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Commentary: Choral Music Thrives In St. Louis

Nancy Kranzberg

It's that wonderful time of year again. The holiday season is upon us. One of the first things that comes to mind is the annual Christmas Candlelight Concert performed by the Bach Society of St. Louis. This year's concert will be presented at Powell Hall on December 10 at 7:30 p.m.

A St. Louis holiday tradition, the Christmas Candlelight Concert will leave you feeling merry and bright, regardless of your religious beliefs. Poulenc's "Gloria" with soprano Michelle Kennedy, the candlelight processional and even "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with a special appearance by The St. Louis Children's Choirs and Webster University's Chamber Singers will make your hearts sing.

The Bach Society of St. Louis was founded in 1941 and is a musical ensemble dedicated to performing choral works by Johann S. Bach and other classical and contemporary composers. Under the direction of A. Dennis Sparger, the Society delivers a varied and exciting season to an ever more diverse public.

St. Louis is rich in the number of high quality choruses and choirs in our city which both educate and entertain us, often in unique settings. There is a place for people of all ages in one of them.

The St. Louis Children's Choirs includes about 450 young singers (ages 6 -18) from more than 200 schools and 85 zip codes in Missouri and Illinois who bring their ability and love of classical, sacred, contemporary and world music to the concert stage for everyone to enjoy. The choir frequently sings with the St. Louis Symphony

The Children's Choirs thrive under the direction of Artistic Director Barbara Berner and an outstanding music faculty.

The St. Louis Chamber Chorus under the direction of Philip Barnes is the Midwest's premier a cappella ensemble. The mission of the chamber chorus is not only to entertain, but to educate and inspire. Programs are devised to match music to venue and occasion and the result is a unique marriage of architectural diversity of St. Louis with the finest a cappella compositions. The repertoire ranges from the Renaissance to the present day. As many as 10 languages may appear in just one season.

The chorus is a 40 voice mixed men's and women's chorus and was founded in 1956.

And of course we can't forget the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Amy Kaiser. Chuck Lavazzi of KDHX FM says, "They invariably sing with a gratifying power and precision" and Sarah Bryan Miller of the Post-Dispatch said, "Amy Kaiser's well trained chorus sings with a fine blend of accuracy and scrupulously clean runs."

David Robertson, former maestro of the Symphony, said, "The St. Louis Symphony Chorus is extraordinary. Amy Kaiser has been preparing this inspiring collection of vocal artists for over 20 years. Of all my good fortunes in my many seasons in St. Louis one of the most notable has been with this dedicated chorus, and the woman who so tirelessly leads them."

These are some of the better known choirs, but St. Louis has choirs which cover the gamut. Charis is a choir made up of women who are united in a mission to perform music that celebrates and encourages women and the LGBTQ community.

The programs of Charis present a wide repertoire including pop, classical, spirituals and world music. The concerts offer a chance for Charis to challenge ideas or stereotypes that people might have about women or lesbians, age, race or any other differences.

The mission of The Gateway Men's Chorus is to affirm and promote gay culture and acceptance through excellence in musical performances and education. The vision of the chorus is to build a future where no voice can be silenced--one that celebrates inclusion, amplifies the human spirit, and values the arts as essential to human experience. The chorus, in addition to appearing on stages around St Louis, has appeared around the country in many cities and even auditioned for "America's Got Talent."

St. Louis even has a world famous Barbershop Chorus called The Ambassadors of Harmony, a 130+ members group based in St. Charles, which has won international awards and will be presented next month with the prestigious Arts and Education award.

The Community Gospel Choir brings together singers from all backgrounds. The choir seeks to build bridges that restore unity to the community through the rich tradition of African American spirituals and the energy of gospel music. The choir was formed in 2007 and has grown to more than 70 members. It has become recognized as one of the premier gospel choirs in the region, often bringing audiences to their feet during the performances.

The motto of The St. Louis Community Chorus is "Everyone has a song to sing." The Community Chorus offers everyone the joyful experience of singing together. It celebrates individuality and welcomes people of every age, race, and nationality, every gender identity, sexual orientation and marital status ,every physical and mental ability, every socio-economic status and every educational level, every religion and political opinion, and every life experience. Their common bond is the joy of singing together in harmony.

These are just the tip of the iceberg of choral groups in and around our city. There are also church choirs and college and university choirs galore. But the Community Chorus hits it on the mark on the whole purpose of singing. Everyone has a song to sing so let's sing, sing a song as the Muppets said on Sesame Street.


Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for more than thirty years on numerous arts related boards.

Mary Edwards is a producer for St. Louis Public Radio's broadcast program, "St. Louis Symphony."