Choirs have always impressed me. Many different voices working together in a moving performance can bring me to tears. Whether they’re ancient, gospel or secular, I admire and appreciate the talent and cooperation it takes to sing well and honor the musical legacy. Belllingham and Whatcom County offer performances by many different groups throughout the year. Many local chorale groups have been around for decades, bringing to life the varied music from every century to celebrate the human voice.
Choral, chorale, choir, and chorus are in some respects used interchangeably when a body of singers perform together. Much of the music performed today has its roots in an array of European church music. You don’t have to practice or follow a religion to appreciate its musical heritage. I also love that I learn about the history of a piece when I see it performed.
Below are many groups that perform in Bellingham and Whatcom County throughout the year. Although too numerous to include them all, here are a few I’ve appreciated over the years and am excited to see again. I recommend you check their individual websites for the most updated performance schedules, programs and locations when making your plans.
Since 1972, Whatcom Chorale has grown to a 100-member community-based choir based that draws singers from Whatcom, Skagit and King counties. They present both accompanied and a cappella choral music which includes sacred, classical and contemporary styles in a variety of languages. A few of my friends have been singing in this chorus for more than a decade. Each season has a theme or motivation behind the music presented. They usually present two or three performances per season. Their 2017/18 season was inspired by the art of alto Susan Bennerstrom. They take great pride in carrying forward this tradition of creative musical human experience that has existed for centuries.
Celebrating their 30th year together as an ensemble, Kulshan Chorus sings to make a difference in the community and its visitors. Comprised of singers from beginners to professionals the chorus was initially led by founding director, Roger Griffith and accompanied by Karen Fitzgerald. Roger retired in 2013 and its now guided by Artistic Director Dustin Willetts.
To celebrate this special year they’ve scheduled two performances. The themes will revolve around togetherness and the beauty and power that ensues when togetherness is achieved. Following their January 12, 2019 and May 2019 performances, the group will head off on a singing tour through Norway in June 2019. Last year they toured through Croatia.
They present diverse, challenging and eclectic choral concerts to entertain and inspire audiences and members and provide performance and mentorship opportunities for young musicians and strive to be part of a firm foundation for local performing and developing artists.
They welcomed a new Artistic Director for their 2018/19 Season, Frederick Bayani Mabalot. A composer and choral conductor from Southern California, Mabalot is a classically trained pianist and vocalist. He studied at The Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Australia and The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Conducting at University of Washington School of Music in Seattle.
Their 2018/19 Season will open in November with Radiance. It includes luminous music by William Byrd in his simple yet sublime Mass for Four Voices, which was the first of his three great unaccompanied polyphonic settings from the 1590s. Also Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna (1997) will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra. It integrates musical elements of ancient modes, Renaissance polyphony, Romanticism, and modern dissonance. Rutter’s Candlelight Carol, Sheppard’s In pace in idipsum: In pace, Taverner’s Song for Athene, Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium, Rheinberger’s Abendlied, and a setting of the spiritual In Bright Mansions will round out the program.
The Lynden Choral Society is made up of community members who sing for the love of singing. It has been in existence, under various names, since at least 1918. They usually host two performances each year and often perform The Messiah at Christmas time. In winter 2018, Katie Van Kooten, the international opera soprano, will be singing with them again this year, as well as Charles Robert Stephens, a baritone based in Seattle. They’ll be accompanied by the Starry Night Chamber Orchestra.
For thirty years, from 1972 to 2002, the group was either directed or accompanied by the late Claire vg Thomas, the namesake for Lynden’s community theater.
Bellingham Community Chorus
They host two concerts each year. One is near the December holidays and another in late April. Their spring concert can include just about any type of music. They have sung Americana, folk, gospel, Steven Foster, Aaron Copland, as well as selections from musical theater.
An Advanced Soprano and Alto Choir
A brand new advanced chorus, Vox Pacifica, is forming. This choir will present advanced music that is more challenging for its collection of 20 to 30 advanced singers.
The group will be led by Artisitc Director Wendy Bloom who relocated to Bellingham from Ann Arbor, MI. The choir will perform contemporary music written in the last 10 to 20 years specifically for sopranos and altos, many of which will speak to women’s issues and what its like living as a woman in this country. The themes will include beautiful messages about the world we live in. Concerts will be at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center and other locations including a winter holiday program honoring Mary/Marian in December with additional concerts in February and May. This choir is open to all genders, although those that sing soprano and alto are often women.
Wendy has performed in choirs, operas, as a soloist with symphonies, and in musical theater and cabaret. In recent years she has performed as alto soloist and her quartet, SATB, performed and toured extensively together for 15 years. During that time, she was also the artistic director for a popular cabaret in Ann Arbor, Michigan called Wine, Women and Song, which she will be recreating here as part of the inaugural Vox Pacifica season. She has been a regular singer with Conspirare in Austin, Texas as well as with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Audivi Vocem in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Sounding Light in Birmingham, Michigan. She appeared in a PBS special with Conspirare in the spring of 2009.
No matter what genre of chorale music you love, Bellingham and Whatcom County offer a range of options throughout the year. Be sure to include a performance in your next visit or outing and celebrate this deep community of voices that are eager to educate, inspire and share a musical legacy.