With our performance of Bach's St. John Passion Good Friday, my tenure as Artistic Director of Pro Coro Canada is over.
It's been twelve years of working with this ensemble, board members, volunteers, choral colleagues in Edmonton and across Canada, funding agencies, and audience members.
It's difficult to express just how important, both personally and professionally, this association has been to me--but know that it has gone beyond just "important."
From a professional perspective, it offered me the opportunity to work with and develop a superb ensemble. It was the invitation to become Artistic Director that led to my leaving academia (and a job that I loved at PLU) to explore the professional world. That led to opportunities to spend time in Sweden in 2007 and 2008 (for more information, just look at the listing in the right column) and work with the Radio Choir, something I couldn't have done with an academic position.
Through Pro Coro I got to know some outstanding Canadian composers and perform works by many of them, some of these premiere performances. I built an especially close relationship with Allan Bevan, and our premiere of his Nou goth sunne under wode, in particular, was an enormously successful collaboration.
I also got to know Canadian artists and worked with wonderful singers and instrumentalists. I worked with Ray Nurse on putting together the orchestra for our 2001 performance of the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers, which led to connections with the Whole Noyse and ultimately to a performance of Monteverdi's Orfeo at the U of A's Festival of Ideas arranged by my wonderful friend, Miki Andrejevic, who was Executive Director of Pro Coro for the longest tenure during my time there.
My Canadian conducting colleagues have been incredibly welcoming of an "outsider" in their midst and honoured (note the spelling!) me with the invitation to conduct the Canadian National Youth Choir in 2006, the first non-Canadian to conduct this marvelous choir. I've been blessed with wonderful conductor friends, quite a few of whom have sung with Pro Coro. And Len Ratzlaff, who runs the top graduate conducting program in Canada at the University of Alberta, has guest-conducted Pro Coro on several occasions and graciously sung as an extra with Pro Coro--for all three of my programs this year.
I have mentioned before (and soon will start a series of posts on this) that my education as a conductor has come largely from the ensembles with whom I've worked. Yes, my formal education is important and I owe a lot to various teachers and mentors, but a conductor ultimately learns by doing. Having an instrument like Pro Coro, with many wonderful musicians, has been such an important part of my development. For twelve years, I've gone to Edmonton from 3 to 5 times a year to prepare a program, rehearse it, and conduct it in concert. That's been an enormous gift.
And I can't begin to express my gratitude (and Kathryn's) for the friendships we've formed, which will live long beyond these twelve years. I give my thanks to the many people of Pro Coro Canada for the friendship they've offered both Kathryn and me. I know they'll live long beyond my tenure with the organization.
I've been blessed to work with several ensembles, two that I founded, and have been able to watch their successes after I've left. Seattle Pro Musica was my first group (really, three ensembles, from a chamber choir to a group that performed Bach cantatas once a month to a chamber orchestra), which I founded in 1973 and left in 1980. Under Karen Thomas this organization has been amazingly successful. Choral Arts was another organization I founded and led for 13 years (1993-2006), where I was ably succeeded by Robert Bode, and they've gone on to important recognitions.
I have no doubt that Pro Coro (which celebrated its 30th anniversary this year) will go on to greater successes in the years to come. I can only wish them the very best.