Berkshire Choral International

Recap: BCI’s Week in Asheville, North Carolina

June 19, 2017

Cynthia Crose wasn’t even finished with her first week at BCI before she signed up for another session next summer.

Our 2017 season kicked off in Asheville, North Carolina last week, with choristers from across the country joining us for vocal instruction, sightseeing, and connecting with new and old friends alike. For Crose, a first-timer, it was eye-opening.

“When I came home, I described the experience to my friends as an amazing whole week voice lesson,” said the Oregon native.

We welcomed many first-timers as well as seasoned BCI performers to this charming southern city. Cathie Runyon and Muriel Henault attended this year with two other friends from Peterborough, NH. The group of four enjoys BCI sessions together year after year, with many of them having attended for more than 15 years. The women sing together in their local choir and come to BCI to perfect their art at sessions across the world.

From left: Cheri Fry, Muriel Henault, Joyce Gregg, and Cathie Runyon enjoying lunch during a 2014 BCI session in Winter Park, FL 


“I learn more in a week at BCI than I learn in a year at most of my choral rehearsals,” said Runyon, a 19-year BCI attendee. “From warmups, to techniques, to perfecting my notes; I take in all the knowledge the staff can impart.”

Conducting apprentice Suzanna Matthews practicing her skills with the full BCI chorus


BCI faculty, instructors, and apprentices shared that knowledge during over 28 hours of rehearsals and classes, while staying on the campus of the University of North Carolina Asheville just minutes from downtown. Our staff of career singers and musicians not only imparted their wisdom, they performed for choristers during the Faculty/Apprentice Recital.

BCI staff performing for choristers during the Faculty/Apprentice Recital in Asheville


“Every year the staff and the apprentices perform for us. It is just delightful, and is one of the highlights of my week,” said Henault, a 9-year BCI attendee.

While we certainly keep our choristers busy with rehearsals and workshops, we also make sure there is time to explore the local arts scene, mountain views, cuisine, and charm of Asheville, North Carolina.

“They allow free time in the afternoon to enjoy the venue as well as participating in the experience. Asheville was wonderful and we did some sightseeing, some shopping and even some hiking,” said Crose.

The choir closed out the week singing Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor and opera choruses in the regal First Baptist Church of Asheville with the accompaniment of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. Designed by architect Douglas D. Ellington, the church was completed in 1927 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The First Baptist Church of Asheville before the final concert


“Singing in the First Baptist Church was a wonderful experience. The music just comes alive there,” said Henault.

The music came alive with the instruction of Erin Freeman, director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus and artistic director of Wintergreen Performing Arts. Freeman brought choristers together and conducted the choir to a standing ovation and three curtain calls.

“Working with Erin is a highlight for anybody. She has the ability to bring out the best in the chorus. Erin makes us realize that perfection is not the goal, the goal is to make beautiful music to spread to the world and that’s what we did,” said Runyon.

While we were all sad to see the week end, we are grateful for the experience and to all who attended. We shared a passion for music with a wonderful group of choristers who are now part of the BCI family, and who we hope to see again next year!

“Berkshire Choral is like a home. It’s a family to us,” said Runyon. 

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