A renowned Dallas choir sings about love, and its members talk about their love of singing. In this week’s Art&Seek Spotlight, contributor Quin Mathews visits a rehearsal with the Orpheus Chamber Singers and sends us this valentine to the voice. You can click above to listen to the piece that aired on KERA FM. (Highly recommended, since it’s chock full of beautiful music.) Or read an excerpt below.
In the balcony of First Unitarian Church of Dallas, a choir warms up.
“We vary the sound, so there are times when you want very pointed sound and other times when you want very warm sound,” says Donald Krehbeil.
That sound is what has given Orpheus Chamber Singers its stellar reputation. Krehbeil founded the group 23 years ago.
“Bright to dark on an E vowel over eight counts…” Krehbeil runs his hand over his head from front to back, and the sound changes, the choir’s E tone shifts from bright to dark.
“Great singers love singing with other great singers. It’s not just singing notes,” says Krehbeil. “You can hear plenty of choirs sing beautifully the notes, and the dynamics, and the text. But it’s reaching deeper to find the essence of a piece.”
Katrina Burggraf-Kledas sings alto. She started with the choir in 2000.
“The phenomenal things that Don can get out of our voices, it’s a gift, and I truly believe it’s because he’s a singer himself. He knows how to speak the singers’ language, and thereby he knows how to create exactly the sound that he wants.”
Getting into the choir is hard, she says, with a laugh.
“The audition process is, uh, challenging. I started auditioning and got a few no’s before I finally got a yes.”
Cody Conway is in real estate, but clearly his heart is here.
“Uh I love the other singers,” he says. “You’ll notice when the rehearsal is starting and finishing we’re all hugging each other, kissing each other, saying hello.”
You hear this sentiment from all, even one of the youngest, Rachel Jones:
“I love the community of the group. I feel like I’m really valued in the group, and I don’t feel like I’m just another number.”
Orpheus is preparing for a show with an appropriate theme for this time of year.
“The subject is love,” says Krehbeil. “It’s a broad subject. There’s the typical love songs that you might expect from poets from England. There are the satirical and cynical love songs as well, that bring a little humor to the subject. The whole second half is based on the Song of Songs, from the Bible, so we have interpretations from the 16th century and contemporary settings of the same texts.
“These are marvelous musicians I have the delight to work with. They don’t just want to sing. They say they need to sing, because they have something to say.”
Where does that love come from?
“Boy, that’s a good question. I think you would get different answers to that.”
And for Krehbeil?
“For me? Ahhh, you know, singing for me is a spiritual practice. I sing almost every morning, I will start my day with singing some hymns. So, it’s my connection to the divine, if you will.”