The Committment of the Symphonic Chorus

Jan 24, 2018

Choral Arts is back at work again after a marvelous Christmas performance season.  We are all eagerly anticipating our upcoming project with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in March where we will take you through a journey “From Vienna to Broadway” – be expecting some of your favorite stage works coupled with operetta and other theatre pieces you might not be as familiar with.


One of my aims is to make Baltimore Choral Arts as flexible of an ensemble as possible; one of the challenges we have is to adapt to many different musical styles and concert environments in a natural and convincing way whether we are singing Renaissance polyphony, a Baroque church cantata, or commissioning a new choral piece.  Our projects with the BSO demand that we become a symphonic chorus.  What does this entail?  Musicologist Rosalynd Smith has some interesting things to say about this in her essay Symphonic Choirs: Understanding the Borders of Professionalism.


“These highly skilled musicians have been working with professional commitment and concentration toward a performance that will take place within the world of professional music at the highest levels, yet the musicians involved are amateurs...In musical performance, especially, perhaps in choral singing, the distinction between the amateur and the professional is far from clear-cut...the concept of amateur musician is a relative, partly arbitrary and sometimes disputed label rather than a settled division...What sets many of the best symphonic choirs apart is that they function on some levels [as] professional organizations.  Some of them perform exclusively with professional orchestras...critics will rarely make allowances for the amateur status of the singers.”


Dr. Smith intensely studied symphonic choirs in Australia and cites a singer after he recently retired from his symphonic chorus: “At first I wondered how I would feel hearing music and works that I had performed...I enjoyed listening to it and thinking, Yes I sang in that and that was just a wonderful experience. I can sit back and enjoy it and think, Well, I was part of that for a long time.


Truer words were never said.  The professionalism that is demanded by those singing with the world’s best orchestras instills a life-long commitment to musical excellence.  Singing is a life-long sport and symphony chorus style ensembles do a tremendous amount to keep this professional/amateur art well staffed and supported.  We hope you can hear this excellent chorus I have grown to really love over this half-year as with collaborate once again with the BSO in March.  See you there!