by Sharon Hansen (front right) 15 years ago, Milwaukee Choral
Artists is the only professional womenís vocal ensemble in
the Midwest and one of only a handful in the country. The 20
MCA ensemble members are all professionally trained in music.
Hansen came to UW-Milwaukee, she had no plans to become founder and
music director of a professional womenís vocal ensemble, but she did
see a gap in choral music in the city. Hansen, who is director of
choral activities and chairman of graduate choral conducting at the
university, had been living in Germany and singing in a professional
choir under the direction of one of the top choral masters in the
world, Helmuth Rilling.
found an impressive number of choirs in Milwaukee, she says, and a
great Midwest singing tradition, there was no professional group at
the same level as the Dale Warland Singers in Minneapolis or the
Kansas City Chorale. So she scheduled open auditions for a new group.
The men who
turned up for the audition were enthusiastic, but they were singers in
community choirs and business people by day. The women who auditioned
were singers with the Florentine Opera and Skylight Music Theatre,
with masterís degrees and doctorates in music. The expertise gap
among the men and women would be too tough to bridge. Hansen took a
deep breath and decided to form an all-womenís vocal ensemble,
Milwaukee Choral Artists.
experience was with vocal chamber music with men and women, so I didnít
know what to do," Hansen says. "I had no idea about the
repertoire. Isnít it funny how life sometimes hands you a situation
and you just make the best of it? Itís been nothing but a pleasure
and a joy to stay one step ahead of these fabulous singers for the
past 14 years."
Artists has performed as a chamber ensemble across southeastern
Wisconsin, singing music from 40 world cultures, in 26 different
languages. Finding authentic pronunciations of foreign lyrics is a
little easier than it used to be, Hansen says, thanks to performances
from all over the world posted on YouTube.
Artists will celebrate its 15th anniversary this year, and the
organization has commissioned a work from Norwegian-born composer and
pianist Ola Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo). The group commissioned 10
shorter works for its 10th anniversary, Hansen says, but Gjeiloís
piece promises to be an important world premiere.
him twice, heís very kind and engaging," Hansen says. "I
think this is a young composer in his early 30s that we are getting on
the cusp of his becoming an international sensation. We are very, very
thrilled to have him write for us."
original work is not an unusual practice for a musical group marking a
major milestone, Hansen says.
we commission are all published, so this takes the organization to a
much greater recognition level," she says, because the music can
then be performed globally. "The music groups may come and go,
but the piece lives on in perpetuity."
Gjeilo will be here for the performance, but that is all she is
willing to reveal at the moment. Expect surprises.
Choral Artists will perform "Eastern Voyages" from its
current concert series at 7:30 p.m. April 14 at Fox Point
Lutheran Church, 7510 N. Santa Monica Blvd. For more
information, go to milwaukeechoralartists.org.
the Milwaukee Choral Artists has been performing
Languages the ensemble has sung in
Commissioned works performed by MCA
premieres by MCA 2013
MCA will premiere a composition created by internationally
acclaimed composer Ola Gjeilo