Utah Conservatory Choral Society will perform at Carnegie Hall
Choir is one of two Utah ensembles invited
November 25, 2016
New York City's famous Carnegie Hall will get a taste of Park City artistry when the Utah Conservatory Choral Society performs Handel's "Messiah" with 19 international choirs on Sunday.
The Choral Society — which was put together by Debra Cook, co-founder of the Utah Conservatory — was one of two Utah ensembles invited to sing at the annual concert produced and presented by Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY).
The other choir is the Orem Chorale.
Participants in the Distinguished Concerts International New York’s ‘Messiah’
- Appleton Thorn Village Choir
- Holy Family Cathedral Choir
- Le Choeur de la Cité
- Hope Chancel Choir
- Lincoln-Way Area Chorale
- Utah Conservatory Choral Society
- Valley Voices Community Choir
- Golden Isles Community Messiah Chorus
- Cantare Chorale of the Sierra Foothills
- Cappella Gedanensis
- The Joyful Band of Singers
- D.M. Davis Choirs
- Fort Walton Beach Community Chorus
- Masterworks Choir of Enterprise
- The Orem Chorale
- St. Helena Chamber Choir
- Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra Chorus
- The New Tecumseth Singers/The Dufferin Concert Singers
- The Washington International Chorus
Phoenix Singers, Hong Kong
Cook said the concert will be a wonderful opportunity for the singers.
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"[The group] is a compilation of different choristers from our community," Cook told The Park Record. "Several of them are students at the Conservatory."
Cook is taking a total of 28 singers, along with their entourage of family and friends, to New York.
"Our youngest singer is 14 and the oldest is 80," she said. "We have retirees, a former police officer and a gal who raises dogs who compete in dog shows."
One singer who moved to Germany during the course of rehearsals, is coming back to sing at the concert.
"We also have another who is a professional opera singer who will come from San Diego to join us," Cook said. "We also have a singer who graduated Park City High School and is in medical school who will come back to sing with his mother in the choir."
DCINY Artistic Director Jonathan Griffith extended the invitation to the choir, which was put together by Cook last spring.
"A year ago, Jonathan came and did a choral workshop with us," Cook said. "We interfaced with choristers within the community and he also helped me when I was directing the Park City Singers [a local choral group] on our Christmas program."
Griffith returned to Park City to help Cook with the Interfaith Council Choir's gift to the community "Messiah" concert in March.
Cook said selecting the singers for the Carnegie Hall concert was simple, but not easy.
"We concentrated on people who would take this very seriously and do the work," Cook said. "The dirty little secret about choir singing is that there may be only 1 percent of choirs out there on a professional level that pay their singers. So, we went into the project finding people who were dedicated to their passion of singing. That was the criteria."
While the opportunity is great for the individual singers, it's also a boon for the Utah Conservatory, which is located in Snyderville.
"Part of what we want to do is help people understand what it means to work at a professional level because those principles work across the board at anything you want to do well," Cook explained. "It's about how intellect works with artistry and experience and sharing the joy with others in a meaningful way."
Iris Derke, general director of Distinguished Concerts International New York, said the Utah Conservatory Choral Society fits in with the types of choirs and artists that her organization seeks.
"We look initially for directors and groups that are focused on providing high-quality music experiences that is not only for those involved with the group, but also for the audiences," Derke said during a phone interview from her New York office.
DCINY also looks for those choirs and artists who can arrive in New York already prepared to perform.
"For example, the Utah Conservatory Choir will join with other choirs to create one with more than 250 voices," she said. "That means Jonathan has his work cut out for him, so it makes it easier for him to focus on the directing if all groups come ready to sing."
Derke and Griffith co-founded DCINY in early 2007 and presented its first concert in January 2008.
"It's been an interesting ride," Derke said. "When the company started, it was just Jonathan and I doing everything. But it was about the passion of bringing performers to these great halls and giving them the most exquisite experiences as possible."
That goal hasn't changed, although the amount of concerts has grown.
"We thought we might do a few concerts, but we are now doing 25 productions a year," Derke said.
The impact the concerts have on the audiences and the performers contributes to DCINY's growth.
"We started collecting talent over the years that not only includes our employees, but also includes our clients, orchestra members and audience members," Derke said. "It's interesting how a passion for the arts and an eye of high quality grows on its own."
Derke was introduced to Cook and the Utah Conservatory through a mutual friend.
"Our friend told us that we should meet and Debra showed up at our office in the summer of 2015," Derke said. "She told us about this wonderful conservatory and how she and her husband [the late Fred Cook] started it and how it's grown. That led to an audition recording and it kept growing from there."
In June, some of the Utah Conservatory Choral Society members joined DCINY for a performance.
"That was when they asked Jonathan to go direct Park City's Interfaith Choir's 'Messiah,'" Derke said.
The rewards Derke sees with each new client, audience and concert has made the past eight years pass quickly.
"No two days are ever the same," she said. "No two groups are ever the same and no two concerts are ever the same, because each has its own degree of specialness. There is nothing like watching a brand new group of musicians walk out onto Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center for the first time and see their expressions."
Cook said the concert will show the world Park City not only about sports and recreation.
"The performance extends the reach of our community as an arts community into an international scene," she said. "We will collaborate with people from all over the world."
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