Behind the Scenes with the Seattle Symphony Chorale

The upcoming performance of the Fauré Requiem, December 3, 5 and 6, is just the latest in 39 years of music-making between the Seattle Symphony and the Seattle Symphony Chorale. Recently these incredible combined forces have taken on masterworks such as Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, Ives’ Symphony No. 4, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Verdi’s Requiem and Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem. Perhaps you’ve seen these performances on stage and wondered how the works are chosen? Or who the stunning, dedicated vocalists are in the choral risers? Maybe you’ve even wondered how to join them!

We cannot talk about the Seattle Symphony Chorale without talking about its dedicated and passionate conductor, Joseph Crnko. He prepares this all-volunteer chorus, often weeks or months before their first rehearsal with the orchestra, finding creative ways to structure the process, taking into account the busy lives of its members. 

“At no time do I ever lose sight of the fact that the members of the Chorale are volunteers,” said Crnko. “While most of them are not professional musicians, they are all professionals. The Chorale is composed of business professionals, doctors, lawyers, teachers, software designers — more professions than I can list. They juggle their busy lives to come together and create great music — to perform musical masterpieces with an excellent orchestra, in a wonderful concert hall, for great audiences!”

Seattle Symphony Music Director Ludovic Morlot has found Crnko to be the perfect partner in helping him balance programming ambitions with the realities of producing successful performances. When he’s considering works for future seasons Morlot said, “Joe and I work closely to choose the repertoire. He knows where they’re at, he knows what they need as a next step to grow, and I think he's always very happy when a piece like the Fauré Requiem comes along because it helps to recruit new Chorale members as well. It has been an incredible collaboration in the sense that I've seen the Chorale grow weekly to rise to new challenges like the recent performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion and Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette.”  

Kevin Kralman, tenor section leader, has been in the Chorale since 2000. After long days at the office, Kevin finds the rehearsals completely worth the payoff of a musically challenging and satisfying performance. “Seeing and hearing, from the stage perspective, a monumental work come together in a way that is valued by our fantastic Seattle audiences, alongside our gifted orchestra players with Maestro Morlot at the helm, continues to be my favorite part of the experience.”

Morlot added, “It is always a joy and privilege to share music-making with the Seattle Symphony Chorale. They are such a dedicated group of musicians that I feel blessed when the time comes to be on stage with them to create performances of masterpieces such as Fauré's Requiem.”

Fauré’s Requiem won’t be your only opportunity to hear them this season. December will also feature the annual performances of Handel’s Messiah and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. They will be heard in Morton Feldman’s beautifully subtle Rothko Chapel in February as part of the [untitled] contemporary music series, then in Szymanowski’s Symphony No. 3, Op. 27, The Song of the Night in April and Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms in June.

Chorale Auditions: The Seattle Symphony Chorale welcomes new members. Please review the audition requirements and fill out an application here.

By James Holt

Posted on November 4, 2015