Celebrating a New Commitment With a New Name: Littleton Chorale is now Voices West
A Preview, by Marc Shulgold
“LITTLETON CHORALE is now VOICES WEST!,” trumpets the homepage of one of the Front Range’s most respected choruses. What’s in a name (change)?, you ask.
For board president Bill Leeper, quite a lot.
“About five years ago, a group affiliated with the (Littleton) Chorale started asking some questions, about who we were and where we were headed,” he said. “That began a slow process of developing a strategic plan. We realized it was time to re-brand ourselves.”
Such talk may sound more like high-minded thinking commonly found in the corporate world, but Leeper made it clear that this established community chorus of 65, founded by Bud Nicholson back in 1978, needed to look to the future and understand its identity and its potential. The organization set about to embrace change.
Those changes became visible four years ago when, for the first time in its 36-year history, the Chorale created an audition process for singers. What might have brought reactions of dismay from veteran members instead was well-received, Leeper noted. “Yes, there was a lot of turn-over,” he admitted, “with some members moving on to other things. But I think it demonstrated that we were serious about what we were doing.”
A key player in the Chorale’s decision to raise the group’s profile and its commitment to excellence was music director Michael Todd Krueger. “Mike played a big role in our development,” Leeper said of the veteran conductor, who also leads the Fort Collins-based Larimer Chorale. “But there were a lot of people from Littleton who put a lot of time into this planning.”
Central to the re-branding, of course, was the name change – the most obvious indicator of a re-brand. “That was thought about long and hard,” Leeper indicated. “It actually took about a year. Much of that time was questioning the wisdom of a name change. Should we or shouldn’t we?”
A list of possible names was gathered, and each suggestion was seriously considered. Not that the new moniker would be matched by a radical new musical approach, Leeper emphasized. “It’s like when a girl gets married. The bride gets a new name, but she is still the same person.”
The old name carried with it a sense of location – and, in fact, the Chorale did give most of its concerts in Littleton, performing at a pair of United Methodist churches. But the ensemble had also built an expanded schedule that took the singers all along the Front Range, including Highlands Ranch, Centennial, Castle Rock, Denver and, most recently, all the way up to Fort Collins. Clearly, the Littleton reference created a false impression – one that would be corrected by the all-inclusive new name.
But then, how would longtime fans of the group understand that “Voices West” is really their old choral friend? “Oh, we made sure that concert-goers knew,” Leeper assured. “We began announcing it in our concerts and in material we sent out. Actually, the change was extremely smooth.”
The presence of Krueger has done more than raise the quality of Voices West’s sound – his leadership of the Larimer Chorale paved the way for a collaboration between the two choirs. In April, the combined groups performed an all-Bernstein program. Concerts took place in Fort Collins and Littleton. “We didn’t necessarily appear in Fort Collins as a way to expand out audience,” Leeper noted. “It was all about being able to perform (Bernstein’s) Chichester Psalms with the Larimer Chorale.”
Newer venues can’t help but create new audiences, he acknowledged, pointing to the Dec. 14 “Carols by Candlelight” concert in Arvada’s King of Glory Lutheran Church – another homebase for the ever-busy Krueger. “This is a wonderful way for us to tap into Jeffco,” Leeper noted.
Through all of this expansion and change, Voices West has remained a long-time member of the SCFD’s Tier III family. With an annual budget now exceeding $90,000. the chorus receives around $15,000 each year from the arts-tax program. While 80 percent of the group’s performances have been held in Arapahoe County – and thus a beneficiary of that county’s SCFD funding – such outreach appearances as the Fort Collins Bernstein concert tok place without financial assistance from the SCFD.
Put it all together, and it’s easy to see that there’s a new confidence in Voices West. “We plan on concentrating on major works,” Leeper said. Not that the group’s love of entertaining its audiences has faded. “We’ll also be doing a fun cabaret concert in February, with a professional cabaret singer.”
Voices West will perform a holiday concert, “Carols by Candlelight,” on Friday, Dec. 12 and Saturday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Saint Timothy’s Episcopal Church, 1401 E. Dry Creek Road, Centennial, and Sunday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m. in the King of Glory Lutheran Church, 10001 W. 58th Ave., Arvada.
Information: (303) 973-9593 or voiceswest.org.