BY KATHERINE CASTILLE
As it became clear the COVID-19 pandemic would wear on for months, many choruses launched digital initiatives to keep their music and their message in front of their audiences. Those with digital strategies already in place have stepped up their efforts. Others are just beginning to navigate this new frontier. All of them are learning valuable lessons about what digital content their audiences want and are willing to pay for.
In a year when choruses and audiences are not able to gather in concert venues for some of their most beloved and time-honored traditions, many groups are coming up with new ways to celebrate the season.
With singers and concertgoers alike missing festive outings to beloved holiday concerts, this season’s online holiday choral events are giving us the chance to adapt our time-honored traditions. Chorus America is promoting these events to the public to help choruses connect with new audiences and choral fans discover good cheer from the safety of their homes.
“Awake! Awake! Ye sisters all,” is the opening line to the “Suffrage Marching Song,” by Fanny Connable and Florence Livingston Lent, composed in 1914 to benefit the Equal Suffrage Cause. Like many political movements, the suffrage movement was inherently linked with music, making the 2020 centennial of the 19th Amendment’s ratification a natural programmatic theme. Choruses across the U.S. are honoring this anniversary with new events and commissions featuring women’s voices, including premieres happening this weekend.
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There can be serendipity in the most challenging change of plans. The Master Chorale of South Florida was scheduled for a prime performance at the 2020 Chorus America Conference in Miami -- an ideal setting to premiere a commission from composer Jake Runestad. With a global coronavirus pandemic putting a halt to choral events and most of everyday life as we know it, this performance obviously did not come to fruition.
Instead, the Master Chorale and artistic director Brett Karlin discovered they possesed a brand new work that spoke with uncanny eloquence to our new reality -- and the opportunity to premiere it with the involvement of a wider community of audience members, renowned conductors, and singers than they ever imagined. Karlin and Runestad shared their stories with Chorus America on the journey of this new commission, As Long As We Are Here, which enters a new chapter this fall.
Slowly and cautiously - and with great hope - corners of the choral community are beginning to explore possibilities of in-person singing, adapting to take precautions as COVID-19 concerns remain. The summer appears to have allowed the field some room to plan and experiment, with a few projects airing this weekend. True to choral form, these ventures display an abundance of creativity and represent a broad range of ideas!
Music’s prominence in the sacred sphere has shaped some of the most enduring genres of choral music in Western culture, such as the requiem mass. For more than a century, composers have found resonance in the requiem outside its traditional religious framework — a resonance that has acquired new intensity in recent years. Here is a look at four American composers of today who have adapted the idea of the sacred requiem to secular expressions that commemorate loss and encourage healing. Their music responds to a wide spectrum of inspirations—and perhaps has even more relevance in a world coping with suffering and loss in a new way.
The World Symposium on Choral Music is an eight-day festival held every three years, organized by the International Federation for Choral Music. The next symposium is scheduled for July 2020, to be hosted in Auckland, New Zealand. In anticipation of WSCM2020, symposium artistic director John Rosser, who also founded and directs the Auckland-based chamber choir Viva Voce, spoke with Chorus America about next year’s event and its theme, tangata whenua.