A Chorale in Search of a Home
A Preview by Marc Shulgold
As he prepares for the Arvada Chorale’s annual Christmas concert, artistic director Steven Burchard can sort of relate to Joseph and Mary seeking a room for the night. “We’ve been wandering,” the conductor said with a little sigh. “We tried a lot of venues last year, and we’re still looking for a permanent base.”
Not that the 65-voice choir will have to bed down in a stable. This weekend, the group appears in Arvada’s Trinity Presbyterian Church, and next March they’ll sing in Broomfield Auditorium.
Still, Burchard remains hopeful that the 40-year-old group’s quest will one day come to an end. “My dream,” he said, “is to find a performing home for us.”
In June 2013, the Chorale had to vacate the Arvada Center, when rental fees there were raised beyond their means. More recently, when budget woes hit the City of Arvada, financial support for the group ended. At least the funding from SCFD remains.
Not that Burchard and company are complaining. In fact, the conductor admitted it’s been kind of fun visiting various churches and auditoriums of late. “I’ve been particularly excited about performing in the Broomfield Auditorium, where we’ll be appearing in March,” he said.
The 65-voice choir now rehearses at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church on Monday evenings, paying only a nominal fee to occupy the building. So, all is calm and all is bright for now, particularly with an aggressive board envisioning big things for the Chorale. “They’d like to add more singers – particularly more men – to get us close to 100 members,” Burchard said. Which is fine with him.
“I love choral and orchestral conducting, doing combined programs and presenting larger works, such as the Schubert Mass will sing in Broomfield next year.” At that event, the singers will be accompanied by a string quartet.
As the search for a home base continues, Burchard remains focused on the task at hand – keeping in touch with his core audience in Arvada and surroundings. “I attended a meeting of the American Choral Directors Association recently and came away with a strong message from the ACDA about leading community choirs,” he recalled. “They listed our priorities this way: Keep your choir happy, keep your audience happy and, lastly, keep your conductor happy. And that’s what I intend to do.”
No further evidence of that is needed than a quick glance at the Arvada Chorale’s weekend program. Faced with the never-ending need to mix all those Christmas chestnuts with some fresh repertory, Burchard has assembled an intriguing line-up, starting with William Beckstrand’s Winter Solstice Carol, which features the Rocky Mountain Ringers and a split chorus singing from the front and the back of the church. “It presents a wonderful contrast between the dreariness of the season and the hopefulness of the Christmas story,” the conductor said.
The handbell choir will also join in performances of two carols by the little-known Alfred Burt, as well as presenting a set on its own. Oh sure, there will be plenty of hum-along favorites, but the program’s highlight will doubtless be a novel presentation of The Night Before Christmas.
“I asked the art teacher at Ryan Elementary School in Westminster for some of his kids’ art work,” Burchard explained. “We assembled a selection of pieces created by students in the 2nd through 6th grades and will show them in a slide show as we sing. I think our audiences will get a kick out of it.”
For Burchard, it’s all part of a lifelong labor of love for choral conducting. A graduate of Metro State and the Lamont School of Music at DU, he’s led choirs in numerous local churches over the years, going back to a rookie stint as youth conductor at Montview Presbyterian Church. He even sang for one season with the Arvada Chorale a few decades back. After retiring from teaching music in the Adams 12 school district after 31 years, Burchard succeeded interim Chorale director Marla Wasson earlier this year.
Just as his choir has visited numerous performing venues, the conductor has bounced around during his busy, fruitful career in music. It comes with the territory, Burchard suggested, noting simply, “You go with what life gives you.”
The Arvada Chorale will present “A Christmas Sing and Ring” with the Rocky Mountain Ringers at 7:30 p.m. Friday, December 5 and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6 in Trinity Presbyterian Church, 7755 Vance Drive, Arvada. Tickets range from $1 (children under 12) to $15 (adults). Information: (720) 432-9341 or visit www.arvadachorale.org.