Sin­gu­lar voices

Santa Fe Desert Cho­rale opens its sea­son of themed pro­grams

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - Michael Wade Simp­son

Santa Fe Desert Cho­rale has a new mas­cot. So­prano Kath­leen Ritch, who has sung with the cho­rale since 2009, gave birth to a son, An­drew, barely six months ago. An­drew has al­ready been on tour with the group. “He got his shots, and we put him on the bus,” Ritch said. He was eight weeks old. As sum­mer be­gan, be­fore re­hearsals started up, she was about to take a short trip to sing at the Ore­gon Bach Fes­ti­val. Her hus­band would be trav­el­ing along to help take care of the baby. “He’s an engi­neer, but he ap­pre­ci­ates mu­sic, and has been re­ally sup­port­ive,” she said.

Ritch moved to Santa Fe in 2011, hav­ing fallen in love with the city af­ter join­ing the cho­rale. She works as an an­nouncer for Clas­si­cal 95.5 KHFM Al­bu­querque as well as con­tin­u­ing to ap­pear around the coun­try as a soloist and ensem­ble mem­ber. A “moun­tain­top ex­pe­ri­ence” for her was singing with the cho­rale at the Amer­i­can Choral Di­rec­tors As­so­ci­a­tion na­tional con­ven­tion in Salt Lake City last Fe­bru­ary. The group per­formed “Danc­ing the Mys­tery,” a pro­gram in which mu­sic di­rec­tor Joshua Haber­mann used ex­cerpted po­etry of the mys­ti­cal po­ets Rumi and Hafiz, read by mem­bers of the cho­rale, in jux­ta­po­si­tion to mu­si­cal se­lec­tions that in­cluded ev­ery­thing from chants to gospel. “Choral di­rec­tors are hard to im­press,” she said. “They can be a lit­tle jaded. If they aren’t buy­ing what you’re selling, they’ll just leave,” she said. “It was stand­ing-room only, and ev­ery­one stayed. It was the tri­fecta; they were all touched by Josh’s pro­gram­ming, by the fact we had read­ings, and they al­lowed them­selves to be swept up in the emo­tion of it.”

This sum­mer, Ritch is look­ing for­ward to singing Herbert How­ells’ Re­quiem and to the whole “Ser­e­nade to Mu­sic” con­cert. “I’m a huge An­glophile,” she said.

The singers who be­come the Desert Cho­rale ev­ery sum­mer (and for a short pe­riod in De­cem­ber) also ap­pear as soloists with or­ches­tras, per­form with other cho­ruses around the coun­try, work in the film in­dus­try, teach, com­pose, and con­duct, among other ac­tiv­i­ties. Still, ac­cord­ing to Ritch, they man­age to be­come a fam­ily be­cause they are to­gether for a spe­cial time in Santa Fe ev­ery year. “It’s rare for a group to of­fer a six-week en­gage­ment,” she said. “Most groups come to­gether for seven to twenty days, and meet four or five times a year.” That makes for a lot of trav­el­ing.

Ge­orge Case, tenor, has spent three sum­mers with the cho­rale. He re­cently made a record­ing with the Sky­lark Vo­cal Ensem­ble in Bos­ton. He is the di­rec­tor of choral ac­tiv­i­ties at Bos­ton Con­ser­va­tory and also leads the New­bury­port Choral So­ci­ety, a vol­un­teer group in north­ern Mas­sachusetts. He holds doc­toral and master’s de­grees in con­duct­ing from the Univer­sity of Michigan and a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in vo­cal per­for­mance from Bos­ton Univer­sity.

Bari­tone Harris Ipock is the res­i­dent con­duc­tor of the Har­vard Glee Club and teaches voice lessons at the univer­sity. Hear­ing How­ell’s Re­quiem was a turn­ing point in his life. “I was drawn to the har­monies — the beau­ti­ful mys­tery about them — and it was one of the pieces that made me a life­long choral singer,” he said. This is his third sum­mer sea­son with Desert Cho­rale. He sings, along with other cho­rale mem­bers, in Con­spir­are, a group based in Austin.

Sarah Weiler, mezzo-so­prano, has been with the group for eight years. “I still re­mem­ber my first au­di­tion for Josh — he made it an un­usu­ally easy and calm process for an au­di­tion sit­u­a­tion. At the first re­hearsal I found my­self sur­rounded by beau­ti­ful voices and the high­est cal­iber of mu­si­cians — it was breath­tak­ing. It was so joy­ful and meant so much to me that I couldn’t be­lieve my ears.”

Weiler is a year-round Santa Fe res­i­dent. She per­forms with Santa Fe Reper­tory, in the Santa Fe Sym­phony Cho­rus, and is a Santa Fe Sym­phony Men­tor in the public school sys­tem. She is also a Nia Tech­nique brown-belt in­struc­tor at Stu­dio Nia Santa Fe. “My ex­pe­ri­ence as a lo­cal mem­ber of Desert Cho­rale is that I un­der­stand the power and con­nec­tion that the peo­ple in this city feel to­ward the cho­rale in a way that is not pos­si­ble for visi­tors to fully ap­pre­ci­ate. Desert Cho­rale is re­ally em­bed­ded in the com­mu­nity.”

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