“Bold and confident.”
This is how critics have described performances by the St. Louis Symphony Chorus during the 2018/2019 season. Such high words of praise are usually reserved for professional ensembles, but the St. Louis Symphony Chorus is made up mostly of volunteer singers who perform at a professional level to partner with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in a wide range of choral orchestral music.
Alan Freed, a baritone, has sung with the chorus for nearly 30 years and has held five different titles with the chorus – ranging from volunteer singer to acting director. An attorney/mediator by profession, the chorus “played a major role in my decision to attend law school in St. Louis,” he said.
He’s performed with the chorus on numerous major choral works, listing the first chorus performance of Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky in March 1977 as one of his top performances. The chorus most recently performed Alexander Nevsky in February 2019, led by SLSO Music Director Designate Stéphane Denève.
The chorus, which has been directed by Amy Kaiser for nearly 25 years, has also traveled with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to Carnegie Hall. Freed remembers performances of John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls and Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes at Carnegie Hall under then-Music Director David Robertson as other memorable chorus moments.
Joy Boland, a soprano, also called the performance of Peter Grimes a highlight of her seven years with the chorus.
“The roar from that crowd raised all the hairs on my body straight up on end,” Boland, who is an administrative assistant with The Muny, said. “I still keep that backstage pass in my chorus folder.”
Both singers say experiences with the chorus are unforgettable.
“Nothing compares to the sound that is possible from a large, professional-level chorus such as ours. We have the capacity to produce everything from a breathtaking pianissimo to a shattering fortissimo and everything in between,” Freed said.
Boland added: “Read-throughs with this group are occasionally better than finished performances I've done elsewhere.”
Denève, who becomes the SLSO’s 13th Music Director in the 2019/2020 season, agreed.
“They (the chorus) sing with the heart. And I really want to have this emotion together,” he said. “You add this dimension of meaning to the music itself.”
Denève is excited to continue working with the chorus and has programmed five choral masterworks in the upcoming 19/20 season – including Berlioz’s The Damnation of Faust, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, with its instantly recognizable “Ode to Joy.”
“I have a particular affinity for the Mahler Second Symphony,” Freed said. “I was accepted into the Blossom Festival Chorus (the Cleveland Orchestra's summer festival) after high school graduation in 1970. The first piece we performed that season was a benefit conducted by Leonard Bernstein featuring the Mahler Second, with Christa Ludwig as the mezzo soloist. I'll never forget that night.”
This professional-level ensemble will hold auditions for new members soon. Chorus members come from all walks of life – music teachers, church musicians, physicians, attorneys, office workers, graduate students, and professional musicians – and all parts of the St. Louis region.
Singers are asked to perform a classical selection from memory (art song, opera or oratorio aria, sacred piece, or classical music theater solo). Singers will also be asked to sight read and vocalize. The sight-reading selection is usually a brief excerpt from an 18th or 19th century choral work. Auditions are heard by the chorus director and chorus manager, and an accompanist is provided. The entire audition will last ten minutes and take place at Powell Hall.
Auditions are August 27, August 29, and September 3.
For more information or to schedule an audition, contact chorus manager Susan Patterson at 314-286-4108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A limited number of paid positions are available. These are reserved for singers with strong experience as soloists with large ensembles.
Learn more about the chorus here.