"We"re on the cusp of something exciting," Chris Ludwa enthused, alluding to a case of musical chairs and partnerships on Indy"s choral arts scene and his own recent dual appointments as director of music at Meridian Street Methodist Church and the Indianapolis Arts Chorale.
Chris Ludwa says, "We"re on the cusp of something exciting."
This bridging of religious with secular is reminiscent of the historical choral music legacy of Indianapolis, with roots in amateur singing societies so important to immigrants from central and eastern Europe, especially those from Germany, and with the influence of pastors, especially the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. At Second Presbyterian Church in 1839, Beecher formed a 50-voice choir, established a music school and sponsored a small flute and string orchestra of 15 players, the city"s first orchestra, solely to accompany the choir for public programs. When Eric Stark moved to direct the Symphonic Choir this past summer, opening his Arts Chorale post to Ludwa, Michael Davis not only followed Stark as his assistant, but founded still another group, Cantabile. A survey of church, school and public choruses, choirs and vocal ensembles reveals a richness of participation that still defines our community. Though not definitive, this listing is a start toward introducing our readers to the array awaiting their patronage and participation. Here"s a cornucopia of organizations and events. Artsgarden www.indyarts.org Presents free choral concerts. Upcoming: Mistletoe Music Festival, day-long concerts featuring area school bands and choruses, Dec. 3-5, 10-12, 17-18; Indianapolis Children"s Choir, Dec. 14, 1 p.m. and Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m.; Logansport Children"s Choir, Dec. 14, 1 p.m.; Pride of Indy Barbershop Harmony, Dec. 15, 2 p.m. Cantabile Michael Davis, 787-9857 Michael Davis, founding artistic director of what is Indianapolis" newest choral group, says this 20-voice mixed chorus of accomplished singers has a chamber repertoire that recreates the intimate setting of the Renaissance. Upcoming: March 28, 7 p.m., All Souls Unitarian Church Capital City Chorus Toula Oberlies, 875-0116; Jan Meyer, 892-3366 www.harmonize.com/capitalcitychorus Concerts of barbershop-style music with high-energy choreography by this 115-member women"s chorus vary with the presenting organization. An all-volunteer group, its members, in quartets and as a chorus, provide K-12 school and Girl Scout programs free of charge, including a cappella music festivals and a loaning library of barbershop music voiced for young women. Public is invited to rehearsals every Thursday, 7 p.m., All Souls Unitarian Church. In early November, the chorus placed 20th against 35 of the best choruses worldwide at the Adelines International conference in Nashville, Tenn., with 12,000 people in attendance. Upcoming: Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m., Scottish Rites Temple. Tickets at 241-7664. Castlewood Chamber Singers Durland Patterson, 839-3517 An 18-member, volunteer, mixed-voice a cappella ensemble that performs sacred and secular vocal music. Programs are designed for the sponsoring group. Indiana State School Music Association The organization annually sponsors choral festivals statewide through schools. Contact your school for March-April events. Indianapolis Arts Chorale Maestro Chris Ludwa; Marc Hardy, 847-9673 www.artschorale.org A 48-voice volunteer ensemble in its 30th season performs at diverse venues at 8 p.m. Free public lectures, Words on Music, precede each concert at 7:15 p.m. Upcoming: "Traditions of the Holidays," Dec. 21, St. John"s Catholic Church, 126 W. Georgia St.; "Unearthed Treasures: Choral Music from the former Eastern Bloc," March 8, Christ Church Cathedral; "A Tribute to Vocal Jazz: Harmonies of Hoosier History & Beyond," May 16-17, Indiana Historical Society Indianapolis Children"s Choir Maestro Henry Leck; Janet Bishop; Jim Rainbolt, 940-6129 www.icchoir.org A 160-member audition-only volunteer group in residence at Butler emphasizes the development of musical skills and artistic excellence in choral music performance. Upcoming: At the Artsgarden, Dec. 14, 1 p.m. and Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m.; at St. Luke"s United Methodist Church, Dec. 20-21, 8 p.m. and Dec. 22, 2:30 p.m. Indianapolis Opera Chorus Maestro John A. Schmid, 253-5982 www.indyopera.org Lauded as one of the finest opera choruses in the U.S., the 50-member roster of professionally trained voices fully participates in the Indianapolis Opera season, acting and dancing along with singing. Members re-audition annually during late May or early June. John A. Schmid, in his 20th season as chorus master, estimates 40 is the usual size of an opera chorus, though some works call for as many as 60. Upcoming: Werther, March 14, 8 p.m. and March 16, 2 p.m.; La Boheme May 2, 8 p.m. and May 4, 2 p.m. Indianapolis Symphonic Choir Maestro Eric Stark, 955-9551 www.indychoir.org In its 65th year, the 100-plus volunteer, auditioned singers perform with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra along with the choir"s own season of concerts. Its educational outreach includes "Voices United Camp," a resident arts camp for Indianapolis Public Schools middle school students, and the "Spotlight Choir." North Central High School Counterpoints is working with Stark throughout this school year and will perform with the ISC at its holiday "Festival of Carols" concert Dec. 7, 8 p.m. at St. Luke"s United Methodist Church. Also upcoming: "Bach: Christmas Oratorio," Dec. 15, 2:30 p.m., Clowes; "Celebration," March 22, 8 p.m., New Bethel Baptist Church; "Handel: Messiah," April 13, 2:30 p.m., Clowes Indy Choruses Don Humphries, 931-9464 www.indychoruses.org Umbrella organization for Indianapolis Women"s Chorus and Indianapolis Men"s Chorus, dedicated to entertaining and promoting social awareness and understanding. Indianapolis Liederkranz Director Loesjt Chandler, 782-9216 Founded in 1872 as a German male singing society, it has since expanded to a men"s and a women"s choir with 20-25 members in each. They continue to participate in the national and regional network of German choirs and give two annual concerts each and a combined "Christmas Concert" Dec. 7, 8 p.m. at their club at 1417 E. Washington St. The public is welcome to join the choirs, which maintain German culture through music, food and dancing at each program. Maennerchor Society of Indianapolis Dr. Kerchal Armstrong, musical director; Robert Letsinger, 894-3792 www.maennerchor.org A professionally-directed 20-voice male chorus that "still harks back to German roots" with a varied repertoire of classical, folk, secular and sacred works. When founded in 1854, it was one of the largest and earliest singing societies in the U.S. Upcoming: Dec. 8, 1-5 p.m. at the Athenaeum Pride of Indy Barbershop Harmony Chorus Bryan Hughes, choral director; Jerry Rosenberger, 848-2810 www.harmonize.com/prideofindy Sixty-five singers ranging from age 8 to 92 rehearse every Monday, 7-10 p.m., at the Scottish Rite Cathedral, 650 N. Meridian St., where new members are welcome. The Indianapolis chapter of the International Harmony Society competes April and October annually. Upcoming: Dec. 1, 3 p.m., University of Indianapolis DeHaan Center; Dec. 15, 2 p.m., Artsgarden; Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m., Scottish Rite Cathedral Saenger-Chor, Inc. Daniel Doerr, 894-8031 Founded in 1885 as a German choir of men and women, choral works are sung in all languages, predominantly in German. Still connected with a network of German choirs, the 11 singers compete in the Indiana/Ohio/Kentucky region. In 2001, Saenger-Chor hosted 280 singers in Indianapolis for the District Songfest. The choir practices 8-9:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 521 E. 13th St., where the public is welcome. The spring concert will be announced. Sampling of university choral groups with public programs Butler Madrigal Singers 940-6444 www.ClowesHall.org Upcoming annual dinners: Dec. 5-8 at Clowes Memorial Hall, Krannert Room Butler University Jordan College of Fine Arts 940-6444 www.ClowesHall.org Upcoming: "Rejoice!" annual, free admission holiday concert including Benjamin Britten"s cantata, "St. Nicolas"; features several Butler choral ensembles, Dec. 13-14, 7:30 p.m., Clowes Jordan Jazz Dr. Tim Brimmer, 940-9641 Students from across the campus rehearse and perform in this extracurricular program. They just completed a two-day vocal marathon of clinics with The Manhattan Transfer and workshops with 85 top high school jazz singers and their music directors. Upcoming: "A Vocal Jazz Cabaret" March 21-22, 7 p.m., "to both listen and dance to sweet jazz." Sampling of churches with public choral programs Christ Church Cathedral Arizeder Urreiztieta, 636-4577 www.cccindy.org The Choral Masterworks Series includes three annual concerts by the Cathedral Choir of Men and Boys and the Cathedral Girls Choir. The free, open-to-the-public series culminates with a festival devoted to the works of a single composer. Upcoming: Ralph Vaughan Williams" "Hodie" Dec. 1, 4 p.m.; an all-Bach program Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m. Fairview Presbyterian Church John A. Schmid, director of music, 253-5982 The upcoming music service Dec. 15, 11 a.m. presents the choir in The Nativity According to St. Luke by Randall Thompson. Pilgrim Lutheran Church Fine Arts Series 846-2221 Upcoming: Annual "Twelfth Night Celebration" Jan. 5, 6:30 p.m., featuring all of Pilgrim"s choirs at 10202 N. Meridian (freewill offering); Luther College Nordic Choir, Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 3243 N. Meridian (tickets required) Second Presbyterian Church Music and Fine Arts Series 253-6461 Upcoming: Handel"s "Messiah" presented by the Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra with a choir of 16 professional singers and three high school students, Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 1, 2:30 p.m. at 7700 N. Meridian (tickets required) Trinity Episcopal Church Dr. Michael Messina; Sam Smith, 926-1346 Choir presents Vivaldi"s "Gloria" following the annual Madrigal dinners, Dec. 6-7, 8 p.m. at 3243 N. Meridian. The spring concert features Brahms" "Requiem." Upcoming touring vocal concerts Clowes Performing Arts Series 940-6444 www.ClowesHall.org The Chieftains, Feb. 2, 4 p.m.; pre-performance talk, 3:15 p.m. Three Mo" Tenors, Feb. 7, 8 p.m.; pre-performance talk, 7:15 p.m.