For 40 years, the Master Chorale of Flagstaff has aimed to enrich the quality of life in Northern Arizona through choral music performance, education and outreach. With an average membership of 100 singers, the chorus is comprised of people of many ages and occupations from Flagstaff and surrounding communities. The group sings a variety of music, including major works such as Handel’s Messiah and pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Verdi and more; Broadway tunes; gospel; music from around the world; and music by local composers.
Flagstaff resident and artist Dawn Sutherland has been part of the prestigious choir since 2005. She has been singing with community choirs since 1972, getting her start at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, and says Flagstaff’s Master Chorale is the best chorus with which she has ever sung.
“It is about more than the music, which is superb,” Sutherland explained. “It is also about professionalism, relationships and being part of the community. The most wonderful aspect for me is seeing everything come together into one sound, one experience, one picture. It is about all the hard work that is perfected – where the result is greater than all the individual parts and persons. It is magical.”
Each year, the group strives to recreate “the magic” that music brings by performing traditional works for the older, sophisticated listener and incorporating new and current music that may appeal to the younger crowd. This year, this included the first outdoor community sing-along – BIG SING! FLAGSTAFF – in Heritage Square in downtown Flagstaff. The goal was to bring music from the community to the community.
Other chorale groups joined members of the Master Chorale for the Big Sing, including Flagstaff Sings, the Flagstaff Youth Chorale, Mountain Tremors, the Threshold Choir, Northland Prep and Coconino High School choirs, Red Rockapella and the Northern Arizona University Choral Union.
“We offer people the opportunity to be part of the music,” said Tom Peterson, Master Chorale of Flagstaff music director and conductor. Peterson took on the role of director of the choir in 2016. As a native Arizonan, he says he is dedicated to helping create a musical experience that appeals to all, especially those who call Arizona home.
“We invite the community to help us make music, not just listen to it,” Peterson said. “We take music out of the airwaves and put it into the heart, voices and ears of the community. I love working with community ensembles because everyone is in it for the love of the music and for the love of their community. Whether people watch and listen to a performance, are part of the chorale or attend a sing-along or Big Sing in downtown Flagstaff, everyone benefits from music. It just enhances the individual and the community.”
The group’s goal and passion are clear: “To present diverse concerts that build individual musicianship for our members and offer interesting and inspiring performances for our community.”
Ticket prices are affordable for most people (group and family prices are available) and some concerts are especially geared toward a family experience, such as the annual Christmas in the Mountains event, which is a family-style sing-along concert that features traditional songs and carols.
Christmas in the Mountains (Dec. 9) brings together several groups, including the NAU’s Handbell Choir, Master Chorale of Flagstaff, the elite 21-person Arizona Mountain Chorale, Flagstaff High School Choir, Flagstaff Youth Choir and a guest orchestra. This year, the event is during Hanukkah, and in honor of the Jewish holiday, the group will include a candle-lighting ceremony and two special songs.
The Flagstaff and Sedona communities can also enjoy the chorale’s new Carols by Candlelight. The one-hour concert includes voices and harp music to bring light, joy and peace into the busy holiday season. Music and readings from a variety of traditions will celebrate the goodness of the season. Concerts will take place in Flagstaff on Dec. 14., and Sedona on Dec. 15.
The much-anticipated annual Go for Baroque on Nov. 19, is performed in the beautiful San Francisco de Asis Church. Each Spring, the prestigious Master Chorale of Flagstaff joins the Shrine of the Ages Choir, the top mixed choir at NAU, to perform with the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra on March 15. The Festival of Women Composers will feature The Story of the Soul on April 12, and To Love This Earth on April 13.
The independent non-profit group is funded through ticket sales, concert sponsors, member dues of $135 per person, grants and fundraising events. For more information on upcoming concerts and for tickets, visit MasterChorale.net. FBN
By Starla S. Collins, FBN