a terrible beauty…

Whether focused on Colla Voce, or music, or art, or simply day to day life, I look through the lens of

Experience + Adventure + Education + Dialogue = Transformation.

I filter every decision I make for Colla Voce through this lens—from choosing music, to planning an exchange for the singers, to scheduling a visit for the children’s chorus at a retirement home, to creating the program that the audience participant holds in their hands.

misty wall

Last February, I traveled to Ireland to attend the wedding of my colleague and friend, Catherine. I spent two weeks with her and her family, milking cows, listening to traditional Irish music in pubs, visiting the boy’s school where she teaches and seeing the “terrible beauty” of Ireland.

Her boys planned a personal concert for me. They played and sang original songs and traditional Irish songs, and their bagpipes and guitars came alive. Her principal patiently spent two hours coaching me on the Irish dialect of Donegal and telling stories of Ireland’s history and its effect on the people.


I stood in Belfast looking at the wall dividing the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, viewed the memorial murals and faced the terrible tragedy of a people divided by ideals and the willingness to kill to protect those ideals.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland

The concert that was designed upon my return reflected the breadth of those experiences—the pleasure of a dance, the longing for love, the tragedy of war, and the joy of a simple tune well sung. My hope was that the audience too, would experience a bit of the Isles through the music, story and dance in the concert.

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland

Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland

I’m fairly certain that the most engaging experiences are those that tell a story and bring the listener along on the journey—whether it be in the context of an evening in a pub, or in the early morning hours at a dairy milking cows, or in a concert setting sitting inside an historic building.

Connolly's Dairy, County Monaghan

Connolly’s Dairy, County Monaghan

May you have

Walls for the wind

And a roof for the rain,

And drinks bedside the fire

Laughter to cheer you

And those you love near you,

And all that your heart may desire.

~ a Celtic blessing

Ben Zander: The Transformative Power of Classical Music

Benjamin Zander, conductor of the Boston Phil and co-author of “The Art of Possibility” was featured on Ted Talks sharing his passion about the relevance of classical music.    If you haven’t seen it, take a look…. The Transformative Power of Classical Music.  Don’t we all want to be a “one buttock” musician?

The Art of Possibility” is required reading for the governing board of Colla Voce of the Sierra.  Everyone gets an “A”.  Good stuff….





is choral music relevant…??

I’ve spent most of my career in other music arenas and have just put my toe into the proverbial water of the choral world a few years ago, so I feel a bit like an “outsider looking in.” I’m possessed. And I am also full of questions:

Why is there such a division between choral genres?

There are several “camps” and nary shall they meet… We have the classical camp, the show choir camp, the musical theatre camp, the jazz choir camp, the gospel choir camp and the contemporary a cappella camp. Within the classical camp we have the large-work-with-orchestra camp, the collegiate camp, the HS camp etc. Then there is the western-european-tradition camp and the world-music camp. Most “classical” choirs still have both feet firmly planted in the “stand-up-there-in-black-and-sing” camp, but I noticed at ACDA Oklahoma that color and movement are creeping into the scene.

Hallelujah—another camp.

I also noticed that the applause was thunderous for the choir performances of the color-movement camp choirs. A choir that sang to perfection, but from the “stand-up-there-in-black-and-sing” camp received average applause—and this from 1000 choral conductors…..most of whom are from the “stand-up-there-in-black-and-sing” camp. Hmm. What does this mean?

Why is 90% of the choral concert audience made up of age 60+ individuals? Why don’t younger people go to choral concerts?

Researching for my master’s thesis, I stumbled upon the most recent National Endowment for the Arts survey. “The percentage of adults going to classical music, non-musical theater, ballet and other dance performances continued to decline from levels in previous years.”

Percent of adults attending classical music venues:

13.0% in 1982, 12.5% in 1992, 11.6% in 2002, 9.3% in 2008

Percent of adults personally performing or creating:
Classical music 4.2% in 1992, 1.8% in 2002, 3.1% in 2008.

Choir/chorale 6.3% in 1992, 4.8% in 2002, 5.2% in 2008

What is going on and why?

My husband invited the CEO of a successful, international coaching firm to our last concert. The CEO said, “I don’t attend ‘performances’ – but if it is an ‘experience’, I’ll be there…”

Relevant. Transformative. Experience vs performance. How do we interject these values into the classical choral canon? Why are people willing to spend $500 and up to attend a U2 concert and why did a 100 million people watch a live U2 broadcast on youtube of their Rose Bowl concert in October 2009? Relevant? Transformative? Experience vs performance? Hmm.

Amongst the choral elite types, I get the distinct feeling that I’m treading on thin ice with these types of questions. But what the heck. I’m 39.95 + shipping and handling, the age where one starts wearing purple and dragging sticks along picket fences namby-pamby; the age where one can ask politically incorrect questions without caring about actually being politically correct.

Namby-pamby. Now there’s a word.