarships. The other spectrum includes targeted support programs.
Those who stand still fall behind. Titsch has made this maxim of the company philosophy his own. He finds new event formats, has them tested and developed by his internationally staffed team of competent employees. One of his most sustainable innovations is the transfer of the idea and concept of the World Choir Games to individual continents. In 2007, the Asia Pacific Choir Games took place for the first time in Jakarta (Indonesia). Subsequent events see Gyeongnam (Republic of Korea) in 2009, Manado (Indonesia) in 2013, Colombo (Sri Lanka) in 2017 as venues.
European Choir Games have been developing their own history since 2013 with the premiere in Graz (Austria). The European version of the World Choir Games has been held in tandem with the Grand Prix of Nations. In 2015 in Magdeburg (Germany), in 2017 in Riga (Latvia), in 2019 in Gothenburg (Sweden). Further editions will follow in 2023 in Norrköping (Sweden) and 2025 in Aarhus (Denmark).
Titsch was quick to recognize the dynamics that arise from the networking of choir events and the media, be it nationally or internationally. The most powerful medium, television, is particularly important to him. In 2019, Gothenburg (Sweden) experiences the second edition of the TV show Eurovision Choir (EC), a cooperation of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), INTERKULTUR and the host city. Riga is the setting for the premiere edition of this format in 2017. Titsch promotes the use of online channels and social media within the organization. A new quality in communication with the choral community on all continents.
In the world of choral experts, representatives of national choral associations, choral conductors and competition jurors, Titsch focuses on internationality. In the World Choir Council, INTERKULTUR’s most important advisory body, representatives from Europe, Africa, Latin and North America as well as Asia and Oceania are present. The list of members of the World Choir Council ranges from A (Afghanistan) to V (Vietnam). More than 200 leading choral conductors and other choral experts from all over the world ensure a high standard of competence at all INTERKULTUR events.
Titsch is also in demand beyond the choral scene. In 2008, at the invitation of the Olympic Committee of China, he is guest of honor at the opening ceremony of the Olympic sailing competitions in Qingdao. In 2016, he was invited to speak at the China International Friendship Cities Conference in Chongqing. More than 700 representatives from 144 cities and 56 countries make up this forum. Titsch presents the idea, concept and practice of choral events on an international scale. In 2018, he accepts a renewed invitation to appear as a speaker before this conference in Wuhan. He presents his ideas on business promotion and cultural tourism to multipliers from 60 countries.
Being the venue of an INTERKULTUR event can be seen as a win-win situation for both sides. The decision of cities and regions to host a festival or competition and thus to be a magnet within the worldwide choral community has an impact on the profile and image of these places. Andris Bērziņš, President of Latvia in 2014, calls the World Choir Games in Riga an excellent marketing tool for his country. It was able to show the world its strength.
INTERKULTUR partner cities use the opportunity to prove themselves as places of cosmopolitanism and hospitality, tolerance and open-mindedness for different cultures and to consolidate this reputation in the long term. Titsch’s concept is catching on. Time and again, cities apply to become venues again after an event has been realized. Take Riga, for example.
Entrepreneurial success is based on strategy, market knowledge, organizational efficiency and strict customer orientation. Leadership qualities such as commitment, dedication and discipline are required, and team orientation is becoming more and more important. Within this framework of competencies and attitudes, Tisch tells a success story of which the beginning, but not the end, is known.
In 1988, the first International Choir Competition takes place in Budapest from November 17 to 19. 29 choirs from nine nations present their styles and qualities in different categories. Such a competition with a cross-border dimension beyond the East-West divide is an absolute novelty. Titsch, previously a tourism entrepreneur, brings choirs and other groups from Germany to Hungary in the years before. With the instinct of a manager, he recognizes the opportunities that this country in particular, with its musical culture and its connections within Europe, offers for cross-border cultural exchange.
In November 1989, in a climate of awakening and opening, the second edition of the Budapest Choir Competition takes place. In 1990 follows the foundation of the INTERKULTUR e.V. support association with headquarters in Frankfurt am Main and offices in the Gießen area, today in Fernwald, Hesse. On this formalized basis, with INTERKULTUR as the operating entity, Titsch gradually expands his profession. Budapest sees the third edition of the choir competition in 1990. Riva at Lake Garda (Italy) experiences its premiere as venue and partner of Titsch.
In a few years a series of events is created which – an indication of success – do not take place only once. The International Choir Festival including competition in Bad Ischl (Austria) is 2024 in the schedules of choirs for the 15th time, the one in Wernigerode (Germany) 2023 for the twelfth time. Choirs have Hoi An (Vietnam) on their travel agenda for the seventh time. Customer satisfaction is a key factor in the growing acceptance of INTERKULTUR. Sixty-seven percent of participating choirs are returning ensembles. They are looking for new tests and destinations.
The Cultural Ambassador
In business circles, someone like Günter Titsch likes to be called a manager and visionary. An expression of respect for more than 20 years of continuous advancement. Inconceivable without dedication to the profession, belief in one’s own calling and a willingness to take risks.
His achievements as a developer of new ideas and his successes as an entrepreneur are exemplified by awards both at home and abroad. In 2012, Federal President Joachim Gauck awards him the Cross of Merit on Ribbon of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on the basis of his commitment as an ” Honorary Cultural Ambassador.” In 2009, he becomes one of the first Europeans to be made an honorary citizen of Xiamen, China. A recognition of his commitment to the cultural exchange of the People’s Republic of China on an international level. In 2006, he accepted the European Culture Award on behalf of INTERKULTUR, once established by former Federal Minister of the Interior Hans-Dietrich Genscher.
Qualifications and experiences of his different professional stations fit seamlessly to a foundation, on which in the following time the world-wide draft of the World Choir Games, the Olympic Games of choral music, originates and develops. It is the sum of tax and IT consulting, activities in system analysis, finding and testing new business models as an independent entrepreneur. In 1990 the INTERKULTUR association is founded thanks to the organization of concert tours to Hungary, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Subsequently, systematic steps are initiated and implemented to establish a global player of the international choral community.