The ensemble has been known as the White Heron Chorale for most of its existence. Prior to that, the group was founded as the Wisconsin Vocal Ensemble. The name, “White Heron,” carries a tradition of spirited music and can be traced to the early 1800s, when Hippolyte Grignon used it as a name for his home and settlement on the banks of the Fox River. In the evenings after supper, fur traders and trappers often gathered to sing their rollicking songs around an open fire.
For 25 of the group’s years, we were under the direction of Prof. Richard Bjella of Lawrence University. During his long and rich tenure, the White Heron Chorale grew in both singers and audience members. His leadership presented a variety of themes and genres and continually challenged our artistic boundaries. Under Rick’s direction, the White Heron Chorale gained a reputation as one of the area’s outstanding choral ensembles and we are proud that many of his former students still sing with our group. Rick left his position at Lawrence University to join Texas Tech University as the Director of Choral Studies and left many friends in the White Heron Chorale. We miss him very much
Our 2009-2010 season was a transitional year, but an exciting one as we were under the baton of Dr. Paul Nesheim, a talented and gifted choral conductor. His dedication to each singer’s vocal instrument allowed us to produce some of the most lyrical ensemble singing we experienced. Dr. Nesheim was a visiting professor at Lawrence and returned to his position at the University of Minnesota-Moorhead.
In the 2010-2011 season, the Chorale took an exciting step by engaging two talented conductors, Phillip Swan and Steve Sieck. The two are co-directors of choral studies at Lawrence University and each brought his own talents to the podium of the White Heron Chorale.
The Chorale began in 1978 as the Wisconsin Vocal Ensemble with David Saladino, a local musician and high school music teacher, as the first music director. During his tenure, the group was featured in the first Fox Valley Arts Alliance Pops concert and collaborated with the Lawrence University Concert Choir. In following years, the group was conducted by Timothy Carney, who led the group in the annual Lessons and Carols concerts, as well as in notable concerts of Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Schönberg’s Friede auf Erde. The Ensemble welcomed a new director, Kate Tamarkin, during its fifth season and adopted its new name, the White Heron Chorale. Ms. Tamarkin also directed the Fox Valley Symphony.
What kind of music does newVoices perform?
NewVoices performs a wide variety of musical styles including jazz, folk, contemporary, classical sacred, musical theatre, madrigal, gospel, spirituals and more. Throughout its history, the ensemble has had a reputation for outstanding performances with nationally recognized groups such as Musica Sacra of New York, Dave Brubeck and his Trio, Dale Duesing, Nick Page, Margaret Hillis and the Trinity Irish Dancers. Some of our favorite major works and concerts include:
- Orff’s Carmina Burana, performed with the Fox Valley Symphony and the Lawrence Academy Girl Choir
- Carmen, presented concert style with the Fox Valley Symphony
- Oktoberfest in collaboration with the Dorf Kapelle German band
- Fiddler on the Roof, concert style
- Brahms’ German Requiem in collaboration with Lawrence University choirs
- Bloch’s Sacred Service
- Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces
- Bach’s B Minor Mass
- Mozart’s Requiem
- Britten’s War Requiem in collaboration with Lawrence University choirs
- Mozart’s Mass in C minor
- An evening with Rogers and Hammerstein
- All Creatures Great & Small, the music of animals
- Gypsy Spring, a celebration of Gypsy music
- Voices of the Valley and multi-cultural celebration
- Of Thee I Sing, a tribute to patriotic music
- Isle be Home, a concert of Irish and Celtic music in collaboration with Trinity School of Irish Dance