Central Ohio singers of all ages will soon be lifting their voices together in song, thanks to a new educational initiative of the Lancaster-based professional chorus LancasterChorale.
Later this month, central Ohio school and community choirs join LancasterChorale in Voices United, the chorale’s inaugural educational outreach concerts, in Lancaster and Columbus.
LancasterChorale performs Voices United at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 in Columbus’ Lincoln Theatre with the Columbus Academy Camerata, the Columbus Chamber Singers and the Santa Maria Choir of the Columbus Children’s Choir.
The chorale then performs at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 at Lancaster’s Fairfield Union High School with the Lancaster-Fairfield Youth Choir and the Fairfield Union High School Assembly Singers.
Performers include elementary and high school students, as well as community singers, LancasterChorale artistic director Stephen Caracciolo said in a recent phone interview.
“So we’re very pleased to be meeting the needs of all those folks,” Caracciolo said.
Voices United will enable a diverse group of singers to refine works already in their repertoire and learn new works in intensive rehearsals with Caracciolo and the professional singers of LancasterChorale.
“What’s unique about this project,” Caracciolo said, “is that we have 22 artists on each day involved in bringing the project about.
“Here we are in central Ohio,” he continued, “and we’re reaching out to people who are learning this art and bringing it side by side, literally, in rehearsal in the afternoon. And then in the evening, we bring it together into a concert.”
Voices United expands on LancasterChorale’s existing educational activities by involving more choirs and singers around central Ohio. Over the last decade, LancasterChorale has performed regularly with the Lancaster-Fairfield Youth Choir, which Caracciolo calls the “educational arm” of LancasterChorale.
The project leverages the chorale’s relationships with other central Ohio choirs, including the Fairfield Union High School Assembly Singers – founded by former longtime LancasterChorale artistic director Robert Trocchia – the Columbus Academy Camerata, which Caracciolo has conducted, and the Columbus Chamber Singers, whose director, Anne Hurst Todt, is a member of LancasterChorale.
The initiative also marks LancasterChorale’s first collaboration with the Columbus Children’s Choir, whose Santa Maria Choir – comprised of 49 students grades four to 12 from around central Ohio – will perform alone and side-by-side with the chorale on the Feb. 16 performance in Columbus.
Preparing for the Voices United concert has given the students in the Santa Maria Choir a chance to sing more challenging repertoire and work with a guest conductor.
The choir will sing Renaissance master Giovanni da Palestrina’s four-part motet Sicut cervus and John Rutter’s For the Beauty of the Earth side-by-side with LancasterChorale, under Caracciolo’s direction.
“This gives the Santa Maria Choir singers the opportunity to sing four-part music,” Caracciolo said, “and, frankly, to have children’s voices on the top line, the way it would have been sung in the 16th century.
“Those students get to actually sing four-part counterpoint and a cappella,” he continued. “So that’s a totally new kind of texture and literature for those students that we are so pleased to be bringing to them.”
Sarah Santilli, director of the Santa Maria Choir, agrees that this project presents new challenges for the choir.
“It’s really pushed us as musicians to raise our performance level and our skill level in order to be ready for this performance,” Santilli said. “So we’re excited about that.
“They’ll also be conducted by Stephen,” she continued. “So getting to work with a guest conductor is always beneficial for an ensemble. And we’re really excited about the clinician aspect, as well.”
Caracciolo says the side-by-side singing with LancasterChorale will also give the other collaborating choirs opportunities to perform repertoire they might not otherwise tackle. The Columbus Chamber Choir will sing Anton Bruckner’s Ave Maria and Francis Poulenc’s O Magnum Mysterium with LancasterChorale.
And reinforced by the men of LancasterChorale, the Lancaster-Fairfield Youth Choir will have a chance to perform Renaissance composer Ludovico da Viadana’s Exultate justi and James Erb’s arrangement of the traditional American song Shenandoah.
“It’s a classic,” Caracciolo said of Erb’s Shenandoah arrangement. “Every choral singer throughout the United States needs to have sung this once in their life, and the fact that these students are singing it as young people is really terrific.”
And the singers of the collaborating choirs aren’t the only ones who will be stretched by Voices United. LancasterChorale is already growing from the process of bringing the project to fruition.
“We’re just so very pleased to have five ensembles join us,” Caracciolo said. “It’s a stretch for both LancasterChorale and somewhat for central Ohio. We’re just very pleased to be putting it all together.”