Thursday, June 30, 2011

Back in town!

Happy Conference!  Note the lovely pink badge.
Hi, all! Katie Skovholt, Seattle Pro Musica's  General Manager here.

A couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity to attend the 34th Annual Chorus America Conference in San Francisco.  It was my first national conference as non-student, non-performing attendee.  It was great!  I wandered around with a pink 'first time attendee' ribbon on my name card, which was a ticket to friendly interactions with all sorts of people -- though choral folk are a pretty pleasant group, so I'm sure all the pink did was give a starting point for a conversation. But it was an effective little flash of color, that's for certain!

Karen P. Thomas, the Artistic Director and Conductor of Seattle Pro Musica, presented on two sessions - a panel on 'Killer Programming' which recognized her mighty mighty skills as as an innovative concert-creator, and another called 'Hidden Gems' where she shared a beautiful piece by composer John Muehleisen - Da Pacem for women's choir and soprano solo. (Seattle Pro Musica commissioned and premiered the piece in March 2008, and included it on our American Masterpieces CD - which you can order via our website, or you can download just that song via iTunes, if you're so inclined!)

The opening reception - quite a nice affair.
The San Francisco Girls' Chorus - one of the co-hosts of the event - presented a truly amazing concert the first night. I spent about five years singing with the Tahoma Girls Choir before graduating out of the program and serving on the board for a while, and I haven't seen a really solid, extraordinary girls' group in quite a while; it was a treat! 

In fact, almost everything about the conference was a treat.  The Chorus America folks know how to throw a party, and they know how to craft a professional conference that provides valuable resources to attendees.  It was a great first conference, and I'm looking forward to seeing the colleagues I met in San Francisco again next year in Minneapolis.  And now I'll hand the blogging reins off to the Maestra and go back to the rest of my to-do list -- have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Karen P. Thomas, my boss and Chorus America conference guide.
KPT says: 
The Chorus America Conference was fabulous, as usual. The staff do such a tremendous job of organizing and running a smooth conference - finding compelling speakers, and selecting the finest area choirs to perform. Concert highlights for me were the San Francisco Girl's Chorus (one of the best children's chorus programs in the country) and Chanticleer - interesting programs and absolutely stellar performances by both those groups!  Ragnar Bohlin (Director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus) gave a fascinating presentation on contemporary choral music from Scandinavia and the Baltics - some wonderful repertoire ideas there!

As always, the Chorus America Conference is a great time for connecting with new colleagues and catching up with old friends. I was very happy to see Barlow Bradford and the Utah Chamber Artists receive the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award to commission a new piece by Tarik O’Regan - this wonderful group deserves the recognition!

All in all, a great conference, and I return to Seattle with plenty of new and exciting ideas!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Why SPM?

 Today's blog is by guest writer Jill Kimball, who just finished her first year as a soprano with Seattle Pro Musica.

Finding a great choir can be as difficult as finding the perfect Seattle apartment. There are a lot of factors to weigh: location, size, community feel. Last summer, I’d just finished college in Oregon and was in search of both as I prepared to move to the Emerald City.

I thought I couldn’t get any luckier when I scored an apartment in Lower Queen Anne with sweeping rooftop views.  But then, two months later, I found Seattle Pro Musica.

The myriad choices for singing groups in the Puget Sound area overwhelmed me at first, and I had to solicit a friend’s advice to narrow down a very long list of possibilities. But after a successful audition with Karen P. Thomas and just a few weeks of rehearsals, I discarded my list: it was clear SPM and I would be together for many years to come.

Why do I love SPM? Let me count the reasons…

1.     The conductor. The entire choral world seems to know and love Karen P. Thomas, SPM’s fearless leader. Why? Because she’s funny, intelligent and personable. Because she’s not afraid to challenge us and push boundaries. Because she values our input and takes our criticism seriously. Karen quickly tears down the wall that usually exists between conductors and singers, welcoming new members into her home for parties, inviting them on weekend outings and taking a genuine interest in their lives outside of choir.
2.     The great company. I’m generally a quiet person and have always been a bit of a social outcast. Luckily, in SPM, left-of-center tendencies are par for the course. I’ve geeked out with fellow choir members discussing nineteenth-century poetry, an obscure 1960s cult television show, and the extent to which Arvo Part’s music is accessible—and that was just last month. No matter how weird or far-flung your hobbies and passions might be, chances are you’ll find a fellow SPM member who wants to discuss them. With company like this, it’s no wonder I find it easy to come out of my shell at rehearsals and concerts.
3.     The concerts. SPM is a resident choir at St. James Cathedral, arguably the best concert space for choral music in Seattle. Pair that with our conductor’s always-amazing repertoire choices, and add an astoundingly dedicated following of community members in the audience…and it’s easy to see why I got choked up in the cathedral’s east apse as we closed our last concert of the season in May.
4.     The challenge. I don’t just sing in the three major concerts we prepare each season. I’m also part of Madrigalia and Schola, two smaller choirs within SPM that sing in smaller concerts all over the Puget Sound area throughout the year. Even though singing in these smaller ensembles means more repertoire to learn, more rehearsals to attend and more at-home practice time, I welcome the challenge: it reminds me that even after 10 years of choral singing, I still have so much more to learn.
5.     The bonding. SPM takes a break from rehearsals and concerts in the summer, but that doesn’t mean we singers take a break from socializing with each other! I already have plans to hike, barbecue and celebrate holidays and birthdays with my fellow singers during the warm months. After just one year in the choir, I already feel like I’ve made lifelong friends.

How do I love thee, Seattle Pro Musica? Let me count the ways! I had a fantastic inaugural season and I suspect I’ll have even more fun in future years.

Jill Kimball, Seattle Pro Musica’s youngest member, is a Santa Cruz, California native and a recent University of Oregon graduate. She moved to Seattle last year for a summer reporting internship with The Seattle Times. She currently works for Expedia, guzzles gallons of coffee daily, pretends to know things about modern art and fine wine, and blogs about life in the big city here.

Enjoying a cup of wassail at a Seattle Pro Musica party following the December 2010 concert series, NOWELL. 
From left, Peter Cornell, Ginger Ellingson, Jill Kimball, Madeline Bersamina

At the annual auction, Casino Royale. 
From left, Anna Thelen, Ian Bishop, Jill Kimball, Ashlyn Gehrett.

Monday, June 6, 2011

New Seasons

Seattle Pro Musica Artistic Director and Conductor, Karen P. Thomas, offers this blogular tidbit for your enjoyment! - KS
Seattle Pro Musica's 38th season is a wrap, now that our May 2011 "Appear and Inspire" concerts have finished up. We've had a tremendous year of excellent concerts, including performing at the American Handel Festival in March - we expect to have some good recordings from our 2010-11 season available soon!

And now, on to 2011-12 and preparations for the new repertoire and events coming up. It's interesting to note that in two years, the 2012-13 season, we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Seattle Pro Musica and my 25th anniversary as conductor of the group. I was reminded of this while reading the latest blog posting by my colleague Richard Sparks, who is the founding conductor of Seattle Pro Musica. He recently visited Seattle from Texas, where he now conducts at the University of North Texas. His latest blog contains musings on the various connections between the two choirs he founded here - Seattle Pro Musica and Choral Arts. The latter is now conducted by the excellent Robert Bode, who is on faculty at the University of Missouri at Kansas City.  An interesting further connection here is that I've recently received a commission from Choral Arts to write a new piece for them for May 2012 - am very much looking forward to getting started on that!

One of the most rewarding season-ending events for me, and for many other choral conductors and administrators from around the country, is the annual Chorus America Conference held each year in June. The conference begins this Wednesday, June 8, in one of my favorite cities - San Francisco. Looking forward to connecting with many friends and colleagues over the next week, and to meeting new colleagues. Among the exciting offerings are concerts by the host choirs Chanticleer and the San Francisco Girls Chorus. It will be wonderful to hear both of these excellent groups, and to reconnect with the SFGC and their conductor Susan McMane, who performed my "How can I keep from singing" in 2009.

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Karen P. Thomas is the Artistic Director of Seattle Pro Musica, with whom she has produced seven critically-acclaimed CD recordings, and has received the Margaret Hillis Choral Excellence Award and the ASCAP-Chorus America Award. Her compositions are performed internationally, and she has been lauded for her “charismatic...magnetic podium presence.” She has received awards from the NEA, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and ASCAP, among others.  She would rather be hiking than blogging.