GORHAM — Singers from the University of Southern Maine will be in Vietnam this week for what their director calls the Olympics of choral music, and they’re bringing an inspirational song from Maine as an offering of hope.

The USM Chamber Singers, under the direction of Nicolás Alberto Dosman, will perform with 21 other choral groups in an international choral competition in the city of Hoi An beginning Wednesday. Dosman, voice faculty member Malinda Haslett and 16 USM singers departed Maine on Sunday and will be in Vietnam through May 20.

Among the songs they will perform at the Vietnam Choir Competition is “Where the Seasons Take Us,” composed by Maine resident Roger Ames. Its lyrics speak to rising above obstacles and meeting challenges.

Nicolas Dosman directs the University of Southern Maine Chamber Singers during rehearsal on Thursday. The group departed Sunday for choral festival and competition in Vietnam. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Liz Parks, a member of the ensemble from Old Orchard Beach, said singing the song in concert has helped her “process all the awful things that are going on in world right now. We sang it the day after the shootings in New Zealand, and it was a powerful. It brings hope, while remembering what happened was awful.”

That message of hope is an important one to impart during this international journey, said Dosman. Given the history of war and the more recent reconciliation and friendship between the countries, “performing a piece like this in Vietnam is very significant. … Two generations ago, taking a group of young people to Vietnam was very different. To go in friendship is transformative on so many levels.”

It’s the first time USM School of Music has gone to Vietnam or anywhere in Asia, said Danielle Vayenas, director of communications at USM. It’s also the first time the group has competed internationally, though it has toured and performed in Europe. USM is the only school from the United States in the competition, she added.


The competition is organized by the Interkultur Foundation, which presents similar competitions across the globe. Every other year, it hosts the World Choir Games. The USM Chamber Singers submitted an audition video as part of the selection process. The competition is open to amateur choirs of all ages, and the USM Chamber Singers will compete in the sacred music and youth categories.

Dosman, who replaced longtime choral professor Robert Russell when Russell retired, compared the competition to the Olympics of the sporting world. The competition is serious, but friendly. The singers from USM will arrive in Da Nang on Monday, then travel to Hoi An on Wednesday. They compete on Thursday and Friday, and the closing ceremony is Saturday. In addition to their two competitive performances, they participate in the opening ceremony and sing a concert at an orphanage.

In addition to the United States and host country Vietnam, the choral groups competing represent China, Estonia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Poland, the Republic of Korea and Singapore.

Meg Mayfield, 21, of Marlborough, Massachusetts, said she is eager to expand her horizons. “I’m excited about all of the music and all that we can learn from it. Every experience one has, something can be learned from it,” she said.

Thomas McLaughlin, 20, of Freeport agreed. He said he was nervous and anxious, but in good ways. He called it “excitement anxiety. … It’s 14 hours on a plane, and I’ve never been to Vietnam. Stepping off the plane onto a new land where everything will be new to us is pretty exciting.”

There will be songs from around the world sung in dozens of languages, Dosman noted. The USM Chamber Singers will perform in four languages – Haitian creole, Russian, Latin and English. They’ll sing several uniquely American spirituals, as well as composer Abbie Betinis’ “Carol of the Stranger,” which is welcoming call to immigrants and strangers.

That’s the message the group wants to leave with its hosts and new friends, Dosman said.

“We want to do well, but music is not a competitive sport,” he said. “We are going there to have an experience, to be evaluated by professionals and to make new friends and leave a good impression.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.