Midge Woolsey, WQXR Host
Midge Woolsey's grounding in opera and musical theater led her to become a producer and host for public television and radio, proudly serving the tristate community with her soothing presence for over 30 years.
There’s something special about singing in a good choral ensemble. And it’s definitely not the money! No... it’s something else.
Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of singing in church choirs, musical theater choruses, trios, quartets, quintets – you name it. If it looked like fun, I was there! Some of these groups were amateur, some were professional and some were a mix of the two. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time singing as a soloist. But, singing in an ensemble is really a very different experience. Like I said, it’s special.
I recently learned that the choral ensemble known as Conspirare is coming to the Big Apple.** Conspirare is based in Austin, Texas. The singers come from all over the country and are hand picked by Artistic Director, Craig Hella Johnson. They are not only great musicians with beautiful voices and proven soloists in their own right, they’re also extremely sensitive, caring, dedicated people who understand the power in the word “ensemble.”
Here’s a short video clip in which Craig talks to me about what it takes to be a member of Conspirare:
I was first introduced to Conspirare in the summer of 2008 when I traveled to Austin to work on their PBS television program, A Company of Voices: Conspirare in Concert. I had the pleasure of getting to know some of the singers when I was there and experienced their devoted following in a very personal way. I learned that the singers come from all walks of life and that some have very demanding jobs in addition to their singing. So, they’re hard workers. And, it’s the pleasure and satisfaction that they get from singing that inspires them and everyone around them.
To date, Conspirare has been nominated for five Grammy awards. And, I feel sure that we’ll hear lots more from them in the future.
If you have time, I’d love for you to listen to another clip from the PBS television program. There are three pieces included: first is Morten Lauridsen’s setting of James Agee’s Sure On This Shining Night, next is Craig Hella Johnson’s arrangement of Carly Simon’s Let The River Run, and finally, Craig’s setting of The Water is Wide with a gorgeous soprano solo by Melissa Givens.
Now, if you’ve finished watching, please tell me what is it about singing in a chorus that's so very special? If it’s not the money what is it? Let me know when you can. And thanks!
**Conspirare will be presented by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute in three concerts as part of the Neighborhood Concert series - two "Community Sings" on February 22 and 23 at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens and at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, and a formal concert in the Bronx Jacobi Medical Center on February 24.