About the Eugene Concert Choir and Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble
The Eugene Concert Choir, the premier choral organization in the region, serves our community through performance of choral masterworks, diverse musical experiences, and educational outreach.
The Eugene Concert Choir, a gem among Eugene-Springfield’s many musical offerings, is a ~100-voice oratorio choir that was founded in 1974 has been performing many of the beloved symphonic choral masterworks since then. The group began as a collection of individuals who loved to sing and needed an outlet for their passion, and who joined together with the Eugene Community Orchestra for a read-through of Handel’s Messiah, under the direction of Philip Bayles. In 1985, Diane Retallack assumed leadership of the choir, and energetically spearheaded its artistic development. In 1986 she founded the Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble, a 30-voice chamber choir, as a part of the Eugene Concert Choir organization. In 1997, the Eugene Concert Choir became a Hult Center resident company.
Highlights include performances of the great choral masterworks: the Brahms, Berlioz, Verdi, Fauré and Mozart Requiem Masses, the Beethoven Missa Solemnis, Bach B Minor Mass, Handel’s Messiah, Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus and numerous other major and minor choral works, in partnership with the Oregon Mozart Players. The Concert Choir has collaborated with such local organizations as the Oregon Bach Festival in Missa Gaia (Earth Mass) with the Paul Winter Consort, the Eugene Ballet Company in fully staged and choreographed versions of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana and Mendelssohn’s Die erste Walpurgisnacht, and with the Eugene Symphony in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The choir performs with acclaimed soloists from all over the world.
The Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble performs sophisticated chamber repertoire from the Renaissance to the present. As “Lords and Ladies” attired in stunning Elizabethan dress, the Vocal Arts Ensemble presents a Renaissance MayFest dinner to the delight of loyal patrons who enjoy the enchantment of this authentic 16th century feast, complete with drama, dance, period instruments played by Byrdsong Early Music Consort, pageantry and revelry. The Vocal Arts Ensemble’s concert performances feature the finest of choral music from all over the world and a cappella finesse. Their invitation to perform at the 2010 American Choral Directors Association Northwest Conference in Seattle among choirs from a six state region is recognition of their artistry.
The versatility of both ensembles has been demonstrated over the years by their eclectic concerts focusing on a wide variety of eras and styles, including musical theater, Native American, traditional Americana, folk, spirituals, rock, jazz, big band, as well as opera.
Educational outreach is an ECC priority. For many years, the choir has engaged hundreds of school children in numerous educational projects including a “Singing a Masterwork” project, which culminated in a performance on the Hult stage for their families and community. With funds dwindling for music in the schools, the Concert Choir launched a new comprehensive educational program in 2009 and formed ECCO (Eugene Concert Choir Outreach), an ensemble that brings its educational presentations directly into the classroom.
In addition, outreach beyond our community is an important choir mission. A Touring Choir with members from both ensembles has performed as a guest of the Frankfurter Kantorei in a concert tour to Austria and Germany in 1998. In 2003, the Touring Choir performed the Verdi Requiem, conducted by Charles Bruffy, in a festival concert in the Sydney Opera House in Australia. In June of 2006, the Mozart Requiem and works of Eric Whitacre were performed with composer Eric Whitacre in the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing, China. Most recently, in 2009, the Touring Choir performed an American program, featuring the Bernstein Chichester Psalms with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra on a tour of Prague, Vienna and Budapest.