Category Archives: Reflections

The Life and Music of Pēteris Vasks

In the previous post, it was mentioned that Chorale would be performing a piece by Pēteris Vasks at an upcoming concert. You may be wondering, who is Pēteris Vasks and what kind of music does he compose?

Photo: Composer Pēteris Vasks

Pēteris Vasks was born in Aizpute, Latvia on April 16, 1946. While taking his first piano and violin lessons at the local music school, he began to write his first compositions as well. He went on to study double bass at the Emīls Dārziņš Music School in Riga, and later at the Lithuanian Academy of Music. These skills allowed him to play double bass for both the Lithuanian Philharmonic Orchestra and the Latvian Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra.

Vasks also studied composition at the Latvian State Conservatory under Valentinus Utkins between 1973 and 1978. Since then, he has published a multitude of orchestral, chamber, and choral pieces. A common theme throughout many of his pieces is the affirmation of Latvian history and Latvian spirit. In particular, his pieces from the 1980s-1990s reflect the harshness of the Soviet era and the tribulations faced by many Latvians. His symphony “Voices”, for example, chronicles Latvia’s struggle for independence and the hardships encountered in the process. His later works are primarily centered around universal themes – these include joy and despair, the beauty of nature, and hope for the future.

Video: A brief look at the role music plays in the life of Pēteris Vasks.

On February 6, Chorale will join Chamber Singers and the Pacific Lutheran University Choir of the West to perform the works of Pēteris Vasks and other Baltic composers. We will be singing Vasks’ “The Fruit of Silence”, a remarkably pristine piece based on the words of Mother Teresa. The concert is February 6 at 7 PM and will be held at University Presbyterian Church. We hope to see you there!

For more information about Pēteris Vasks, check out these pages!

Peace out for now! ✌

New Year, New Friends, New Music, Same Chorale Spirit

Hello fellow Chorale friends, members, family, and fans! Whether it be your first time hearing about Chorale or not, we welcome each and every one of you.

We officially kicked off the new year with our annual fall retreat at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church this past Saturday. For those of you who are unfamiliar to what a retreat is, it is typically a day for new and returning choir members to get to know each other in a setting outside of the classroom. Our VP, Byron, did a terrific job in directing the ice-breakers; in fact, our president, Evan, was having so much fun that he nearly caused a scene by running into another member while playing “never have I ever!”

In addition to getting to know each other and playing ridiculous games, we were able to take a peek at our repertoire for the upcoming quarter. As usual, Dr. Wyers did a fantastic job of choosing a diverse selection of pieces ranging from traditional Western classical pieces, to a Mongolian piece that will have audiences in complete awe.

And finally, towards the end of retreat, we had our annual election for our cabinet.

(And yes, we are indeed dabbing)

Our cabinet members are as follows:

  • President: Evan Shelton
  • Vice President: Byron Walker
  • Head Section Leader: Anya Hsu
  • Secretary: Sam Fredman
  • Treasurer: Cannon Roe
  • Publicity Chair: Marcy Landes
  • Historian: Lina Bishop
  • Social Chairs: Natalie Modlin & Ally Arnold
  • Concert Chairs: Gargi Sivaram & Maddie Ile

We are more than excited to serve Chorale for the next year or so, and can’t wait to see where this quarter takes us!

Until next time <3


Fairies at the CarolFest

Last Thursday, we had our combined Fall Choral Concert with the Chamber Singers. I hope for those who went to the concert enjoyed the time being there because we definitely had a good time on stage making music. On Monday during rehearsal, we shared some good comments that we heard from our friends and families with each other. We always take some time in rehearsal after each performance to reflect on the good and bad things on the performance. It’s a way for us to know what people like about us and what we can do to make our next performance better.

“My job – is to push you as far as possible, but enough so that you don’t fall off from the cliff,” said Dr. Wyers.

This statement that she made about her responsibility in this group no doubt mirrors her actions since the beginning of the quarter. We acknowledge her hard work, and truly appreciate how far she has brought us within a short period of time.

IMAG0234Now, as we all know, one of the most well-known and most celebrated holidays is coming near the corner. You probably already noticed that from posters in stores, Christmas lights on the streets, or perhaps carolers who have knocked on your doors. These holiday fairies come around the town to bring blessings to people, and I was lucky enough to see them earlier on the day of the Thursday performance last week. Anya (middle) and Jacob (right) from Chorale were singing that day. There are other singers in the groups and some of them are also from the UW Chorale. I have not had the chance to meet all the fairies, but you might. As you’re walking to your classes, look around and you might see them. If you do, take a moment to listen, it might be just what you need on the dead week before the finals.

carolfestgraphicTomorrow in Meany Hall, we will be singing in the traditional CarolFest (buy tickets here) along with the Chamber Singers, University Singers, Women’s Choir, Gospel Choir, and UW Men’s Glee Club. Enjoy the Many Moods of Christmas (also the title of one of the songs that the UW Chorale will be singing) and wish you all the best.

Chorale On Fire

Firelight_Banner_2_880x399On Friday, November 6th, the Chorale performed in an amazing concert with Grammy winning composer Mateo Messina. We were on fire, well, everyone was on fire! All the guest artists were phenomenal, including Sweet Water, Shawn Smith, Sela Tuiono, and the Columbia Boys and Girls Choir, and they really gave us a kick in energy when we were on stage. Although the performance was entertaining and the purpose was to raise money for Seattle Children’s Hospital, the meaning stretches far beyond that. 11041117_10153718356817692_5806972078393432465_nWe were lucky to have him come over to our rehearsal before the concert and gave us his thoughts and inspirations behind the project. Fire is a central part in the human history, but the idea of fire has changed from a necessity for survival to a symbol of stories from our past, of our lives. Everyone, healthy or ill, rich or poor, has the responsibility to pass on their stories to the next generation. This is the second time for the UW Chorale to work with Mateo, with the first time in 2013 also for the benefit concert (See A Symphony of Perspective). Every time we work with Mateo, we receive gifts that are not just music, but also new ideas, perspectives, and inspirations. We enjoyed working with Mateo a lot and looking forward to our next coopration.

Even though the Firelight concert was over last week, the UW Chorale has not burn out the fire yet. We are already looking ahead into December and have our minds and focus directed to our Fall Choral Concert “The Unbreakable Mirror.” On Monday during our rehearsal, we quickly reviewed our songs for the repertoire and had a small performance by the boys and girls in the Chorale. There will be one song in the up-coming Chorale concert that will be sung by males only, and another one by females only. The girls and boys in the choir have been split in separate rooms to practice these two songs during rehearsals, and on Monday was the first time we’ve ever heard each other.

IMAG0187The song that the boys performed was called Gao Shan Qing. Now, I have to step out side as a blogger and acknowledge the boys form my personal view – they were fantastic!! Their enunciation was great; I could almost understand every Chinese word they sang. Their color and power was also just right and beautiful. You can really see that they’ve worked hard on the material.

IMAG0198The girls performed after they boys, and the song was called Hymn to the Waters. It’s a song that requires a lot of internal energy while being very quiet and light. The tempo was much faster then expected, but the girls were great in adjusting quickly and get into the space faster. The tone of the girls were clear and smooth, dispite from the fast tempo, and beautifully created an image of falling angels (at least that’s how I’d like to think of ourselves as).

There are many things and projects still in progess, in Chorale and in our lives. We enjoy every moments possible and try to make the best music out of very opportunity. At the moment we are still working on the details of our songs, and with time, we will definately give you – our friends, families, and fans – another memorable experience.

Fall 2015: Welcome Chorale – Young and Fresh

12118722_10153664456047692_3656384484927003832_nIt’s Fall again! Lots of new faces, activities, holidays, and of course singing! This year, the University of Washington Chorale is very lucky have lots of new and beautiful voices join the ensemble. We learn and grow each year as we sing together to create beautiful moments, and yet we seem to get younger and fresher at times. This year is definately one of those times with most of our new voices Freshmen, and it will be exciting to see how these young voices grow and create their Chorale in a few years. We are also lucky to have two new but amazing assistant conductors: Brenda Mohr and Sarah Riskind, join us this year.

12049215_10207864889521681_6343614547908108513_nWith a group of about 60 people, it is hard to get to know everyone who we’ll be singing together for the rest of the year. But we’re not worried about that, because we have had our first annual choir retreat on the Saturday of October 10th. (Photo left: University Chorale: Refuge, see here for more detail.) The best way to know people around you is to get comfortable singing next to them. And so we did! We started off singing, eat and chat, and played bonding games. The new Chorale Cabinet was also selected during our retreat. And of course, we ended the retreat with our beautiful voices.

12088242_10153704962047692_6176512150685883438_nOur goal this year is to continue reaching our voices out to the public, on or off campus. We have already started with a small ensemble of UW Chorale Carolers singing Auld Lang Syne for the Business School end of the year promotional video on Monday, November 1st. Special thanks to them for their extraordinary performance that gets us off to a good start!

There are many more events that the Chorale will be doing this year. Here are some, listed below, that will take place this Fall that you might be interested in. Chek them out and buy tickets now!

  • Firelight: Mateo Messina on November 6th (Fri), 2015
    • UW Chorale will be joining Mateo Massina again after the 16th Annual Children’s Benefit Concert and perform his original composition of Firelight.
    • Location: Benaroya Hall
    • Time: 8:00pm
    • Tickets: $42-$200
    • Learn more and buy tickets here.
  • Fall Choral Concert “The Unbreakable Mirror” on December 3rd (Thu), 2015
    • UW Chorale and Chamber Singers will be having a concert together to show case what they have learned in the Fall quarter
    • Location: Meany Theater
    • Time: 7:30pm
    • Tickets: $10 all tickets
    • Learn more and buy tickets here.
  • Carolefest on December 9th (Wed), 2015
    • Six choral ensembles offered at the University of Washington Seattle will be holding a performance together to celebrate the holiday
    • Location: Meany Theater
    • Time: 7:30pm
    • Tickets: $10 all tickets
    • Learn more and buy tickets here.
  • Seattle Holiday POPS on December 11 (Fri), 12 (Sat), and 13 (Sun), 2015
    • Conducted by Stuart Chafetz, UW Chorale will be joining Bradway star Capathia Jenkins and acclaimed pianist/ singer Tony DeSare, along with the Seattle Symphony to celebrate the holiday
    • Location: Benaroya Hall
    • Time: Dec 11 (Fri) – 8pm, Dec 12 (Sat) – 2pm, 8pm, Dec 13 (Sun) – 2pm
    • Tickets: $35-$76
    • Learn more and buy tickets here. 

Check your calendar and ask your friends and family to come support the UW Chorale. You don’t want to miss out all these fun. We’d love to see all your faces!

Springtime Melodies

The UW Chorale is jubilantly bringing the spring academic quarter to a close, celebrating our 3 months of studying musical literature with a concert last week and a second concert this Friday, June 5th. Our conductor, Dr. Giselle Wyers, was on sabbatical this quarter, and we were led instead by our two assistant conductors, Debi Johanson and Elizabeth MacIssac. We tackled a diverse range of literature, including an A Cappella version of Billy Joel’s “Lullabye” and a choral arrangement (one of the first of its kind) of a traditional Arabic melody.

IMG_2984      We were invited this quarter to continue to build our relationship with the Seattle Symphony, through participating in LinkUp, a musical outreach program that teaches 3rd through 5th grades students about the Symphony. Several UW Chorale soloists led a full house of elementary school students (and there was a week of these performances) in interactive songs, at Benaroya Hall. Additionally, a larger ensemble (approximately 10 students) sang “O Fortuna” with the Seattle Symphony, accompanied by over 2000 school children playing recorders.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 12.36.59 AM     Last Wednesday, May 27th, we sang the first portion of the musical literature we studied this year. We excelled musically under the fearless and inspired instruction of Debi and Elizabeth, who each picked half of the songs from our repertoire to conduct for the concert. It was a very moving concert, ended with the recognition of our student leadership, the Chorale Cabinet, and of our graduating seniors or leaving members, whose hours of enthusiastic music-making are appreciated greatly! Dr. Wyers also joined us on stage, and we recognized her for her excellent foundation of instruction for us this year, as well as organizing and managing the LinkUp project for the choir.

We will perform together with the UW Chamber Singers and the UW Symphony this coming Friday, June 5th. At this concert we will join the Chamber Singers and Symphony for two songs, Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky” (1938) and Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” (1965). In between, the Chamber Singers sing Verdi’s “Stabat Mater” (1897) with the UW Symphony. We are thrilled about capping off our year with these two beautiful works.


UW Chorale’s Busy Winter Comes to a Close 

It is finals week at the University of Washington, and Chorale has just concluded a very busy but very exciting quarter. Chorale worked on three different projects this quarter, and had to cleverly use our rehearsal time (under the talented tutelage of our conductor Dr. Giselle Wyers and assistant conductors Debi and Elizabeth) in order to learn and polish all the music required to fulfill these thrilling commitments.


Photo by Jonathan Vanderweit

The first project we completed was thanks to our continued partnership with Ann Hamilton and the Henry Art Gallery. We spent a fantastic evening in the Henry Art, alternating between moving through the galleries in small groups and singing as a whole choir in the larger galleries. In our smaller groups, of approximately 10 singers, we serenaded the furs, photos, and texts on display with a round composed by Dr. Wyers, melodies co-composed by pairs of Chorale members, and any other music we felt would communicate best with the exhibit. We came together as a whole choir a few times as well, in the North or South galleries, to sing songs that honored the powerful themes of the exhibit, Ann Hamilton’s A Common Sense. This performance was unique and powerful, invoking strong emotions in many of our singers. In addition to this one event, each member of Chorale volunteered an hour or more of their own time this academic quarter to stroll the galleries and be a living, breathing, singing part of the exhibit.

Pops pictureFollowing this magical night, we worked hard on literature for our Winter Concert with the Chamber Singers, and for our string of Pops performances with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra mentioned in our last blog post. We had the privilege of working under the talented and charismatic Steven Reineke (pictured to the right), who conducted our three performances at Benaroya Hall in Downtown Seattle. We had a blast, entertaining the audience with popular tunes from Rodgers’ & Hammerstein’s many musical collaborations, and getting the chance to perform and interact with the three talented soloists.

We capped off our quarter with a successful performance last Wednesday evening, singing repertoire that had not been part of our previous two projects, as well as a couple homages to our efforts at the Henry Art Gallery: reprising Dr. Wyers’ composition “Incantation to Remember” (text by Ann Hamilton, performed at the Henry Art Gallery), and the Pops crowd favorite “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame” from the musical South Pacific. We are excited about our new and strengthening relationship with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and looking forward to our next quarter and the new and expansive opportunities it will bring!



Welcoming the Holiday Season with Song!

IMG_7084Some quick updates: On October 30th, the women of Chorale accompanied the UW symphony to perform a beautiful rendition of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Additionally, the cookie dough fundraiser officially finished! Cookie dough was distributed this week, just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend! I know I’m looking forward to lots and lots of chocolate chip cookies!


University Chorale also got some great community outreach opportunities over the past couple weeks: last week several leaders within the choir (pictured to the right) traveled downtown and recorded several SeaHawks-themed christmas carols for radio station HOT 103.7 that will be aired in the coming weeks. Tune in on Monday morning and you will possibly hear this talented group singing!

UPDATE (11/24): Click here for a video of the ensemble above performing the Seahawks vs. 49ers version of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.


Also, yesterday we had the pleasure of hosting a choral exchange with the Rogers High School Choir. Kassey Castro (pictured to the left), a leader within Chorale, led the warmups, and Rogers High School alum (and Chorale member) Jonah Melchert sang an excellent solo in Italian to show some of what he has achieved in the music program at UW so far, and Rogers High School alum (and Chorale member) Evan Shelton spoke about the benefits of participation in choir from a non-music major’s point of view.

wolflogo2Lastly, some information about our near future: on December 2nd we proudly present our Fall Concert, in which we will sing various pieces of music we have rehearsed since September. The next night, the UW Chorale will be participating in the annual UW Carolfest, joining many other choral groups at the university to sing a diverse collection of seasonal music. Following that, on December 10th, a small ensemble of Chorale members will be singing during the opening of 100.7 The Wolf’s Hometown Holiday! All but the Suite tickets are sold out, but if you go like our Facebook page and keep your eyes trained on our updates, there may be a chance that you could get a ticket after all!



verb. work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something


Why is collaboration important? Like the above definition suggests (courtesy of Oxford Dictionary), people collaborate to create, and often times what comes as a result exceeds the expectations of the creators. This year, University Chorale has had some fortunate opportunities to work with other artists, each for different reasons.


Chorale at Ann Hamilton’s gala

Sometimes, people collaborate for a great cause. Like how we coordinated with Mateo Messina, Imogen Heap, and Pomplamoose in a benefit concert for Seattle Children’s Hospital. Or how we contributed our singing talents to a fundraiser and gala at the Henry Art Gallery for visual artist Ann Hamilton.


Sapience and Chorale take the stage of Meany

Other times, we collaborate to tell a story. Like how we coordinated with the Sapience Dance Company to convey a message of peace with Randall Thompson’s A Peaceable Kingdom. Or how we joined University Symphony and Chamber Singers in expressing the sorrows of death and begging for forgiveness in the final hour with Duruflé’s Requiem.


Women of Chorale and Vita in Canto share a rehearsal

We also collaborated with other choirs to share our singing experiences. Like how we exchanged songs with the Olympia High School choir and toured them around campus. Or how the women of Chorale shared with a Russian women’s choir, Vita in Canto. They’re under the direction of UW Masters graduate, Yuly Kopkin, and at the time were touring the United States.

As the school year winds down, and we reminisce about the people we’ve worked with, we bring our memories and our experiences to the stage for one more collaboration. This time, we will be working with saxophonist Michael Brockman in our concert, Out of Darkness. Our combined efforts will tell the tale of rising out of darkness in times of strife, and celebrate the times when life shows us the light. It will feature the saxophonist’s world premier of his composition, Ēka Satya, and a composition by our very own Dr. Wyers: A Lantern Voice.

10277182_10202020143840685_5779827530574878337_nWe hope you will join us for our final concert of the 2013-2014 school year!

2014 Already!?

Welcome back to a new quarter! Winter quarter can get quite chilly; it’s time to bundle up, head inside, and warm up your spirits with good company, friends, and joyful songs. Sounds like a typical day with University Chorale, doesn’t it?

Hopefully you’re all enjoying 2014 so far! For us, a new year brings exciting and spicy repertoire. Though we only have one major performance planned for this quarter, we’re delighted to have a concert dedicated to Latin American composers and poets. You might even see our assistant conductors take the stage and lead the ensemble! Exciting, no? Be sure to mark your calendars for March 12th. More details will come as the date approaches.

Speaking of performances, let’s take a moment to see what the choir accomplished in 2013:

  • We performed with the eccentric Imogen Heap at Mateo Messina’s benefit concert for Seattle Children’s Hospital. And there’s a video of our performance just in case you weren’t able to see us!
  • Collaborating with the Sapience Dance Collective, we visually and audibly painted a picture of peace with Randall Thompson’s Peaceable Kindgom. Check out some awesome photos of our performance here, and also see what Sapience is up to this seasonFun fact, the Collective is bringing this work to the East coast in 2015!
  • Finally, all of University of Washington’s choirs celebrated the holidays with Carolfest: Silent Night, Joyous Night. Choirs were filling the stage, performing from the side aisles of the audience, and even from the balconies above! ‘Twas a night full of holiday cheer. Also, check out how we enjoyed the festivities with photos from our White Elephant gift exchange.

Oh, and here’s an updated picture of the group. Look at all of those beautiful faces!


Happy 2014, readers! May this year be prosperous, full of adventure, and overflowing with hope.