Chorus America’s 2016 Awards Recognize Outstanding Choruses and Individuals

Chorus America has announced the recipients of its 2016 awards program, recognizing a broad range of achievements in choral music, including artistic excellence, adventurous programming, innovative education programs, generous philanthropy, and lifetime service to the choral art.

“These individuals and organizations are leaders in excellence and innovation, and set an example for the entire choral field,” said Catherine Dehoney, president and CEO of Chorus America. “We are thrilled to recognize their success.”

Independent panels selected the following individuals and choruses to receive awards, which will be presented at Chorus America’s 2016 Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, held June 15-18.

Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence

This award honors the memory of Margaret Hillis, founder of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, for her more than 40 years of professional achievement and outstanding contributions to the choral field. The award is presented annually to a member chorus that demonstrates artistic excellence, a strong organizational structure, and a commitment to outreach, education, and/or culturally diverse activities.

The 2016 Hillis Award recognizes a volunteer chorus, and goes to The Washington Chorus, led by music director Julian Wachner and executive director Dianne Peterson. A 180-voice auditioned volunteer symphonic chorus in its 55th year, The Washington Chorus has toured worldwide, singing under the direction of some of the world’s greatest orchestral conductors. The Chorus presents an annual subscription concert season at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and other DC-area venues, reaching over 30,000 people per year through their programming. The organization has released numerous recordings, earned two Grammy Awards, and originated an award-winning New Music for a New Age concert series.

Chorus America Distinguished Service Award

The Chorus America Distinguished Service Award recognizes a member whose long-term service to the choral field significantly furthers Chorus America’s mission “to build a dynamic and inclusive choral community so that more people are transformed by the beauty and power of choral singing.”

Louise Greenberg is the 2016 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. A lifelong choral administrator, board member, and singer, Greenberg was the founding board president of the Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia and a two-term member of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts’s choral/opera panel. She served for 11 years on the board of Chorus America, where she led important advocacy efforts and membership growth, and supported The First Art radio program. She served as a founder, president, and board member to numerous choruses and choral organizations, particularly in the Philadelphia area and Fort Myers, Florida.

Michael Korn Founders Award for Development of the Professional Choral Art

Named after one of the founders of Chorus America, this award was established in 1978 to honor an individual with a lifetime of significant contributions to the professional choral art.

Robert De Cormier, a charter member of Chorus America with the De Cormier Singers, is the 2016 recipient of the Korn Founders Award. As a music director, arranger, composer, and performer, De Cormier played an active role in the American folk music movement, conducting and arranging for the Belafonte Singers for most of the group’s lifespan; and working with Peter, Paul, and Mary, among many others. He also founded the professional Vermont-based chorus Counterpoint, served as music director of the New York Choral Society for 17 years, and was an associate professor of ensembles and conducting at Eastman School of Music.

Louis Botto Award for Innovative Action and Entrepreneurial Zeal

The Botto Award was established in memory of Louis Botto for his artistry, selfless service to the choral art, and entrepreneurial spirit in founding the men’s vocal ensemble Chanticleer. The award is given periodically to a mid-career choral leader who, through his or her work with a member ensemble of Chorus America, has demonstrated innovative action and entrepreneurial zeal in developing a professional or professional-core choral ensemble.

Michael Alan Anderson, artistic director of Chicago early music vocal ensemble Schola Antiqua, is the 2016 recipient of the Louis Botto Award. Schola Antiqua specializes in the performance of rarely heard works composed before the 1600s, and received the 2012 Noah Greenberg Award, an honor given by the American Musicological Society to recognize significant contributions to understanding historical performance practices. Anderson is also an advisor to the Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research in the Institute for Music Leadership at Eastman School of Music, where he is professor of musicology.

Dale Warland Singers Commission Award

Chorus America and the American Composers Forum partner to present this award in honor of Dale Warland’s lifelong commitment to new music as embodied through his work with the Dale Warland Singers. The award is made possible by the Dale Warland Singers Fund for New Choral Music, a permanently restricted endowment fund established in 2004.

Minneapolis-based men’s ensemble Cantus is the 2016 recipient of the Dale Warland Singers Commission Award. They will partner with Brooklyn-based composer Gabriel Kahane on “The Discovery of Sight,” a work for the ensemble’s 2017-2018 touring program which will explore the sense of sight in its literal and poetic sense. Kahane has chosen Jorge Luis Borges’s 1977 lecture “Blindness” as the inspiration for the work’s text. The piece will receive its world premiere in October 2017.

Chorus America Brazeal Wayne Dennard Award

The Chorus America Brazeal Wayne Dennard Award honors the life and achievements of educator, conductor, and arranger Brazeal Dennard by recognizing individuals or organizations whose work builds upon his commitment to diversity, inclusiveness, and furthering African-American and other diverse choral traditions through performance, research, or the creation of new compositions of significance.

VocalEssence, based in Minneapolis and led by artistic director Philip Brunelle, is the 2016 recipient of the Brazeal Wayne Dennard Award. VocalEssence’s flagship education program, WITNESS, reaches 50 schools annually through concerts, commissions, workshops, recordings, and curriculum celebrating African-American culture and contributions to the fine arts. Their unique program ¡Cantaré! brings composers from Mexico to work directly with school choirs and community choruses, culminating in world-premiere performances of new music.

Chorus America Education and Community Engagement Award

This award recognizes education and community engagement programs that expand a chorus’s role in its community. Successful programs demonstrate mission-based program development, viable music education, effective management and fiscal integrity, a commitment to artistic excellence, and collaborations that are sustainable, beneficial, and meaningful for all partners.

The 2016 Education and Community Engagement Award honors the best collaborative program, and goes to newVoices of Appleton, Wisconsin. During the 2015-16 season, newVoices worked with a variety of partners on community engagement initiatives specific to the chorus’s programming. The chorus raised awareness about human sex trafficking in its region through a fall concert and educational activities in partnership with the Sexual Assault Crisis Center and the Sex Trafficking Steering Committee, and worked with Alzheimer and dementia patients through volunteer initiatives and a collaborative concert in partnership with the Fox Valley Memory Project.

Chorus America/ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming and Alice Parker Award

The Chorus America/ASCAP Adventurous Programming Awards recognize choruses that demonstrate a sustained commitment to adventurous programming through performances of choral music written in the last 25 years. The 2016 winners are:

Vox Musica, Daniel Paulson, founder and music director
Manhattan Choral Ensemble, Thomas Cunningham, founder and director
Cincinnati Children’s Choir, Robyn Reeves Lana, founder and managing artistic director

The Chorus America/ASCAP Alice Parker Award honors composer Alice Parker, whose career has spanned six decades and has been devoted to the creation of works for the human voice. The award was established in 2003 to recognize a chorus for programming recently composed music that expands the mission of the chorus and challenges the chorus’s audience in new ways. The 2016 award goes to Durango Choral Society of Durango, Colorado, an adult volunteer chorus under the direction of Linda Mack Berven. The ensemble embarked on a two-year collaboration with the Telluride Choral Society (CO) to present the premiere of “Requiem for Eagles,” composed by Telluride’s late artistic director, David Lingle. The work blends the traditional requiem format with Southwestern influences, overlaying ancient texts with indigenous chant, rhythm, and orchestration.

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