Berkshire Choral International


We can’t help boasting: Berkshire Choral has a great reputation. Recognized conductors often seek us out. The experience of turning a diverse group of passionate amateurs into a tight-knit chorus in the space of a week is as invigorating for them as it is for you.

Maynooth, Ireland

Julian Wachner

June 13-21, concert on June 20

Grammy-nominated conductor Julian Wachner is one of North America’s most exciting and versatile musicians, sought after as conductor, composer, and keyboard artist.  Recent and upcoming engagements include those with the Lincoln Center Festival (The Blind), BAM Next Wave Festival (Liederabend 2013), Juilliard Opera Theatre (2013 Mainstage), The Rolling Stones (50th anniversary tour), New York City Opera (VOX), Hong Kong Philharmonic, TENET (TENEbrae), Portland Baroque (Messiah), and with Carnegie Hall (Arvo Pärt Passio).

As Director of Music and the Arts at New York’s historic Trinity Wall Street, Wachner oversees an annual season of over 900 events, including Trinity’s numerous and varied concert offerings, series and festivals, museum expositions, dance and theatre performances, poetry and literary readings, and educational/outreach initiatives in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn in partnership with New York City’s public school system.

At Trinity Wall Street, Wachner serves as the Principal Conductor of NOVUS NY (Trinity’s resident contemporary music orchestra), and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra & Choir of Trinity Wall Street, recently nominated for a 2012 GRAMMY award for its recording of Handel’s complete Israel in Egypt. He also is the director of Bach at One, Trinity’s weekly performances of the Cantatas of J. S. Bach. Performances this season with TWS include Bach’s Matthew Passion, Christmas Oratorio, B-minor Mass, the complete late works of Igor Stravinsky (April 2013), and the complete non-operatic works of Benjamin Britten (Fall 2013). To open the 2012-13 Season, Wachner conceived of and directed Trinity’s Twelve in 12 Festival celebrating the Pulitzer Prize in music.  Of this festival, Steve Smith noted in Time Out that “some ideas seem so utterly obvious and right at a glance that you wonder why it took someone so long to hatch them. ‘Twelve in 12’ is that kind of notion…Mark your calendars, and give thanks.”

Wachner is also Music Director of the Grammy Award-winning Washington Chorus, with whom he won ASCAP’s Alice Parker award for adventurous programming in 2011.  Wachner has also made memorable guest appearances with such major organizations as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Montreal and Pittsburgh Symphonies, Spoleto Festival USA, the Handel and Haydn Society, Glimmerglass Opera, Hawaii Opera Theater, New York City Opera and the Boston Pops.  A Baroque specialist, he was the founding Music Director of the Boston Bach Ensemble and the Bach Académie de Montréal, besides serving as Artistic Director of International Bach Festivals in Boston and Montreal.  In 2011 he founded New York City’s newest music festival, The Twelfth Night Festival of Early Music, most recently presented in collaboration with Gotham Early Music Society (GEMS) and featuring many of New York’s leading baroque and renaissance ensembles.

In 2010, Wachner made New York City Opera history when he was selected as both conductor and composer at the company’s annual VOX festival of contemporary opera leading to the invitation to be the sole conductor of this Festival in 2012.  His original music has been variously described as “jazzy, energetic, and ingenious” (Boston Globe), having “splendor, dignity, outstanding tone combinations, sophisticated chromatic exploration…a rich backdrop, wavering between a glimmer and a tingle...” (La Scena Musicale), being “a compendium of surprises” (Washington Post), and as “bold and atmospheric”, having “an imaginative flair for allusive text setting” and noted for “the silken complexities of his harmonies” (New York Times.) The American Record Guide noted that “Wachner is both an unapologetic modernist and an open-minded eclectic – his music has something to say.”  E. C. Schirmer publishes his complete catalogue, comprising over 80 titles.

Wachner’s performances inspire uncommon praise.  The New York Times pronounced his Trinity Wall Street debut “superbly performed” and, this season, noted that the ensemble’s annual Lincoln Center presentation of Handel’s Messiah was “led with both fearsome energy and delicate grace…a model of what is musically and emotionally possible with this venerable score.” Of his interpretation of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, according to the Boston Globe, “there was genius here and no mistaking it.”  Anne Midgette, of The Washington Post, declared recent Wagner and Verdi performances “exhilarating,” commenting: “Julian Wachner knows how to draw maximum drama from a score,” and noted that he was “emphatic and theatrical and so at home in opera that he could bring out the requisite sense of drama.”  Following his account of the Messiah at the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns observed: “Few conductors have drawn such focused, committed, and meticulous music-making as Julian Wachner. … [He] built the music, line by line, as an architectural edifice, serving both the music’s emotional and more purely aesthetic elements.”  As a result, Stearns “couldn’t help fantasize that [Wachner] might do an annual Philadelphia Orchestra festival of Bach and Handel.”

An award-winning organist and improvisateur, Wachner’s solo recital at the Spoleto Festival USA featured an improvised finale that inspired one reviewer to conclude: “This stupefying wizardry was the hit of the recital, and it had to be heard to be believed” (Post and Courier, South Carolina).  As a concert pianist, in his recent Kennedy Center Rachmaninoff performance, the Washington Post noted “Wachner dazzled with some bravura keyboard work, both in the rhapsodic accompaniments to the songs and…in the highly virtuosic transcription of the Dances.”

Wachner’s recordings are with the Chandos, Naxos, Atma Classique, Arsis, Dorian, Musica Omnia, and Titanic labels.

Portland, Oregon

Karen Thomas

June 21-28, concert on June 27

Karen P. Thomas, composer and conductor, is the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Seattle Pro Musica. As a conductor, Ms. Thomas has produced seven critically acclaimed commercial CD recording with Seattle Pro Musica and has received the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence and the ASCAP-Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. She has appeared as guest conductor at the Bergen International Festival, International Conference on Women in Music, the Alliance World Festival of Women's Singing, Festival Vancouver in Canada, the NPR radio show Saint Paul Sunday, and at the American Guild of Organists National Convention and the American Choral Directors Association NW Division Convention, among numerous others. Ms. Thomas has presented lectures for the American Guild of Organists National Convention, the Chorus America National Convention, the American Choral Directors Association and the World Festival of Women's Singing.

Currently serving on the board of the American Choral Director's Association for the Northwest Division, the Board of Governors for the Pacific NW division of the Academy of Recording Arts (Grammy), the board of the Greater Seattle Choral Consortium, and the Advisory Board of the Seattle Girl's Choir, she has served on the boards of the Conductor's Guild, the International Alliance for Women in Music, and the League-ISCM. She has served on the faculties of Pacific Lutheran University, Evergreen State College, Cornish College and Edmonds Community College.

Sheffield, Massachusetts

Jane Glover

July 11-19, concert on July 18

Music Director of Chicago’s Music of the Baroque since 2002 and Artistic Director of Opera at London’s Royal Academy of Music, Jane Glover made her professional debut at the Wexford Festival in 1975, conducting her own edition of Cavalli’s L’Eritrea. She joined Glyndebourne in 1979 and was Music Director of the Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1981 to 1985; she was Artistic Director of the London Mozart Players from 1984 to 1991.

In continual demand on the international opera stage, Ms Glover has appeared with numerous companies including the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, English National Opera, Glyndebourne, Berlin Staatsoper, Royal Danish Opera, Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg, Opéra National de Bordeaux,  Glimmerglass Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Australia, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, and the Teatro La Fenice in Venice.  Known chiefly as a Mozart specialist, she has conducted all the Mozart operas regularly, all over the world, since her initial performances of them in Glyndebourne in the 1980’s. (Highlights include Magic Flute at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Da Ponte trilogy in Chicago with the director Diane Paulus; Die Entführung at the Royal Opera, Cosi fan tutte in Berlin, etc.)  But her core repertoire also includes Monteverdi (she and Paulus also performed his three operas in Chicago, in 2000, 2003 and 2006), Handel (many operas including Giulio Cesare, Alcina, Agrippina, Tamerlano, Acis and Galatea, Ariodante and Theodora), and Britten, who indeed personally influenced and guided Jane Glover when she was 16, and to whose music she constantly returns. Her operatic repertoire also regularly includes Purcell, Gluck, Beethoven, Rossini, Donizetti, Humperdinck (she performed Hansel and Gretel at the BBC Proms) and Knussen. In addition she collaborates closely with the Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), for whom she has conducted major productions of Purcell (King Arthur), Handel (L’Allegro) and Mozart.

Ms Glover’s concert engagements similarly take her all over the world.  She has performed with all the major symphony and chamber orchestras in Britain, repeatedly at the BBC Proms (a highlight was Britten’s War Requiem), as well as with orchestras in Europe, the US, the Far East and Australasia.  She is also especially known for her experience in the choral repertoire, and was Music Director of both the London and the Huddersfield Choral Societies.

Jane Glover’s many recordings feature a series of Mozart and Haydn symphonies for ASV, and arias with Felicity Lott, all with the London Mozart Players, plus other recordings of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Britten and Walton with the London Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic, and the BBC Singers; Haydn Masses for Naxos and Handel’s Messiah for Signum. Her extensive broadcasting career includes the television series Orchestra and Mozart, and the radio series Opera House and Musical Dynasties, all for the BBC.

Her book, Mozart’s Women, was published, to great critical acclaim, in September 2005. It was nominated for both the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Whitbread Prize for Non-Fiction.

Highlights in recent and upcoming seasons include operas Lucio Silla, The Turn of the Screw and Jeptha (Bordeaux); Marriage of Figaro (Goteborg, Sweden); Gluck’s Armide and Iphigenie en Aulide (Juilliard/Met Lindemann program); Royal Academy of Music productions that include the world premiere of Peter Maxwell Davies’s Kommilitonen, (directed by its librettist David Pountney), productions of The Rake’s Progress, Cosi fan tutte, Cavalli’s Giasone, Béatrice et Bénédict and Die Zauberflöte; The Rape of Lucretia, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and L’incoronazione di Poppea (Aspen); Don Giovanni (directed by James Robinson in St. Louis) and Magic Flute (directed by Isaac Mizrahi also in St. Louis); Semele (Milwaukee); La Clemenza di Tito and Die Zauberflöte (Chicago Opera Theater); The Creation (Montreal); Britten War Requiem (Berkshire Choral International); with MMDG in Washington, Toronto and Madrid and concerts with Music of the Baroque, the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Toronto Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Carnegie Hall and at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, the Orchestre Nationale de Bordeaux et Aquitaine, the Ulster Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony, the Philharmonia, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the London Mozart Players, the City of London Sinfonia, London’s Mostly Mozart Festival, Philharmonia Baroque and the Handel & Haydn Society.

Jane Glover studied at the University of Oxford where, after graduation, she did her D.Phil. on 17th-century Venetian opera. She holds honorary degrees from several other universities, has a personal Professorship at the University of London, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music.  From 1990 to 1995 she served on the Board of Governors of the BBC. She was created a CBE in the 2003 New Year’s Honours.

Philip Brunelle

July 19-26, concert on July 25

VocalEssence Artistic Director and Founder Philip Brunelle showed signs at an early age of the adventurous spirit that has driven his lifelong enthusiasm for all forms of choral, vocal, opera and symphonic music. At the age of 25, Philip was appointed choirmaster-organist of Plymouth Congregational Church in Minneapolis. He immediately established the Plymouth Music Series, which has become today’s choral music organization VocalEssence. Philip played piano on the very first episode of A Prairie Home Companion in 1974, forging a connection with Garrison Keillor that has resulted in many creative ventures over the years.

Philip has been invited to guest conduct choirs and orchestras across the United States, South America and Europe, including the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Berkshire Choral Festival, the BBC Singers and the Seattle Symphony. He is called upon to adjudicate choral competitions all over the world, with recent visits to South Korea, China, Norway and Hungary. In 2003, Chorus America honored Philip with its highest award, the Michael Korn Founder’s Award for Development of the Choral Art. He has also been honored with a “Local Legend” award from General Mills and the United Negro College Fund; American Composers Forum “Champion of New Music”; U.S. Bank Sally Ordway Irvine Award for Commitment, recognizing lifetime achievement, contribution and leadership in culture and the arts; and the F. Melius Christiansen Lifetime Achievement Award, American Choral Directors Association-Minnesota Chapter’s highest honor. Philip holds honorary doctorates from St. Olaf College, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. John’s University and United Theological Seminary.

Erin Freeman

July 26-August 2, concert on August 1

Hailed by the press as engaging, elegant, and entertaining, Erin Freeman is the newly appointed Artistic Director of Wintergreen Performing Arts, where she will lead artistic endeavors of the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and the associated Wintergreen Summer Music Academy.

This season, Erin Freeman also joins the faculty of VCUMusic as Director of Choral Activities, a newly created joint position co-sponsored by the Richmond Symphony, where she continues as Director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus. This appointment comes on the heels of a successful seven years as the Richmond Symphony’s Associate Conductor, and will include overseeing all of the choral ensembles at VCU as well as vocal chamber music, and preparing the 150-voice Richmond Symphony Chorus for all of its performances.

As Associate Conductor and Chorus Director of the Richmond Symphony from 2007-2014, Freeman conducted subscription concerts, led the Pops and Lollipops Series, spearheaded the Symphony’s education initiatives, including its four youth orchestras, and directed the 150-voice symphony chorus. She collaborated with soloists such as Jamie Bernstein, Elena Uriosti, Arturo Sandoval, Marietta Simpson, Joseph Conyers, Patti Austin, and Maureen McGovern, and in 2012, Freeman prepared the Richmond Symphony Chorus for an historic performance and recording of Mahler Symphony No. 8 with the Virginia Symphony, under the direction of JoAnn Falletta.

Freeman maintains an association with the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, for whom she has served as Music Director, and with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, where she has been a frequent guest conductor. This year, she will conduct the BPO and BPC in their popular Classical Christmas program.    She has also been a Guest Conductor for the South Carolina Philharmonic, the Savannah Symphony, the Richmond Ballet, and other ensembles in Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Missouri, and Illinois. And, in summer 2015, she will conduct Dvorak’s Stabat Mater at Berkshire Choral International.

Passionate about making classical music accessible to all, Freeman has led programs from the Richmond Symphony’s ground breaking Come and Play, resulting in a community orchestra of over 650, to Celebrity Maestro, for which she taught conducting lessons to such notables as Miss America Caressa Cameron and Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones. She has served as Director of Orchestras at Baltimore School for the Arts and American University, Conductor at Northwestern University’s National High School Music Institute, Lecturer for the National Philharmonic and Baltimore Symphony, Music Director of the Richmond Philharmonic, and Resident Conductor at Peabody Conservatory. She has instructed national seminars for the Conductor’s Guild, and serves on their board of directors as Vice President.

Winner of numerous awards, including the Women’s Philharmonic Conducting Scholarship, Freeman was selected by Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly as one of Virginia’s 50 most influential women. With degrees from Northwestern University, Boston University, and Peabody Conservatory, she has studied and performed in masterclasses with Gustav Meier, Victor Yampolsky, Markand Thakar, Helmuth Rilling, Murry Sidlin, and Robert Shaw.