By Nicole Vukonich
This weekend Burien’s ChoralSounds Northwest will transport audiences to New Orleans during their upcoming “The Big Easy” concert at 7:30 p.m. on May 19 at Glendale Lutheran Church and also at 7:30 p.m May 20 at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Bellevue.
“This concert is a tribute to New Orleans music and culture – A bit indulgent for me as I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, an hour west of N’awlins,” said ChoralSounds Northwest Artistic Director Dr. Ryan Ellis. When asked about the process for selecting the musical program for the spring concert, he explained that “It was exciting to create a program that certainly shared the common flavor, but offered quite a bit of variety from swing, street-beat (or second-line), a Fats Domino boogie, zydeco, blues, Dixieland, spirituals and even a medley from Disney’s ‘The Princess and The Frog.’ ” “Of course, ‘Oh When the Saints’ weaves a common thread throughout the evening,” he added.
More than 70 vocalists, Highline Brass, and a rhythm section will produce a sound different from any previous ChoralSounds NW productions. As part of the “pops” repertoire, Ellis hopes “our audience will feel the spirit of historic Preservation Hall, the festivities of a Mardi Gras, and the overall joie de vivre (joy of life).” Ellis recommends paying special attention to the soloists, many of whom are among the newest members of the choir.
“I can’t recall a program that displays this level of soulful solo singing,” remarked Ellis. “As a choir, we have pushed our understanding of vocal technique and production to explore a quality that is indicative of such nuanced music.” Large choirs typically aim for a smooth, blended sound; however, Ellis emphasizes that the visceral rawness required to create a New Orleans accent in song takes a whole new vocal awareness and practice.
In contrast, ChoralSounds NW performed Mendelssohn’s 2nd Symphony with the Northwest Symphony Orchestra at Benaroya Hall at the end of April. Ellis is confident the choir is up to the new challenge of “The Big Easy” as the love of community learning and growth is as palpable as ever.
With two opportunities to experience this program, it is one not to be missed! As Ellis sums it up, “I truly believe the magic happens when the vibrations hit you in natural acoustic and artistic words in harmony can pierce the heart. This is my hope for our audience: connect, feel, love, and be inspired to live life to the fullest.”
Tickets may be purchased online at: https://www.nwassociatedarts.org/concerts/the-big-easy/ and will also be available at the door on May 19 at Glendale Lutheran Church (13455 2nd Avenue SW, Burien 98146) and May 20 at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church (4228 Factoria Blvd SE, Bellevue 98006). Adult tickets are $20, and ages 17 and under are free.
Nicole Vukonich is currently on leave from ChoralSounds NW and looks forward to returning next spring. She is a former Board Member and Executive Committee Member of the Olympia Symphony Orchestra. Her musical resume includes singing with the Seattle University Chorale, roles in many Hi-Liner productions, and also is a proud alumnus of the Highline Public School bands.