Arts and Entertainment

Kirkland Choral Society keeps to Kirkland roots

The Kirkland Choral Society has been directed by Glenn Gregg for more than 10 years. The group boasts 90 members and high-level performances of great choral works. - Contributed by Kirkland Choral Society
The Kirkland Choral Society has been directed by Glenn Gregg for more than 10 years. The group boasts 90 members and high-level performances of great choral works.
— image credit: Contributed by Kirkland Choral Society

Practicing in a basement with a handful of singers more than 20 years ago, the Kirkland Choral Society has since evolved into a 90-member chorus that performs the great choral works at venues across the Eastside and beyond.

So in a struggle to redefine its identity, chorus members recently considered changing the choral society's name. But after careful consideration, the answer was resoundingly clear – keep the name as is.

Glenn Gregg, who has directed the Kirkland Choral Society for more than 10 years, said “we kind of looked around and realized, well, not that many of us are from Kirkland. So the first thing was, is Kirkland really appropriate?”

Group members span the Eastside, including Bellevue, Issaquah, Bothell, as well as Seattle.

He cited some world-famous fine arts groups that have retained their small regional names, including The Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra in Europe.

“And when you think of Kirkland, it has got a good reputation in this area as a nice city and a place where good things happen,” Gregg added.

The chorus also kept with the “Choral Society” due to its historical significance. The late Eighteenth Century saw a rise of many choral societies and in the US there are currently 75 groups that hold on to that tradition and use that name, Gregg noted.

The Kirkland Choral Society was founded in 1988 by the group's first director, Jerry Mader, who presented the idea of an Eastside community choir to Jeffrey Waters, then president of the Creative Arts League (now the Kirkland Arts Center).

The two men both composed and arranged original scores for the group, including a choral version of Pachebel's Canon.

When Gregg started with the group in 1999, there was still only 15 volunteer singers. Since auditions were not required, it was easy for vocalists to join the group.

“So I told them, if I'm really going to direct this group, here's what I really want to do,” said Gregg, who holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from the University of Washington. “I want to do the great choral works and I want to have it be an auditioned group and raise the bar.”

Under Gregg's direction, the KCS found a more classical focus, performing great works such as Mozart's Requiem, Schubert's Mass in G and Beethoven's Hallelujah with a full orchestra.

“Since we raised the bar, one of the other things that happens with that is you attract the better singers because better singers want to be involved in a group where they're going to be challenged,” he said.

Though the chorus has performed at smaller venues like the Kirkland Performance Center, one of the challenges KCS faces with its growing size is finding larger venues to perform works with the orchestra. KCS does many of its performances now at the Bastyr University Chapel and Northshore Performing Arts Center.

Rehearsals for KCS, which recently began its 22nd season, are held from 7:15-9:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland. Auditions are ongoing throughout the season.

Gregg compares the chorus to the Seattle Symphony.

“The quality is definitely here and people don't have to go far to see it.”

Upcoming performances

Treasures of Venice and other songs for the holidays:

Join KCS on a holiday adventure to Venice, Italy, featuring music by Gabrieli, Monteverdi and Vivaldi, plus an array of holiday favorites. Performances begin at 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 6 at Bastyr University Chapel and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 at Northshore Performing Arts Center.

Auditions for the Kirkland Choral Society are ongoing throughout the season. E-mail auditions@kirklandchoralsociety.org to set an appointment time or visit www.kirklandchoralsociety.org for information.

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