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Review of Sacred Service performance by Edward Reichel [EXCERPT]


Armstrong captured the spirit and emotional force of Bloch’s work with his sensitive and perceptive direction. He elicited expressive singing from the choir and nuanced playing from the orchestra. The dramatic moments were nicely contrasted by lyrically infused passages and he kept everything wonderfully in balance.

Read full review here:

Finding the notes of a very choral Christmas [EXCERPT]

By Catherine Reese Newton | The Salt Lake Tribune

What is it about singing that gets people to spend hours each week in rehearsal? Most singers mention the camaraderie.

"I love the collaboration," said Carter Durham, a Provo marketing professional who drives to Salt Lake City for weekly rehearsals of Utah Chamber Artists. "I have no interest in being a soloist, but there is something irresistible to me about creating harmonies with other voices — my contribution is critical, yet by itself it doesn’t have nearly the same impact as the cumulative effect of all the voices. I love the communal experience of creating something beautiful with a bunch of people, each of us with our own part to play."

Choral singing, it seems, can be a great equalizer. "Every week, hundreds of people make time in their lives for music — grocery store clerks, physicians, lawyers, schoolteachers, guys who work construction," said Michael Huff, Utah Voices artistic director and visiting associate professor at USU.

And a chorus can bring together people across class, religion or political divides. "It’s amazing the people I’ve sung with — the various backgrounds," said Ron Webb, an algebra teacher and head track coach at West High. Webb sang in the Viva Voce! men’s chorus for a few years and plans to resume singing in the Westminster Community Choir when his schedule frees up at the beginning of the year.

"Everybody is there for the same reason," he said of his choir experiences. "We may not see eye to eye on everything in life, but we see eye to eye on music."

Kiersten Honaker, an elementary-school English teacher and longtime member of Salt Lake Choral Artists, met in choir one of her best friends, a research scientist who she considers her complete opposite in many ways. "We never would have met otherwise," she said.

Honaker isn’t alone in her dedication. West Valley City real-estate agent Karyn Bunnell performs with the 300-plus-voice devotional choir Sterling Singers, as well as the South Jordan City-sponsored Sounds of the Season and its spinoff women’s chorus, the DeciBelles. "I just love singing songs of praise," Bunnell said. "It’s another opportunity to rejoice and serve by singing."

That kind of schedule leads to a revolving rehearsal schedule, yet you don’t hear many Utah singers complaining. "Because music is a priority in our lives, we make time for it," said Utah Voices managing director Juliann Kitzmiller, who also sings in the 180-voice Bountiful-based chorus.

The payoff is in the process, Carter Durham says. "I honestly love the rehearsals more than the performances," he said. "I feel privileged to experience it. I feel like the music means a lot more to me than I mean to it. Not a rehearsal goes by during which I don’t get goosebumps at some point. That is why I make the sacrifices to be a part of a community choir."

Salt Lake Symphony, Utah Voices celebrate Beethoven [The Salt Lake Tribune]

By Catherine Reese Newton | The Salt Lake Tribune

It was standing room only Saturday in Libby Gardner Concert Hall as the Salt Lake Symphony teamed up with the up-and-coming Davis County-based Utah Voices in celebration of Beethoven.

The evening’s main event was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Though this symphony is best-known for its grand "Ode to Joy" choral finale, most of the heavy lifting comes from the orchestra.

The community-based Salt Lake Symphony played valiantly under its music director, Robert Baldwin. There were a few rough patches, but there were also passages that sounded truly inspired. The volunteer musicians played with determination and joy throughout the symphony’s hour-plus running time. The woodwinds, and the bassoon playing of Ryan Van Liere in particular, were especially impressive.

The approximately 140 singers of Utah Voices clearly put a lot of preparation into this concert. They sang the Schiller text that closes Beethoven’s Ninth in the original German, projecting its inspiring message forcefully. They also demonstrated excellent balance, unwavering focus and contagious conviction, living up to the evening’s billing of "Glorious Beethoven."

The four soloists — soprano Jennifer Larson, mezzo Kirsten Gunlogson, tenor Robert Breault and baritone Steven Meredith — were all solid, though balance among them was sometimes iffy. The jaunty "Turkish" verse, which Breault sang with gusto amid infectious percussion, was a highlight.

Utah Voices’ conductor Michael Huff led orchestra, chorus and soloists in a vigorous performance of the Gloria from Beethoven’s "Missa Solemnis" to open the concert.


Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is a major undertaking for any orchestra and chorus, not just for community ensembles. The work places huge demands on both the instrumentalists and singers, but that didn’t stop Robert Baldwin from programming it this season with his Salt Lake Symphony. And the performance Saturday with Utah Voices proved that not only the orchestra, but also the chorus, was more than up to the challenge. This is the third time the two groups have joined forces and it’s certainly a collaboration worth continuing. The two work well together.

Baldwin showed a solid grasp of the Ninth. He knew what he wanted – he had a vision for the work and conveyed it to his players. It was a textured, balanced and cohesive account that picked up on and emphasized the work’s nuances and orchestral colors.

In the opening movement, Baldwin chose an overall tempo that wasn’t too fast and which allowed for an expansive development of the themes. But he also managed to capture the power and drama of the music. This carried over into the second movement scherzo, which wasn’t taken at an overly speedy tempo. All too often conductors fall into the trap of taking this movement at a tempo that’s detrimental to bringing out the many layers of the music. This was a nuanced account that was well played and executed.

The slow movement was gorgeously laid out and developed. Baldwin was actually able to cast an otherworldly mood over the music that underscored its eloquent expressiveness.

The finale can be tricky for a conductor since there are so many different elements at work. But Baldwin once again showed his complete understanding of the movement and had a solid handle on everything. The music flowed seamlessly throughout the different sections.

Utah Voices gave a remarkable performance. They sang with resonance and brought depth and dimension to their part. It was a well crafted and executed account.

The four soloists also acquitted themselves wonderfully. University of Utah colleagues Kirsten Gunlogson, mezzo-soprano, and Robert Breault, tenor, were joined by Jennifer Larson, soprano, and Steven Meredith, baritone. They sang with lyricism and feeling and sounded exceptionally well together as a quartet.

The concert opened with the Gloria movement from Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis conducted by Utah Voices music director Michael Huff.

WANTED: Advertising Sales Director (Commissioned Position)

Position details:

  • Hard working, charismatic person needed to fill an immediate opening as an ad sales director for the non-profit organization Utah Voices.
  • Use personal visits, telephone, and email to contact advertising prospects and educate them about Utah Voices and solicit advertising in Utah Voices event programs.
  • Coordinates traffic between client and designer
  • Experience in advertising sales preferred.
  • Established business relationships helpful.
  • Starting commission 10%, with performance-based increases of up to 15% commission

Please contact Bronwyn Evans, marketing director for Utah Voices, at if you are interested.

Community choir wants to 'be somebody' in artistic community

If you’ve ever attended any kind of choral performance, you probably think you have a good idea of what they're always like.

The singers shuffle onto the stage, someone sits at the piano, the conductor stands before the group and they sing two hours away before shuffling off the stage, ending the concert.

Utah Voices has a different vision of what the choral experience should be for both choir members and audience.

“I think that Utah Voices has set a precedent that we do not ever have boring concerts. …We want the concept of choral singing to be something that is engaging,” said Juliann Peacock, managing director and one of the founders of the choir.

The formula seems to be working. According to its creators, the 180-member choir has already developed quite the following and has even been invited to perform in the Lincoln Center in New York this month.

Utah Voices is only in its third season.

The 2011-2012 season officially kicks off with a fall performance, “Hometown Praise” on Nov. 11 at the Libby Gardner Concert Hall in Salt Lake City.

The choir is currently under the direction of Dr. Michael Huff, a visiting professor at Utah State University. Among other accomplishments, Huff was associate conductor and principal accompanist for the Utah Symphony Chorus for more than a decade. He’s spent many years building a reputation as a conductor, arranger, composer, teacher and clinician.

Huff described a “blueprint” he had set aside years ago, a plan for how he would run a choir if he got the chance. The development of a brand new community choir gave him that chance.

Peacock and some other members of a community choir Huff had directed wanted to continue singing under Huff’s direction. Peacock said she approached Huff and he basically told her if she started pulling a choir together for him to conduct, he would conduct it.

“The Utah Voices plan was my plan for the ultimate community choir,” he said. He described a choir that exists to serve its members and the community, one that puts on concerts that are both interesting and entertaining, one that is inclusive. And, he says, Utah Voices is that choir.

The most important thing that sets the choir apart, both Huff and Peacock agree, is that Utah Voices is a non-auditioned choir.

Utah Voices sings ‘Messiah’ with spirit conviction

The Salt Lake Tribune

December always brings a full slate of “Messiahs” to the Wasatch Front, and Utah Voices — a relative newcomer to the state’s choral scene — made a noteworthy contribution to the ranks this year.

The 166-voice volunteer choir was founded in summer 2009; over this past Thanksgiving weekend, about half its members participated in a large-forces performance of the Handel oratorio in New York’s Carnegie Hall. This head start resulted in generally well-polished performances of the oratorio’s soaring choruses on Monday; the singers of Utah Voices followed conductor Michael Huff attentively, with only one miscue to speak of. All through the evening, from a buoyant reading of “And the Glory of the Lord” until the final “Amen,” they sang with spirit and conviction.

Monday’s performance in Libby Gardner Concert Hall was an interesting mix of old and new performance practices. A chamber-size pickup orchestra accompanied the large-ish chorus; Huff did an expert job keeping the forces balanced.

Many of the rhythms were smoothed out, recalling “Messiahs” of years past — and the continuo part was played on a synthesizer. The Handel score was trimmed in the interest of time, but only a couple of the transitions — such as the one between the baritone aria “Why do the nations so furiously rage together” and the tenor recitative “He that dwelleth in heaven” — were particularly jarring.

Of the soloists, tenor Robert Breault gave the most polished performance; his laser-focused pianissimos were most impressive, and his use of ornamentation was always tasteful.

But it was mezzo-soprano Mary Ann Dresher who seemed to make the most genuine emotional connection to the music and text, whether in her exuberantly ornamented aria “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion” or her deeply moving “He was despised.”

Soprano Cindy Dewey brought dramatic flair to the musical telling of the Nativity story and the ever-popular “I know that my Redeemer liveth,” and Shane Warby used his light, agile baritone to especially fine effect on the simmering “Why do the nations rage.”


The Camerata Awards, Concert Gala


Edgar J. Thompson and
Craig & Melissa Ballard

and our legacy award recipient

Thomas Evans Giles


Date: November 4, 2011 at 8pm
Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall, Presidents Circle

$10 per concert ticket, U of U students free
$3 for all other students

For tickets call 801-581-7100  or visit


Thoughts of "Hometown Praise"

Autumn is my favorite time of year; I have been awestruck by the beautiful, blazing colors up on the mountains surrounding the neighborhood where I live.  This time of year reminds me of all the things that I love, that I treasure, hold dear and hope for.  Music plays a central and definite role in the revelry that is autumn.  Ever since our "Give Thanks" concert last year with the amazing Cori Connors I have wanted to always have a fall concert, one that celebrates the best things about home, holiday, tradition, family and nostalgic memory.  This year, with our inaugural concert featuring music from and within our community, our great state of Utah, we are embodying the very essence of fall, the warmth and comfort that settling in, drawing loved ones and children near in preparation for the winter unequivocally brings.  We sprinkle the music we sing with the savory, loveliness of those precious feelings in each of us; the feelings and memories that transcend all assumed and apparent differences, bringing us together with one sole purpose - to make beautiful, autumn-infused music together, as we share our message and our conviction with all those in our audience.  I believe that we - mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles - the singers that make up Utah Voices, all have magical memoreis associated with our own hometowns, the people in those hometowns, the landscape, the local churches, the elementary school, our own Main Street.  Each one of us has a love, a treasure trove of memories of our own hometowns; together, we combine and put words and notes to those memories, rhythm and dynamics to the our own childhood fondness and nostalgia.  We have the wonderful opportunity to do something good for our "hometown", by honoring and recognizing our servicemen and women, the Veterans in our community, the very heroes that willingly would lay down their own lives in order to preserve the liberty and freedom in our hometowns across our great nation. It is for them that our patriotic section of the program we will sing.  We are so fortunate to live among such noble, courageous men and women of the armed forces.  And on November 11, the day of our fall concert and Veterans Day, we honor their service and sacrifice for us, for our families, for the very hometowms that we so passionately sing about, and the magnificent nation we live in.  May we all remember and revel in all that is good in life, the beauty and richness of this beautiful autumn season, and the message of the music that we sing in this, our hometown.

Juliann Kitzmiller Peacock

Managing Director

Utah Voices

WANTED: Advertising Sales Director (Volunteer)

  • Hard working, charismatic person needed to fill an immediate opening as an ad sales director for the non-profit organization Utah Voices.
  • Use personal visits, telephone, and email to contact advertising prospects and educate them about Utah Voices and solicit advertising in Utah Voices and Verux Vox Vocis event programs.
  • Experience in advertising sales preferred.
  • Established business relationships helpful.

Please contact Bronwyn Evans, marketing director for Utah Voices, at if you are interested.