It was truly a tough decision--I've loved my time working with Pro Coro and it's been a huge part of my life these past eleven years--but with my job at UNT I can no longer offer Pro Coro the time and focus they need in an Artistic Director. When I interviewed for the job in 1998 and did an audition concert (I was also a guest conductor in 1996) I told them that if they offered me the job, Pro Coro would not be a"gig" . . . that I would only take the position of Artistic Director with a long-term view towards what would be best for the development of the choir. And I believe I've done that.
I've focused on whatever is the the current concert, of course, but also constantly think about the health of the choir, of what repertoire will advance the choir's abilities, and helping the choir grow in both the technical and musical/expressive realms. Certainly the choir is able to work faster now and perform better than in the past. We've done some great repertoire and have done both new works--our work with Allan Bevan has been of particular importance, but we've done other marvelous commissions as well--and brought works like Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers to Edmonton (and Alberta) for the first time.
I established the idea that a chorus at this level can and should bring in guest conductors on a regular basis, much as a orchestra does (I'll write a post in greater depth on this later). It offers much to the choir and to the audience in Edmonton--each guest brings their own particular expertise and/or repertoire to us, and it means that the choir is also stimulated by having someone prioritize things differently than I might, and also gives them greater flexibility. The other educational institutions in Edmonton have also benefited, as many of our guests have done masterclasses for their conducting students or worked with their choirs. Pro Coro Canada and Edmonton have been richer for working with Len Ratlaff (several times), Maria Guinand of Venezuela (twice), Anders Eby and Gary Graden of Sweden, Ivars Taurins of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and Mark Bailey of the Yale Russian Chorus in an all-Ukrainian concert (Edmonton has the largest population of people of Ukrainian background in North America). And I can't leave out our Associate Conductor, Trent Worthington, who's always done great work with the choir and always offers me his superb and knowledgeable perspective. Thanks, Trent!
I will also greatly miss my many friends in Edmonton: choir members, board members, supporters, and other musical colleagues. And I hope I'll be asked back from time to time as a guest. But I know that no matter what, I've developed friendships which will survive long into the future.
It's a bittersweet time, but made easier by knowing that these transitions of leadership, particularly after a period as long as twelve years, will bring someone new and exciting to Pro Coro, which will be enormously energizing for the choir and organization, and hopefully our audience as well.