Back in the mid-1970s, a musically inclined group of people on the Palouse came to the shared conclusion that they wanted nothing more than to sing together. They would gather in each other’s living rooms and basements, alternating conductors over the years, occasionally collaborating with the community symphony and performing locally.
In the late ’80s, the choir merged with the Washington Idaho Symphony, forming the Washington Idaho Symphony Chorale. The choir and symphony parted ways in 1999, and the chorale became its own entity, the Idaho Washington Concert Chorale. With exactly $47 in coffee funds, group members created a post office box as their address, determined their board members and established themselves as a nonprofit. In 2011, after the creation of the chamber and children’s choir, members chose a more all-encompassing name, rebranding as the Palouse Choral Society.
The choir would have celebrated its 20th anniversary back in 2020, but was forced to postpone because of COVID-19 regulations over the past two years. Now, its members plan to return to the stage to celebrate a prosperous and eventful 20, plus two, years of singing for the Palouse community, and for themselves.
The chorale, chamber choir and children’s choir will perform two pieces, the opening number being a reprisal from their inaugural concert in 2000, Mozart’s “Coronation Mass,” as well as a newly commissioned piece by Denver-based composer Kevin Padworski titled “Vox Crepusculum,” based on an 18th century poem of the same name by James Thompson.
“We did a survey and we asked members, in 2019, what is it about singing that is special to you?” Janice O’Toole, the chorale’s executive director, said. “What does singing in a choir mean to you? And we took all those answers, we compiled them and we sent them to (Padworski). We asked him to do the commission work, and then he felt that the poem actually matched those answers and those feelings.”
Matthew Myers, the choir’s new artistic director, said he has enjoyed the preparation process for the anniversary concert and is thrilled to bring the choir full circle with the reprisal piece.
“It's been kind of nice, actually, to have some people familiar with the music as we started out,” Myers said. “I would say that this was the least stressed out I’ve felt about a concert in quite a while. As far as our preparation goes, because so many of the singers were familiar with the music from before things shut down, they're about halfway through learning the music. So that's a really cool thing to bring back that piece.”
Myers said getting back to normal after COVID-19 and the opportunities the future holds are the most exciting parts of his new role.
O’Toole not only looks forward to the celebration of 20 years and the choral society’s growing impact in the community, but to showcasing the progress of the organization in that time, including its efforts to become a more sensitive and inclusive organization.
“Some of the things that we've done lately are, for example, we’ve changed our concert attire to be more inclusive, and it's not based on any particular gender,” she said. “So, as long as you can wear black from your neck to your toes, and it looks nice, then that’s our concert dress. (In terms of) physical accessibility, we also are working to try and be more accessible for our singers. And we are doing more outreach for singers. Right now, we're just trying to rebound from COVID, so this year has been all about not only growing but coming back.”
The 20th anniversary performance will take place at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Uniontown. Along with Matthew Myers as the artistic director, it will feature Stephanie Sant as the children’s choir conductor and Elena Panchenko as the accompanist, as well as four soloists: Alisa Toy, soprano; Codi Linafelter, mezzo soprano; Nicholas Klein, tenor; and Aaron Agulay, baritone.
Brockett (she/they), a University of Idaho senior studying journalism and English, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
WHAT: Palouse Choral Society’s 20th anniversary performance.
WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday, May 1.
WHERE: St. Boniface Catholic Church, Uniontown.
COST: Tickets can be purchased at palousechoralsociety.org or at the door until sold out. General admission is $20, four-ticket bundles $60, students $8. Ages 6-12 free, though the Choral Society asks that tickets still be ordered for seating estimate purposes.