So you think you can sing? Well, join a chorus
Everyone owns one musical instrument, and it travels around with you.
It's your voice.
It comes free of charge, and you're born knowing how to use it (just
ask the parents of any newborn). It is so distinctively yours that a
recording of it can be used as legal evidence, just like your fingerprint.
No wonder singing is the No. 1 form of arts participation according to
a 2003 Chorus America survey, which also found that an estimated 28.5
million Americans regularly performed in one of America's
approximately 250,000 choruses. Empirical evidence suggests those
numbers continue to rise.
Why do people love to sing? According to the veteran choral conductor
Weston Noble, it's because this is the only art form that unites two
important avenues of artistic communication: music and words.
"Choral music is literally life-changing," Noble said in an interview
last year. "When you add a text to use as a medium for the
interpretation of music, you go beyond the realm of language and into
Here, in the greater Seattle area, the wealth of choruses of all kinds
points to the fact that "this is a big choral town," according to the
Seattle Pro Musica's Karen P. Thomas. Thomas, whose highly successful
chorus recently became one of only seven nationwide to receive an
American masterpieces grant to host a major choral festival next June
(plus several outreach concerts and educational events). The festival
will bring in choirs from around the Northwest, plus such major
figures as Dale Warland and Morten Lauridsen.
"It's human nature to communicate verbally," says Thomas, who also
points to the egalitarian nature of singing: "It embraces everyone."
And choral singing fulfills a number of other roles. Choruses advance
social goals, such as the quest for peace and tolerance. Church and
other religious choirs express and further a religious mission. Ethnic
choirs are an important avenue of cultural transmission and
celebration. And all choirs expose their singers to other languages,
eras and cultures through their choice of music.
And you're never too old. The esteemed Seattle voice teacher Roberta
Manion, now living in a retirement community, leads an informal chorus
whose oldest member is 105: "The love of singing lasts a lifetime,"
Some choruses are full of highly skilled professional singers and
music teachers who must pass rigorous auditions; others accept anyone
who shows up and wants to sing, and many others fall somewhere in between.
Below, you'll find an adult-choral compilation that is fairly
inclusive (the huge array of children's choirs is another subject).
Many choruses require annual dues. The fall season is a good time to
Bellevue Chamber Chorus, an Eastside chorus of 30-40, is directed by
Fredrick Lokken; membership requires a 10-minute audition
Cantare Vocal Ensemble, an auditioned 40-member chorus, specializes in
performing lesser-known choral works along with popular repertoire.
Artistic director Mark Adrian is seeking sopranos and basses.
(http://www.nwassociatedarts .org/cantare/, 206-246-6040).
Cascadian Chorale, founded in 1964 and led by Philip Tschopp, is an
auditioned Eastside chorus with a chamber subgroup, the Cascadian
Singers. (206-286-6028, www.cascadianchorale.org).
Choir of the Sound, a 100-voice chorus founded in 1977 and affiliated
with Shoreline Community College, is led by Judy Filibeck in
performances that often feature staging, lighting and choreography.
Choral Arts, a very select 30-voice professional choral ensemble
founded by Richard Sparks, is now auditioning top candidates for a new
artistic director. (www.choral-arts.org).
Choral Sounds Northwest, an 80-voice chorus in Burien, performs with
choreography, sets and costumes. Interim director Dave Spring welcomes
new singers via audition, no experience necessary
City Cantabile Choir, founded in 1981 by artistic director Fred West,
is an auditioned chorus that performs music of many cultures and
styles, from jazz to African and Celtic works
The Esoterics, the award-winning 36-voice auditioned
professional-quality chorus devoted to new repertoire, is a "project"
chorus; not all members sing all 20 annual concerts. Eric Banks is the
founding director (www.theesoterics.org).
Issaquah Chorale, founded in 1991, is a 50-member auditioned chorus
led by Linda Gingrich, has a season that includes annual visits to
Benaroya Hall; www.issaquahchorale.org.
Issaquah Singers, now in its 30th year, performs lighter repertoire;
the 30-50 voice chorus is led by Dorothy Hay, and no auditions are
required (www.issaquahsingers.com, 425-837-9662).
Kirkland Choral Society, led by Glenn Gregg, is in its 18th season; 70
members make it the Eastside's largest chorus. To audition:
Lake Washington Singers, a 30-voice non-audition, secular women's
chorus, sings pop/classics and show tunes, with piano, bass and
percussion. They're looking for altos (425-458-4521,
Medieval Women's Choir, 60-voice non-auditioned chorus devoted to
medieval music, is directed by eminent scholar Margriet Tindemans;
Music Center of the Northwest has several community choruses,
including the Daylight Singers (for 55+, led by Adam Burdick), Women's
Chorale (open to all women, led by Erin Walker); there's an annual
Sing/Play the "Messiah" event, (206-526-8443, www.mcnw.org).
Northwest Chamber Chorus, led by Mark Kloepper in its 39th season, is
an auditioned 40-voice mixed ensemble of high quality (206-523-1196;
Northwest Chorale, a 60-voice North Seattle-based chorus with a
mission to feed the poor gives free concerts with donations
requested for food banks. Informal auditions (www.nwchorale.org).
Northwest Repertory Singers, an auditioned five-year-old Tacoma
chorus, is led by director Paul Schultz (ps72638@...;
Norwegian Male Chorus of Seattle is one of several Norwegian choruses
in Everett, Tacoma and other sites around the country. The Seattle NMC
is looking for new members; you don't have to speak Norse. Director:
Alf Knudsen, alfknudsen@... or WstrVi king@....
Opus 7, a professional 24-voice choral group founded in 1992 by Loren
Ponten, focuses on 19th-21st century works and is resident at St.
James Cathedral (206-782-2899, www.opus7.org).
Oratorio Northwest, a new auditioned Eastside community chorus led by
Robert Bigley, performs major sacred works (e.g. "Messiah") with
Phinney Neighborhood Cho-
rus, a friendly amateur mixed chorus led by Maggie McClellan, sings
community music from around the world (www.phinneychorus.org).
Rain City Women's Chorus, a non-auditioned Wedgwood-area 24-year-old
choir promising "fun and friendship" as well as quality music, is led
by Jo-Ann Christen (206-282-5471).
Rainier Chorale, based in Kent with 75 voices, is a community chorus
with "low-key" auditions (tenors/basses especially needed); Ron Bayer
directs. (www.rainierchorale.org, 206-835-8888).
Sacred Music Chorale, a 50-voice auditioned Christian chorus founded
in 1999, is directed by Brad Klostreich. To audition, call
206-783-7108 or e-mail jostrow@... (www.sacredmusicchorale.org).
Seattle Bach Choir, founded in 1984, is a 32-member auditioned chorus
that focuses on the Baroque but also performs other composers. Gregory
Vancil is the director; 206-324-4828, www.seattlebachchoir.org.
Seattle Chamber Singers, a 55-voice auditioned professional-level
chorus founded by George Shangrow, is affiliated with Orchestra
Seattle in repertoire ranging from Bach to world premieres. More
basses are sought, but there are opportunities in all categories
Seattle Choral Company, led since 1982 by founding director Fred
Coleman, is a large auditioned chorus of high standard that performs a
major choral/orchestral repertoire, as well as collaborations with
Pacific Northwest Ballet (www.seattlechoralcompany.org, 206-365-8765).
Seattle Labor Chorus, a 50-member group, is dedicated to the labor,
social justice and peace movements. Contact phone: 206-841-4650.
Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus is now in its 17th season, with Scott
Farrell directing the approximately 85 singers in a wide range of
concert activity that "celebrates and affirms all genders and
sexualities." Auditions are "brief and low-stress." (www.slgc.org,
Seattle Men's Chorus, with 273 members, is the largest community
chorus in North America and the world's largest gay men's chorus.
Under director Dennis Coleman, the SMC has a national reputation for
excellence. 206-323-0750, www.flyinghouse.org.
Seattle Peace Chorus, formed in 1983 to promote peace, is led by Fred
West and is currently seeking tenors and basses (prosperall@...,
Seattle Pro Musica, internationally respected for its recordings and
concerts under the leadership of Karen P. Thomas, is a chorus of about
60 members of professional caliber (206-781-2766,
Seattle Symphony Chorale, founded in 1953, is an auditioned chorus of
high standard affiliated with the Seattle Symphony; the chorale's
director is George Fiore (206-215-4728,
Seattle Welsh Choir, also called "Côr Cymraeg," was founded in 1982
and is a mixed choir (SATB) that sings traditional and contemporary
music in the Welsh language. (www.scn.org/people/welsh/corcymrg.html).
Seattle Women's Chorus, the new 150-member sister group of the Seattle
Men's Chorus, is also led by Dennis Coleman and is rapidly developing
a reputation for excellence (www.flyinghouse.org/swc).
Seattle Glee Clubs, an umbrella group with several different choruses
for non-auditioned singers, offers many opportunities for singers
(206-260-7393, www.seattlegleeclubs.org, or email
Seirm (Scottish Gaelic Choir), an award-winning 18-member mixed chorus
open to all (it's not necessary to speak Gaelic), and directed by
Seumas Gagne, was founded in 1996 and now performs staged music dramas
with instrumentalists. (www.slighe.com, 206-297-8398).
Sno-King Community Chorale, based at Edmonds Community College, is led
by veteran Frank DiMiero in music from pops to classical, and is open
to all. (425-778-0573, 2006@..., www.sno-kingchorale.org).
Svea Male Chorus, a venerable 101-year-old institution formed to
preserve Swedish music, performs regularly at the Swedish Cultural
Center and other venues (sveachorus@..., 206-909-8723). You
don't have to speak Swedish or audition.
Swedish Women's Chorus, Svea Male Chorus' 55-year-old sister group, is
led by Florence Mesler; (lutequist@..., 206-283-1090). No
Swedish or audition necessary.
Total Experience Gospel Choir, founded by Patrinell Wright in 1973 as
a gospel music class in Franklin High School, now is an award-winning
African-American-oriented chorus known worldwide.
altonharu@..., 206-322-7904, www.totalexperience.org.
Tudor Choir, a professional ensemble with 12 core members and director
Doug Fullington, performs mostly Renaissance polyphony but also early
American and contemporary (www.tudorchoir.org, 206-323-9415).