Celebrated for her passionate leadership, rich imagination and expressive performance, Dr. Diane Retallack has served as Artistic Director for Eugene Concert Choir since 1985, and Eugene Vocal Arts since she founded the chamber ensemble in 1986. The Eugene Concert Orchestra was founded in 2015 to complete the forces of performing ensembles.
For over 30 years Retallack’s energy and vision have nurtured the choirs to blossom artistically. With each project she courageously forges a musical journey that cultivates harmonious connections between performers and audience. Her spirit is both playful and fearless as is reflected in her diverse programming. From the Britten War Requiem to David Fanshawe’s African Sanctus, to a staged and choreographed version of Mendelssohn’s First Walpurgis Night, to contemporary pops concerts including themes like The British Invasion and The Best of Broadway, Diane Retallack doesn’t shy from a challenge and rejoices at the opportunity to stretch her creative wings and those of her musicians.
Retallack and the Eugene Vocal Arts gained national recognition in 2016-2017, winning the American Prize Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music, community division, for the recorded performance of the world premiere of the original commission Shadow and Light; an Alzheimer’s Journey in 16 Movements by Joan Szymko.
“It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done,” says Diane Retallack of the Shadow and Light commission. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive memory-loss brain disorder that afflicted both Retallack’s mother and grandmother. As an artist, she was drawn to create something through music about her experience, but was “too raw for several years to approach this subject matter,” Retallack says. “But then an amazing new grant opportunity came up, and I was inspired to dream big.”
“She is so expressive in performance that I rarely need to refer to my score because her face and hands indicate precisely how the music should be sung. Dr. Retallack guides our rehearsals with humor, tact and precision as she seeks to draw out the very best performance we are capable of. I especially enjoy the historical or technical details that she shares with us to help us understand the music more completely. She makes us reach as musicians and as a result I feel I have really grown as a singer since I joined the choir.”
– Vocalist, Jennifer McConochie
Following her bachelor’s degree in Music Education from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a master’s from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Diane earned a Doctor of Music in Choral Conducting from Indiana University. At Indiana, she studied conducting with Margaret Hillis, the late Founder and Director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and score analysis from the late renowned choral scholar Julius Herford. Diane has also studied conducting with Helmuth Rilling at the Oregon Bach Festival and the Bach Sommerakademie in Stuttgart, Germany, and has participated as a singer at Carnegie Hall in several Robert Shaw Choral Workshops.
Formerly Director of Choral Activities at Seattle University, Diane has had experience in every level of choral direction, including college and high school teaching, church choirs, children’s choruses, and community groups. In addition, she is an American Choral Directors Association certified adjudicator for the state of Oregon. Her fervent enthusiasm for the art of choral music has touched many singers and listeners alike, of all ages and all walks of life.
In 2005, she received the well deserved Bishop Arts and Letters Award for extraordinary contribution to arts and culture in Eugene. In 2010 Retallack was invited to conduct her chamber ensemble, Eugene Vocal Arts, at the American Choral Directors Association Northwest Conference in Seattle in recognition of their superb artistry.