Featuring Laura Ritter and her Walters State Chamber Choir
In this episode, I feature Laura Ritter and her Walters State Chamber Choir. I asked students to reflect on why they NEED choir, what it has meant to them to return to singing in our current troubled time, what has created a sense of safety and belonging for them in choir. In the first two years of the show, I have mostly focused on the perspectives of directors. So, I have decided to add another category to the show! STUDENT PERSPECTIVES. After all, it is the experiences for our singers that we are trying to create. They are why we engage in professional development like Podcasts anyway!
“I felt helpless, and I felt sad. That’s when I realized there was a class called choir. I felt myself as family, and was welcomed there.“
Part of the Oxford Series on the Choralosophy Podcast
Join us in this thought provoking and jovial conversation in which Will and I discuss a comparison of the US and UK music education paradigms, his approach to the creative process, and the possible pitfalls of training “sight reading machines.” While this can result in singers with world class ability, it can also result in performances that, at times can lack humanity. We also discuss the influences on his music made by his eclectic listening tastes growing up. How do we stay connected to the humanity in the music making?
English composer Will Todd is well known for his beautiful and exciting music. His work encompasses choral works large and small, opera, musical theatre and orchestral pieces, as well as jazz compositions and chamber works.
His anthem, The Call of Wisdom, was performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations with a TV audience of 45 million people. His breakthrough work, Mass in Blue (originally titled Jazz Mass), has been performed hundreds of times all over the world. His arrangement of Amazing Grace was performed at President Obama’s Inauguration Day prayer service in 2013 and as part of the BBC’s Nelson Mandela Thanksgiving Service.
He has collaborated with award winning choirs The Sixteen and Tenebrae, as well as with the Welsh National Opera, Opera North, Opera Holland Park, BBC Singers, BBC Concert Orchestra, The Halle Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, The Bach Choir, St Martin’s Voices.
His discography includes best selling choral discs Lux Et Veritas and The Call of Wisdom, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Mass in Blue, Ode to a Nightingale, Passion Music and Jazz Missa Brevis all on the Signum Classic label. His clarinet concerto recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra and Emma Johnson was released in 2016His music is regularly broadcast on Classic FM, as well as on BBC Radio 3.
Will Todd’s music is valued for its melodic intensity and harmonic skill, often incorporating jazz colours, and his choral music is much in demand from amateur as well as professional performers.
Recent commissions include an oratorio for The Bach Choir written with former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen and operas for Welsh National Opera and Opera North.
Isaac Cates is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. A classically trained pianist, who is also a gospel music specialist, but also a singer-song writer… Oh! and also a choir clinician. Turns out he is also a fantastic podcast guest! Join Isaac and I in studio for this multifaceted conversation. We discussed Isaac’s approach to forging new paths with his group Isaac Cates and Ordained, his feeling of “never quite fitting in” to a musical category, our thoughts on current trends in music education and much more.
Isaac Cates began singing and playing the piano at age four and started composing as a teenager. While a student at the Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City, he arranged spirituals, composed original chorales and set sacred text. Currently, Cates is in demand as a choral clinician and music educator throughout the United States and Europe. In addition to his leadership at music seminars, he is also a prolific producer, Music educator and recording artist. Isaac is a gifted pianist and vocal arranger, sought after for his vocal coaching expertise. He has a unique ability to blend genres, utilizing different musical techniques such as bel canto style with speech level singing. His original composition, “Strong Tower”, is sung and translated in over 17 different countries languages. Firmly rooted in both gospel and classical training, Isaac combines soulful harmonies, polyphonic rhythms and dazzling piano accompaniments to create his trademark sound.
In 2004 Isaac collaborated with a colleague to form Ordained, a small musical ensemble of skilled vocalists. Together, Isaac Cates & Ordained have appeared in concerts and been featured alongside some of the worlds greatest artists; From gospel artists Bebe and Marvin Winans to country sensations Trace Adkins and Lyle Lovett. Ordained has toured all over the united states and Switzerland. Made up of soloists, worship leaders, music educators and instrumentalists, Ordained is praised for their dynamic sound. Ordained released their first album in 2006 entitled “Take My Life”, a Christmas EP, “Carol Of The Bells” and numerous singles. Ordained’s music videos of “Hold On” and “Carol Of The Bells” have over 1 million views on social media. Ordained is preparing to release a new recording at the end of the Year.
This special episode comes at Podcasting from a bit of a different angle. Enjoy a spot as a fly on the wall while two couples, both comprised of two choral musicians, sit down to discuss the benefits and possible pitfalls of being married to someone who shares your professional sphere. My wife Beth and I welcomed Dr. Jennaya Robison, from the Conservatory at UMKC and Dr. Brett Robison of Viterbo University to join us in our living room for a candid and open sharing of experiences being “Married to the Choir.”
We covered how choral music brought both couples together, how competitiveness can create a challenge in the relationship, how it’s important for us to remember our role as supporter and fan for each other while also wanting honest professional feedback, and much more. We are still all trying to walk this tight rope, but I believe you will find the conversation interesting and engaging.