This past fall I was seated in the magnificent St Mary of Victories Catholic Church in downtown St Louis, listening to the glorious voices of the members of the St Louis Chamber Chorus and started thinking of the myriad of choirs in our town. Philip Barnes, the director states, "Not many American cities can suggest and inspire a choir to sing in as many languages and styles as the Chamber Chorus - in this season alone, from Hungarian and Icelandic, to French and German…oh, with even a little English thrown in! And,of course,the language leads to a particular, individual culture and its unique musical tradition, and the result is a dazzling array of musical colours and effects.” The Chamber Chorus's mission is "not merely to entertain, but to educate and inspire," and in a city as rich as St Louis that is truly an attainable goal." The 55 year old itinerant chorus performs in a different architectural setting for each performance.
Dr. Dennis Sparger, the conductor of the Bach Society noted a recent national survey that concluded that more than 42 million Americans sing in a choir. Dr Sparger has catalogued more than 120 annual concerts presented by over 40 independent choirs. All of this information is compiled in a calendar, "St Louis Sings," which is printed and distributed to all local high schools and universities, and can also be viewed online at bachsociety.org. And there are scores of religious and school choirs in our area.
Of course we often think of choirs singing sacred and classical music, but St Louis Choral groups cover the gamut. Our barbershop society group, The Ambassadors of Harmony, have won international awards under the leadership of Dr.James Henry, head of the choral studies department at UMSL. If you've ever been to a Gateway Men's Chorus performance, you know that their mission, under the leadership of Dr.Jeffrey Carter, head of the music department at Webster University, really does accomplish its mission of bringing hearts and minds together through music.
And just when I was thinking about the vast choral music scene in St Louis, I opened my November copy of St Louis Magazine and read an article on the great music festival that recently took place here in town. Stefene Russell states, "Two years ago, the phrase ‘choral music’ would've evoked the image of people in blue polyester robes, swaying and fanning their hands and singing ‘Oh Shenandoah.’ Now,thanks to Glee, it's cool to be a choir nerd."
In November, St Louis hosted The American International Choral Festival, the first U.S event for Interkulture, the European foundation that produces the World Choir Games. Interkulture now represents 120,000 choirs with 4.8 million singers It was produced locally by the St Louis Regional Arts Commission and Convention and Visitors Commission and nationally by the American Choral Directors Association. Jeffrey Carter headed up this choir venture and says, "This will probably be the only time that we've had a chance to see a church choir, a college choir, The Ambassadors of Harmony, and the St Louis Children's Choir onstage at the same concert."
The St Louis Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Amy Kaiser, is an indispensable part of the St Louis Symphony. It was founded in 1976 by then music director Jerzy Semkow and its first director Thomas Peck, and quickly became one of the finest orchestral choruses in the country. The symphony also boasts of its "In Unison" chorus which is a part of their "In Unison" program, which performs in African American churches.
Looking over the Bach Society's, "St Louis Sings" there are choices galore as to where you can hear a quality choral performance. Just a couple of examples are a program called, "Some Enchanted Evening" on February 26 by the Belleville Philharmonic Chorale at Philharmonic Hall in Belleville or on March 26 one can hear a concert entitled ,"The Piano Man" by the Gateway Men's Chorus at the 560 Music Center in University City.
So whether you sing in the shower or in a chorus, or are just a listener - the beauty of music will lift our spirits high.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.