On Saturday, April 14, 2018, Kathleen Battle returned to Seattle to present her solo concert “Underground Railroad – A Spiritual Journey” at the Meany Center for the Performing Arts. Ms. Battle was courted for years by the University of Washington before this concert was finally brought to fruition. She was accompanied in this performance by jazz pianist Joel A. Martin.
Traditionally, Ms. Battle presents this concert with predominately African-American choirs. This time, however, local gospel choir The Sound of the Northwest combined with the UW Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Geoffrey Boers to present a spiritual journey of music and spoken word.
Kathleen Battle worked intimately with the choirs for three days to finesse the nuances of the performance. The choirs worked on unifying their sounds and spirits as Ms. Battle explained the depths of the texts and stylistic specifications for African-American spirituals.
During the performance, Ms. Battle was able to connect with the audience using spoken text from Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, and music that brought tears to the eye, lumps to the throat, and dedication to remember the past to make sure it’s never duplicated.
Having Kathleen Battle on the UW campus was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students of the Chamber Singers; and experience that taught them not only about their voices, but also about themselves.
For more information about this collaboration:
Roger Treece, arranger for Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra, will be presenting a workshop at the School of Music on the University of Washington campus. He will be sharing some of his latest projects and ideas. Great workshop for choral ed students, choral conducting students, or any other aspiring musicians. This event is open to the public. Vocal proficiency is not a prerequisite.
Roger literally wrote the book on how to do the type of improvisation done by Bobby McFerrin and his associates. We are excited to have him on the University of Washington campus.
When: December 11, 2017, 2:00-4:00 PM
Where: Room 35 (sub-basement) of the Music Building
On Friday and Saturday of this weekend, guest conductor Murry Sidlin will lead the UW Chamber Singers, University Chorale, Symphony Tacoma Voices, members of the Seattle Jewish Chorale, and the UW Symphony Orchestra in a unique version of the Verdi Requiem. The “Defiant Requiem” tells the poignant story of the Jewish prisoners at Terezín during the Holocaust, a concentration camp where many musicians and artists were kept in oppressive living conditions and eventually deported to Auschwitz and other death camps. Imprisoned conductor Rafael Schächter taught the music to over 100 singers entirely by ear from a single piano-vocal score, giving voice to the plea for deliverance that the prisoners were not able to communicate to the outside world.
Mr. Sidlin conducts the Defiant Requiem all over the world in order to honor the memory of the prisoners who persevered through Verdi’s powerful music. The performance includes video footage of Terezín survivors, spoken monologues by actors, snippets of music heard at Terezín, and a discordant piano that brings the audience back to Schächter’s world. Through this lens, the choirs and orchestra can present a work with Catholic text as a universal message about suffering and courage.
Friday, June 2nd, 7:30pm at Meany Theater, University of Washington ($15/$10)
Saturday, June 3rd, 7:30pm at Tacoma Armory ($35/$20)
More information here.
Defiant Requiem Documentary on PBS
The UW Choral department hosted 9 choirs on Thursday, May 11th for the annual Choral Festival of Excellence! From everywhere from Ballard to Portland, these high school, middle school, and college choirs each performed a set onstage at Meany Hall and received feedback from guest clinician Eric Johnson (Northern Illinois University). In additional workshops, Dr. Boers and Dr. Wyers gave the choirs new ways to approach their repertoire and technique. UW graduate students also worked with the full group of sopranos and altos on the Zulu wedding song Ngiqomekwa and with the tenors and basses on a John Williams medley. In a brief lunchtime performance, Chamber Singers sang music by Jake Runestad and Jeffrey Ames.
The festival was a fabulous opportunity to share our ideas with hundreds of singers and teachers in the Pacific Northwest and to experience all of these excellent programs. Many thanks to DMA student Jeffrey Larkin for organizing this wonderful event again, as well as all of the undergraduate and graduate choral singers who volunteered throughout the day! If you have a choir you would like to bring next year, save April 23, 2018!
On Tuesday, May 16, the choral department enjoyed an inspiring visit from the Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds! Choral and instrumental ensembles all over the world frequently program Ešenvalds’ works, which express meaningful texts in several languages with vibrant harmonies and diverse timbres. The Baltic Studies program hosted Ešenvalds to discuss the stories and influences that went into his Nordic Light Symphony on Tuesday evening, and he spent the morning working with the choral department. The choral conducting graduate cohort and alumni resonated with his ideas about storytelling, the value of humility, the joy of singing at any age and ability, the interpretive role of the conductor, and other concepts that often come up in the choral culture. Ešenvalds coached the cohort on his composition The Earthly Rose, which they will perform on DMA student Thomas Almli’s recital on Monday, June 5th at 7:30 at University Presbyterian Church, and he breathed new life into Chamber Singers’ interpretations of his Amazing Grace and Algirdas Martinaitis’ Alleluia. They will sing those works on Wednesday, May 24th at 7:30pm in Meany Hall.
Visit Ēriks Ešenvalds’ website to listen to his music and read about his background.
Two of University of Washington’s top choirs finished up a busy quarter last week, with performances on campus and across the community. The UW Chamber Singers (prepared by Geoffrey Boers, director), sang four performances of Handel’s Messiah in a collaboration with regional early music ensemble Pacific MusicWorks, under the direction of Stephen Stubbs, who was recently nominated for a Grammy. Their innovative approach was lauded in a recent review of the performance by Phillipa Kiraly at CityArts Online.
UW Chorale sang four Holiday POPS concerts with Seattle Symphony, under the direction of nationally renowed POPS conductor Stuart Chafetz (prepared by Giselle Wyers, director). The chorus had the opportunity to back up Broadway and TV star Capathia Jenkins, as well as collaborating with Tony deSare, composer, singer and pianist.
Stay tuned for more performance information after the new year, and enjoy these photos from the recent events.
UW Annual Choral Festival, April 18
Registration is now open for the University of Washington Annual Choral Festival, scheduled for April 18 at Meany Hall on the Seattle campus. Join us for a day of workshops, singing, and educational clinics with guest clinician Dr. Lisa Billingham from George Mason University. Dr. Billingham is a certified Laban specialist and highly respected choral pedagogue who has served as Virginia state president for ACDA. More information is available on our choral festival page.
Don’t miss University of Washington Summer Chorale’s upcoming performance of “Eternal Light”, a Requiem by Howard Goodall, under the direction of DMA candidate Brenda Mohr. The performance takes place Wednesday, August 12 at 7:30 pm at University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. UW Summer Chorale is also proud to present guest chorus E-STuudio Youth Choir from Estonia, under the direction of Külli Lokko, who will perform selections from their West Coast tour. Admission is free and open to the public.
The University of Washington Chorale and Chamber Singers just completed a three-performance run of Rodgers and Hammerstein POPS concerts with Seattle Symphony under the direction of Steven Reineke, who also serves as Principal Conductor of the New York POPS. The combined choirs were joined by outstanding soloists Jonathan Estabrooks, Ashley Brown, and Aaron Lazar. Our performance earned us a “Rave” in the Seattle Times and ignited some promising future connections with the Seattle Symphony.
UW Choral Festival of Excellence April 13, 2015
Please consider joining the University of Washington Choral Department and guest clinician Dr. Eric Johnson of Northern Illinois University on April 13, 2015 at the Meany Theater for the Performing Arts at UW. Your students will enjoy a videotaped on-stage clinic with Dr. Johnson, an off-stage clinic with Dr. Geoffrey Boers, Director of Choral Activities at UW, and a special directors luncheon. Visit the UW Choral Festival Page for all the details and registration flyer!