Monday, September 2, 2013

ENSEMBLE WINNERS: community chorus, youth chorus, opera performance

The American Prize  is pleased to announce 2013 ENSEMBLE winners in the following categories: community chorus, youth orchestra, opera production.


To know the exact day and time when additional winners will be announced, please "like" our Facebook page, where the information will be posted. 

The judges reserve the right to award special citations and honorable mentions to any entrant at their discretion.

Please make us aware of any misprints:

The American Prize in Choral Performance—community

The American Prize winner:
Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble   Loren Ponten, director—Seattle, WA

Opus 7 Vocal Ensemble
Formed in 1992 by founding director Loren Pontén, Opus 7 specializes in 19th- through 21st-century a cappella choral music. As a resident ensemble of St. James Cathedral in Seattle, Washington since 1994, Opus 7 is dedicated to performing the works of local and regional composers, regularly commissioning new choral compositions. In addition, since 2000 Opus 7 has fostered new talent in the field of choral music through their unique Student Choral Composition Awards Program.

Among judges' comments: "The diction is impeccably clear and delivered with rhythmic clarity. Unison melodies are crafted with agreement of vowels and tone color."

2nd Place:
Choral Arts   Robert Bode, director—Seattle, WA
Choral Arts
Seattle-based Choral Arts is a thirty-member auditioned choral ensemble led by Artistic Director/Conductor, Robert Bode. Choral Arts has distinguished itself as a significant contributor to the art of choral music and has consistently achieved artistic excellence in its music and programs for the past twenty years. Choral Arts currently has five CDs released under the Gothic label.

Its mission, to inspire, educate and enrich our community through the transformational power of great choral music performed at the highest artistic level, is carried out through its three core commitments:

•          To share the beauty of high-quality choral music in a way that is transforming and special.
•          To provide students with a fresh and oftentimes first experience with choral music through our unique Education Outreach Programs.
•          To honor the talents and contributions of our country’s composers and be a catalyst for the creation of new compositions by American composers.

Among judges comments: "The ensemble has a consistent tone and richness throughout the voice sections and ranges. The diction is rhythmically precise and vowels are uniform, round, and with spacious resonance. "

3rd Place:
The Cecilia Chorus of New York   Mark Shapiro, music director—NY, NY
The Cecilia Chorus of New York
The Cecilia Chorus of New York (formerly known as The St. Cecilia Chorus), founded in 1906, is now a 150 voice mixed chorus.  For many decades the Chorus, with professional orchestra and soloists, has presented two concerts a year at Carnegie Hall.  Under the artistic leadership of Mark Shapiro, appointed the seventh Music Director in July 2011, bold, new directions in programming and repertoire are emerging.  The Chorus commissioned and gave the world premiere performance of Divis Cetera by Rafael Fusco in December 2012. On April 14, 2013 the Chorus performed the NYC premiere of Dame Ethel Smyth’s Mass in D paired creatively with scenes from The Maid of Orleans by Tchaikovsky.  The Cecilia Chorus of New York is a secular not-for-profit organization perpetuating and expanding the classical choral-orchestral repertoire through commissions and performances for diverse audiences (including outreach programs) in major New York area venues.

Among judges comments: "There is a consistent balance between orchestra, choir, and soloists. I enjoyed listening to the round; warm tone color of the female voices. There is an exciting rhythmic integrity on display..."

Singers of the Street (SOS)   Kathleen McGuire, conductor—San Francisco, CA

Singers of the Street (SOS) is a San Francisco-based community choir of people affected by homelessness. Its mission: to raise voices for justice, healing, and joy! SOS was founded by conductor Dr. Kathleen McGuire in September, 2010, inspired by similar organizations in Australia, Canada, and Europe. SOS rehearses Wednesday mornings, followed by a free lunch provided for participants, and performs 2 -3 times per month at churches, schools, and community events. Performance highlights include singing at the centenary celebration of the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall, and appearing - via video performance – in the London Festival at the Royal Opera House as part of the 2012 Olympics. SOS’s repertoire includes pops, world music, and sacred and secular selections reflecting its diverse membership. SOS has had a profound effect upon its participants and audiences, bringing hope of a brighter future to those who are disadvantaged. For more information, visit:

The American Prize in Choral Performance
—youth/high school

The American Prize winner:
Pinecrest High School Chamber Ensemble   Erin E. Plisco, director—Southern Pines, NC
Pinecrest High School Chamber Ensemble
The Pinecrest High School Chamber Ensemble is comprised of 55 students, grades 9-12. The choir regularly performs for the school and community, and is often sought after to perform for local events. The Chamber Ensemble has a long history of superior festival ratings and honors, national performances, and a performance at the NCMEA state conference in 2009 and 2012. Students frequently participate in ACDA Honors Choirs, the NCMEA Honors Choir, and the NC Governor’s School for the Arts. In 2011, the program hosted Grammy award-winning composer Eric Whitacre as artist-in-residence for three days at the high school. In 2012, the program hosted the vocal group Cantus for a master class with the choral students. The choir recently performed at the Heritage Festival of Gold in Chicago, receiving the highest score in the festival. Other recent events include performances at Duke Chapel in Durham, and East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.

Among judges' comments: "This ensemble has a clear understanding of choral style and performance. The repertoire is well-­chosen and appropriate for high school voices. Their diction and sense of phrasing are their strongest points, as is their commitment to working as an ensemble."

2nd Place:
Young Naperville Singers Chamber Singers   Angie Johnson—Naperville, IL
Young Naperville Singers Chamber Singers
Young Naperville Singers (YNS) was founded in 1984 with a mission dedicated to promoting the highest level of artistic excellence in choral music through extraordinary educational and performance experiences that enrich the lives of young people. Based in Naperville, Illinois, the choir consists of eight ensembles whose 318 members range in age from six to seventeen.  Weekly rehearsals are held to prepare for two formal concerts presented each year that feature a varied repertoire and guest musicians.  Informal concerts are held throughout the year. Singers have participated in festivals throughout North America, the most recent being the Coastal Sound International Choral Festival (Canada). YNS has had performance collaborations with Judy Collins, David Benoit and Natalie MacMaster and has premiered commissioned works by noted composers such as David Brunner and Stephen Paulus.  Membership is by audition and all children regardless of race, gender or physical ability are welcome.

Among judges comments: "...loved your repertoire and your are tackling great music...I would enjoy coming to your concerts because you convey such a love for what you are doing."

3rd Place:
Brearley B-Naturals   Karyn Joaquino, director—New York, NY
Brearley B-Naturals
The B-Naturals are the a cappella group of The Brearley School, an all-girls preparatory school in New York City.  The group was founded by students in 1986, and has performed under the direction of Karyn Joaquino since she joined the Brearley faculty in 2000.

The repertoire is intentionally broad, ranging from traditional choral pieces to vocal jazz and pop.  Much of the repertoire is arranged by Ms. Joaquino, but every show or recording is likely to include a few student arrangements, and even original student compositions.  Most members of the B-Naturals pursue their love of a cappella music during their college careers as well, often directing their own groups.

The B-Naturals have sung the national anthem before a Yankees game, opened for jazz pianist Peter Cincotti at Jazz at Lincoln Center, entertained the King and Queen of Sweden, and have brought their music abroad twice to England and Wales.  In addition to live performances, the B-Naturals have recorded five CDs, and have been recognized for their work by Best of High School A Cappella, DownBeat Magazine, and the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards (CARAs).

Among judges comments: "You clearly have worked hard and have achieved a high level of performance. Your youthful energy and passion is evident on the recordings..."

The American Prize in Opera Performance

The American Prize winner:
Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theatre   Alan E. Hicks, director—Univ. of Iowa   Iowa City, IA 
Production: Turn of the Screw 
Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theatre
The Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theatre is the producing unit for main stage student-performed operas at the University of Iowa and part of the Division of Performing Arts. Established by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in July 2000, the Division of Performing Arts was established to foster collaboration and artistic exchange between artists in the fields of theatre, music, and dance, in order to heighten awareness of artistic and scholarly work. In 2008, the School of Music, including the Opera Theatre, was affected by a major flood requiring the displacement of all rehearsals and performances.

Among judges' comments: "The overall atmosphere of this dark and moody opera was wonderfully achieved. This was an outstanding, chilling production, musically rewarding from instrumentalists, singers, set and lighting designers."

2nd Place:
University of South Dakota Opera   Tracelyn Gesteland, director—Vermillion, SD
Production: Dido and Aeneas
University of South Dakota Opera
The University of South Dakota Opera offers training and performance opportunities for students interested in the art of opera.  Every semester, students enrolled in opera workshop (by audition) have the opportunity to study and perform operatic literature from the common practice period as well as contemporary lyric theater.  Students develop and refine their vocal technique, acting and movement ability, musicianship, ensemble skills, knowledge of performance practices, and overall artistry through rehearsals and public performances, both on and off campus.  Annually, USD Opera presents a main stage opera in addition to children’s outreach performances.  In 2012, USD Opera was awarded third place in division 3 of the National Opera Association’s Opera Production Competition.  USD Opera was also honored to perform children’s opera excerpts by invitation at the NOA convention in 2011.

Among judges comments: "This was a wonderful production, extremely well played from the orchestra, and beautifully sung from all the cast members. The use of dancers, mirroring the movement of the singers/characters, and all the dancing in general, was quite effective..."

3rd Place:
Undercroft Opera   Mary E. Sederburg, director—Pittsburgh, PA
Production: Susannah 
Undercroft Opera
With the motto “Everybody deserves an 'Operatunity'!” Undercroft Opera has been able to serve literally hundreds of Pittsburgh area performers since its inaugural production of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte in 2006. Since then, the company has presented diverse and challenging works including beloved classic operas such as La Boheme, The Marriage of Figaro and La Traviata, unique one-acts and chamber operas like Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and The Medium, and innovative projects such as updated versions of The Elixir of Love and The Tales of Hoffmann and a concert version of Don Carlo. Building on the successes of recent productions of The Barber of Seville and Carlisle Floyd's Susannah, Undercroft will be presenting Carmen fully staged and accompanied by the Undercroft Orchestra. Undercroft Opera hopes to continue to serve the community through this and many future productions.

Among judges comments: "a thoroughly enjoyable production on many levels. All cast members seemed enthusiastic to be performing and totally committed to their characters and to the drama of this piece...Orchestral playing was musical and not overpowering."


Congratulations to all winners and runners-up.

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