From July 4-14, Cincinnati will welcome more than 200,000 visitors including 352 choirs from 49 countries, to celebrate the 2012 World Choir Games. It's the seventh running of the Games, which take place every two years, and the first to take place in the Western Hemisphere.

From the time hosting the Games was just a dream until the last visitor leaves, the planning and execution of this international festival will be the result of untold manhours and 4,600 registered volunteers. Many of them are longtime civic leaders but there are others who joined for all the same reasons: community spirit, love of music and the chance to put the Queen City on the world stage.

Global co-chairs Werner and Sabine Geissler have been profiled extensively including a 2011 Cincinnati Enquirer article which explored their musical roots back to their childhoods. He's a Procter & Gamble Vice Chair for Global Operations. She's on the Board of P&G International Transfers, Inc.

U.S. co-chairs Lee and Shannon Carter are also well known for their community leadership including Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Crayons to Computers and arts organizations. The duo has raised more than $5 million in support of the Games.

When Shannon Carter heard a presentation by President and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau Dan Lincoln about the Games, she was hooked.

"We've got a wonderful midwestern hospitality here in Cincinnati," she says, adding that Cincinnati's musical heritage makes the city a perfect fit for the Games. "Singing has always been a part of our DNA."

And, Lee Carter adds, "The lasting impact is going to be bringing people downtown and showing them that Cincinnati is alive and vibrant."

 
July 4 through July 14

Opening ceremonies at U.S. Bank Arena feature the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the May Festival Chorus and choirs representing six continents.

Over the next several days, 360 choirs will compete in 23 different categories of choral music including sacred, pop, jazz and folk. Locations include the Aronoff Center, Christ Church Cathedral and the Cincinnati Masonic Center. Judges evaluate each performance and award gold, silver and bronze medals, with one "World Champion" selected from each category.

The closing ceremony at U.S. Bank Area, with a mass choir of thousands, is expected to be the biggest international event in Cincinnati's history.

 
Other Players
 
MARIBETH RAHE

Maribeth Rahe has been on board since the beginning.

Rahe, president and CEO of Fort Washington Investment Advisors, is also a board member of the Cincinnati Arts Association. When CAA president Steve Loftin was out of town, Rahe was given the chance to host INTERKULTUR during the group's initial visit to the city.

"I got to learn all about the Games right from the very start," she says. "Before Cincinnati had even been selected."

It's the perfect location. "The incredible culture and history here, the beautiful architecture we have, and the fact that it's a city known for music," she says.

Fort Washington Advisors' parent company, Western & Southern Financial Group, is also a major sponsor and fundraiser for the Games.

"There's been a lot of momentum and enthusiasm around the Games," she says. "We've been working to spread the word and raise money to make the most of this opportunity and showcase the city in the best light possible."

JUDGE NATHANIEL JONES

It's more than the music and the money, says retired U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Nathaniel Jones.

It's about diversity and worldview. "The blend of cultures will give the people of Cincinnati a greater respect for those once perceived as different," Judge Jones says. "It will be a bonding experience for the vast number of people who will gather here from all over the world."

Cincinnati has a great deal of positives going for it in terms of its history in arts and music, according to Jones, but nothing is more important than the experience Cincinnatians will gain as a result of welcoming such a wide range of diversity.

"There's a lot that Cincinnati can show, but there's also a lot that Cincinnati can learn," he says.

He acknowledges the economic impact of the games, estimated to be more than $73.5 million from everything to hotel rooms and restaurant meals. Judge Jones and his late wife, Lillian Jones, a passionate community activist, were asked by the Carters to join as co-chairs. He has supported the event through not only fundraising but as a speaker on behalf of the Games.

EARL RIVERS

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," says Dr. Earl Rivers, professor and director of choral studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Rivers, a guest conductor who has worked with choirs internationally and attended the 2010 World Choir Games in Shaoxing, China, was selected to work with INTERKULTUR as Honorary Artistic Director for the Games' Cincinnati Organizing Committee.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our city," he says. "There is nothing else of this scope and size in the choral community."

It is not just great choirs. "The authentic costumes, choreographed dances, unbelievably sophisticated rhythms"”I think people are going to be really surprised," says Rivers.

Unlike the Games in Shaoxing, audiences can walk from one venue to the next in Cincinnati "” a major plus that will help attact people, according to Rivers.

"It will give an international booster shot to our city and our sense of pride," he says. "Cincinnati won. It's a really big deal."

DAN LINCOLN

While landing the Games was a collective effort of leaders across the community, one of those giving his all is Dan Lincoln, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau. In late 2004, Lincoln's organization brought the Games' organizing body, the German foundation INTERKULTUR, to Cincinnati for a site visit.

"They fell in love with our architecture and our facilities "” both historic and contemporary," says Lincoln. "We rolled out the red carpet and knocked their socks off."

It will bring new money to the regional economy and "it puts our city on the national and international stage like never before," he adds.

"For those two weeks we represent all of what's good about the United States," he says. "Cincinnati is going to be their impression of America, and that's a huge responsibility."

World Choir Games
July 4-14
Venues in downtown Cincinnati and NKY.
Single tickets and ticket packages available.
For details, www.2012worldchoirgames.com.
Or call (513) 977-6363, visit the U.S. Bank Arena Box Office at 100 Broadway, all Ticketmaster locations or area Kroger stores.