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Nine (Slightly Biased) Reasons to See the Alaska Chamber Singers This Weekend

Alaska Chamber Singers in Rehearsal. Photo by Gleo Huyck.

The Alaska Chamber Singers are performing this Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, and it promises to be among the best classical music offerings in Anchorage this spring. Okay, okay, I admit that I may be *slightly* biased… I am, after all, one of the altos in the Chamber Singers. But, I stand by my superlative.

Here are nine reasons why you should attend the Alaska Chamber Singers concert this weekend.

1. Anton Armstrong, the superstar of choral directing, is the guest conductor. Armstrong is the man behind the baton of the famed St. Olaf Choir, one of the most revered choirs in America. It’s an honor to sing for him, and trust me: the Chamber Singers have rehearsed extra-hard in the hopes of impressing this big wig.

2. The music is mostly secular, i.e., non-religious. In other words, if you’re one of those people who’s wary of choral music for fear of Bible-thumping, this performance is for you. Sure, there are a few religious texts on this weekend’s program; some of the world’s greatest musical compositions were inspired by faith, or commissioned by a church. But most of this weekend’s music has nothing to do with religion. Instead, we’re singing about nature, Chinese lanterns, a hospital, and the coronation of King George I.

3. We are premiering Alaska Spring, a five-song suite by Libby Larsen based on the poetry of Tom Sexton. It’s not often that Alaska hosts a world premiere by a major composer, and Grammy-winner Larsen is definitely major. Check out this week’s issue of the Anchorage Press for my article about Alaska Spring.

4. Composer Libby Larsen will be at the performance. Based in Minneapolis, Larsen is flying up to Anchorage to work with the choir and hear the world premiere.  Check out my interview with Larsen here.

5. Poet Tom Sexton is reading his poetry at the concerts. Sexton was Alaska’s Poet Laureate from 1995 to 2000, and he founded the creative writing program at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Here’s an excerpt of my interview with Sexton.

6. Even more poetry. In addition to Alaska Spring, we’re singing a gorgeous settings of WB Yeats’s poem “Cloths of Heaven” by ME Valverde, and a lovely setting of Yuan Mei’s “A Feast of Lanterns” by Carolyn Jennings.

7. The spirituals. Maybe you wouldn’t guess that an Alaska choir would rock the spirituals, but we rock the  #@!%  out of them. We’re singing Andre Thomas’s arrangement of “My Good Lord’s Done Been Here” and Moses Hogan’s “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” — and I’ll be lucky if I get through the latter without weeping.

8. Our soloists. Sopranos Kimberly Martin and Stephanie Williams kick some serious bootay with their respective solos in “This House of Peace” (Ralph Johnson) and “My Good Lord’s Done Been Here”.

9. Free dessert and wine. There’s a reception after Saturday evening’s performance, your chance to meet Armstrong, Larsen, and Sexton.

Have I convinced you?

You can purchase your tickets through CenterTix, or take your chances and buy them at the door. The concerts are on Saturday, April 21, at 8:00 pm at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (3900 Wisconsin Street, Anchorage), and on Sunday, April 22, at 4:00 pm at Saint Andrew Church (16300 Domain Lane, Eagle River). See you there!