A New Season Built on Trust: St. Martin’s Chamber Choir
By Marc Shulgold
Like every director of every orchestra or chorus, Timothy Krueger begins sketching out the upcoming season with the equivalent of a blinking cursor on an empty computer screen.
It’s a stimulating task filled with unlimited possibilities, but the planning comes with a mild sense of fear. What will work? What will sell? Will the singers like his choices? Will audiences? The conductor nonetheless embraces the challenge. “I’m an inveterate searcher of (music) scores – I love bringing them to life,” says the artistic director of the St. Martin’s Chamber Choir. “My passion is to find obscure works from the past that have been unjustly neglected.”
There will be an intriguing assortment of those in St. Martin’s season, which begins Sept. 22 and 24. But early next year the choir and the Colorado Wind Ensemble will premiere a new piece– commissioned from Boulder composer Daniel Kellogg, using a text from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” (also set by Ralph Vaughan Williams back in 1907). Its words, ironically, seem to sum up Krueger’s job of choosing repertory.
Darest thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown region,
No map, there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand
I know it not, O Soul;
Nor dost thou – all is a blank before us.
OK, maybe that’s a little dramatic. But the conductor understands the challenge of assembling programs with “no map nor guide.” After 23 seasons at the helm, he is fully aware of how important is the choice of music performed by his outstanding chamber choir and its newly expanded ensemble, the Festival Singers. Attracting audiences remains his primary goal, but Krueger won’t simply serve up a predictable parade of familiar hits. And he would look silly if he wooed music-lovers with flashy advertising. Instead, he relies on something basic, something that can’t be bought: their trust.
“I’m lucky,” he says. “There’s a core of 200 to 250 fans of St. Martin’s who’ve stuck with us. But then, we need to perform for around 500. So, my programming choices require a balance (of familiar and unfamiliar). I do have to consider what will sell, and what audiences will find interesting.”
That sounds simple enough – but then it’s not always clear what will appeal to his listeners. Krueger recalls an unusual program in 2005 built around the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. “It was a collection of sea songs from England,” he notes, admitting that it looked pretty obscure on paper. “Lo and behold, it was a huge seller.” It’s nice to have an audience that embraces the rare and the unusual.
And so, the season begins on Sept. 22 and 24 with a concert of offbeat a-cappella works: “A Pageant of Human Life” by an undeservedly neglected British composer named Sir Granville Bantock (1864-1946), along with a Mass for two unequal choruses by Louis Spohr. These will be sung by St. Martin’s’ expanded 70-voice Festival Singers.
Other programs in the 2017-18 season include a salute to the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, featuring works ranging from Bach to Brahms (Oct. 27-29); a British-flavored holiday program (Dec. 15-22); the premiere of Kellogg’s “Darest thou now, O Soul,” co-commissioned with Daniel Kish’s Colorado Wind Ensemble, joining the choir on a bill shared with Bruckner’s Second Mass (Feb. 23 and 25); an evening of Mozart and Scarlatti, father – Leopold and Alessandro – and son – Wolfgang and Domenico (April 13-15); concluding with Herbert Howells’ Requiem and Mack Wilberg’s “The Prodigal” (May 18 and 20).
St. Martin’s Chamber Choir will perform music by Bantock and Spohr at 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 22 in Bethany Lutheran Church, 4500 E. Hampden Ave., and at 3 p.m. Sunday, September 24 in Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia St. Information: (303) 298-1970 or stmartinschamberchoir.org.