The International Festival Chorus (IFC) is the brain-child of Beijing based British conductor Nicholas Smith and singers James Baer and Nancy Fraser. After a performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance Smith, Baer and Fraser realised that there was clearly a demand for a choir of talented singers who wanted to join Beijing's music community, while at the same time introducing Chinese audiences to Western classical music. And so it was that in March 2002 the IFC burst onto the Beijing classical music scene with a sold out performance of Mozart's Requiem at the Forbidden City Concert Hall. Since then the chorus has established itself as Beijing's premier choir.
Focusing on large-scale choral works, such as Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil and the China premiere of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, the IFC performs three concerts a year at the Forbidden City Concert Hall. Each season ends with a performance of Handel's Messiah on the first Saturday in December. In 2003 the IFC was the first group of international singers to perform Chinese composer Xian Xinghai's master choral work Yellow River Cantata in China. With singers from twenty-three different countries, the chorus is a truly international group and a place where both expatriates and local Chinese can come together to share their passion for music. Having performed in over seven languages including English, Chinese, German, Italian and Church Slavonic, the IFC serves as a platform to showcase global musical excellence.
Understanding the hectic lives of Beijing residents it was decided early on the the choir would follow the European festival chorus tradition of rehearsing. This means less frequent rehearsals but an increased level of personal discipline. It is required and expected of all members to put in the necessary time to learn their music individually so that each concert can be as challenging and fulfilling for them, as it is enjoyable for the audience. The IFC uses to astonishing effect the wealth of culture and experience of their global members to genuinely make a difference to China's musical development.
The chorus invites international soloists, as well as the best domestic performers, to participate in all their concerts as a way of raising the standard of their singers, and also to give discerning Beijing concert goers greater exposure to world-class talent. It is also the tradition of the IFC to invite a guest conductor to lead the chorus in at least one performance a year. Thus far notable conductors Andrew Nethsingha (UK), Anne Randine Overby (Norway), Fan Tao (China), Dr, Martin Ennis (UK) and soloists Dame Emma Kirkby and Liang Ning have lent their considerable talent and experience to the choir.
In June 2006, the smaller International Festival Chamber Choir debuted to considerable acclaim with a concert performance of classic 1940s Broadway hit show "Lady In The Dark". The IFCC is a smaller group of dedicated singers from the larger IFC and was conceived with the idea of providing an outlet for members of the IFC who wanted to perform on a more regular basis outside the three-concert-per-year formula of the main chorus. This group plans to give the first PRC performance of Bach's St. John Passion in 2011. In order to provide more opportunities to Beijing's young people, Helena Murchie founded the International Festival Children's Choir in 2006, and Hannah Quinn founded the International Festiavl Youth Choir in 2010. Both choirs work closely with the local community and have opportunities to take part in performances with the adult choir, as happened with IFC's performance of David Fanshawe's African Sanctus at the Century Theatre on 2010.