For nearly 40 years, Missoula has benefited from an exchange of culture and music that has entertained tens of thousands of people and led to friendships that span the globe.

And this year, with COVID finally in the rearview mirror, organizers of the International Choral Festival are excited to resume the tradition and build memories for years to come.

Wednesday, for the first time since 2019, groups from across the U.S. and across the ocean will spend several days in Missoula with performances that are not only about music but building cultural experience and understanding.

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"Oh my gosh, it's so fun to introduce them to Missoula and watch them, you know, with their eyes bright, just saying this is beautiful," explains the Festival's Deb Stanley-Graham. "And then having things to offer to us and you know for us to say your music is beautiful and just that connection." 

During an appearance on "Daybreak with Dennis" on KYSS FM Monday, Stapley-Graham said it's so fun to watch the young performers experience American culture and food for the first time, and then for the groups to share what they learn on social media with their new Missoula friends, and friends and family back home.

And she says the Festival has created a lasting legacy, which has enriched Missoula over the years, by inspiring local groups and giving a personal perspective to the culture of the visiting choirs.

Time to pay tribute to the original dreamers

This year, during the finale on the U.M. Oval, a special tribute will be made to long-time supporters and organizers, many of whom are starting to pass away.

"And we'll have some tributes to Don Carey, who is the founder of the festival that passed away recently. John Talbot, who was a great philanthropist in Missoula, and his family and Don's families will be there. As well as Pete Tyler. He was a vocalist and a fantastic supporter, a board member. And then, Caroline Mueller, who was the executive director for some time and passed away, so we'll have some wonderful tributes," explains Stapley-Graham.  

Home away from home

The other behind-the-scenes part of the Festival has always been the participation of the host families and volunteers, which help the visiting choirs feel at home during the Festival. Stapley-Graham says organizers always welcome people who would like to help or get on the list for the next festival.

READ MORE: 2023 International Choral Festival line-up and schedule

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