Press Releases & Reviews

Jennifer Rodgers, the Chorale's artistic director and conductor, will be a soloist at the Feb. 15 concert.

by Evan Thompson — Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Everett Chorale couldn't have picked a better place to celebrate one of Beethoven's greatest works.

The chorale will perform Beethoven's Ninth for the "Ode to Joy" concert Feb. 15 at Benaroya Hall — the Carnegie Hall of Seattle — alongside the Rainier Chorale, Choir of the Sound and Thalia Symphony Orchestra. Jennifer Rodgers, Everett Chorale's artistic director and conductor, will be one of four soloists.

Benaroya Hall is the home of the Seattle Symphony. Leading figures in classical music, such as Itzhak Perlman, Van Cliburn and Hilary Hahn, have performed there since it opened in 1998.

Like all great halls, Benaroya Hall has a reputation for rich and full acoustics. Rodgers, who has previously performed for choruses on large stages in the Washington, D.C., area, said the venue will provide an extraordinary experience for all of the performers.

"There's nothing like that feeling of walking out on stage and seeing the house from that perspective," Rodgers said. "If you sing well and resonantly, the acoustics will take care of the rest."

Each group will perform individually before coming together to sing the choral finale from "Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125." Rodgers will sing mezzo-soprano alongside the other soloists — soprano Laura Loge, tenor Zach Finkelstein and baritone Darrell J. Jordan — during various parts of the 24-minute-long piece.

Beethoven's ninth and final symphony is considered by many to be his greatest accomplishment. Its perhaps best known for the rousing "Ode to Joy" theme, but has also gained recognition for being played at epochal events in history such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and the collapse of the Berlin Wall.

"It was the first symphony that had vocal music," said Mark Adrian, who will conduct the finale. "It has slow, beautiful melodies, a march and one of the most famous tunes of all time."

Adrian has been involved in Seattle's choral music community since 1981. He's the founder of Northwest Associated Arts, an umbrella organization for six choruses in the Seattle area.

Adrian has organized concerts featuring community chorales at Benaroya Hall since 2003. The Everett Chorale performed the great cantata "Carmina Burana" at the venue in 2015.

"It's a great opportunity for these community groups to get into a world-renowned concert hall," he said. "It's spectacular for the audience, too, because they get to hear four different groups all in one concert."

The Everett Chorale will perform five selections, including the English carols "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day" and "There is No Rose of Such Virtue."

Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, ethompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.

Hear the Everett Chorale sing Beethoven's Ninth at Benaroya Hall | HeraldNet.com

The 30-minute performances will be at the Everett Library and Imagine Children's Museum on March 23, 2019.

by Sharon Salyer Sunday, March 17, 2019

It's an opportunity for children and families to see stories come to life through song.

Fables, including Aesop's "The Tortoise and the Hare," Lee Ann Dresser's "The Forest of Loo" and Lewis Carroll's "The Jabberwocky," will be retold by members of The Everett Chorale in two family-friendly performances on March 23 in Everett.

Also planned is a piece with four nursery rhymes, each with its own melody. A dueling nursery rhyme competition is planned where families will be invited to participate in a singing competition to see which rhyme "wins."

The chorale's 30-minute performances — titled "Musical Tall Tales and Fables" — will be at the Everett Library and Imagine Children's Museum.

It's the first time the chorale has performed at the two venues. The idea was inspired by a trip chorale baritone David Carman made to the children's museum with his grandson, who was visiting from Chicago.

It was Carman's first time to the museum, and he saw it was packed with kids. "The kids were all having fun," he said. "I thought, ‘Boy if we could somehow connect with that potential audience.' "

Performing there, he said, allows people who may never have been to a live chorale performance a chance to experience it.

It also is an opportunity for the chorale to perform in a different public space and to break away from the traditional stand-on-a-stage-and-sing type of concert. The goal is to provide a fun-filled experience.

Free tickets will be given away at both events to the chorale's 3 p.m. March 30 concert, "We Are The Storytellers: Aesop's Fables and Other Tall Tales."

The children's museum has launched an art program in conjunction with the chorale. Kids can decorate paper leaves that will be used in the scenery for the chorus' upcoming concert.

The leaves range in size from 6 to 10 inches. A table is set up at the museum where children can color the leaves with a medium that changes every few days, such as colored pencils, dabbers and pastels. Kids can participate in the project through March 29.

"Each one is distinct because they're being created by a variety of people," said Raniere, who directs the museum's creative arts programs. "Our goal is 300 leaves."

Jennifer Rodgers, the chorale's artistic director, said the programs at the library and children's museum are part of the group's effort to be a service to the community.

"You need to go out to various pockets of the community, offering something to them and to get to know them," she said. "Even if it's great choral programming, I want our music to be driven by the community."

Raniere said she hopes the upcoming chorale performance at the children's museum is the first of more to come.

"It's just so exciting," she said. "I think it's great all these organizations are coming together and bringing the joy of music to families."

In Aesop's fable "The Tortoise and the Hare," a tortoise and a hare compete in a foot race. Though he is slower than the hare, the tortoise surprisingly wins the race.

In Lee Ann Dresser's song "The Forest of Loo," townspeople go looking for a monster living in a cave in the forest. A baker and a bookshop owner tell them it's dangerous, but they go anyway.

"Jabberwocky" by Lewis Carroll is a playful poem about a creature named the Jabberwock with lots of made-up words.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

Everett Chorale to stage kid-friendly 'Musical Tall Tales' | HeraldNet.com

The June 15 performance raises issues of homelessness and hunger in Snohomish County through song.

by Sharon Salyer Thursday, June 13, 2019

The concert's title — "Will Sing For Food" — gives a hint of the topic, but not the depth with which it will be explored.

At its concert Sunday, The Everett Chorale plans a performance it hopes will not only bring attention to the issues of hunger and homelessness, but also provide ways for people to get — and give — help.

Among the songs they will perform is a rendition of James Taylor's "Shed A Little Light," with its message that "we are all bound together and all are in this together," said Jennifer Rodgers, the chorale's artistic director and conductor.

The concert will begin with "Woyaya," a chant derived from central Africa traditions and transcribed by Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey and the Rock.

Choir members will come on stage one by one. Singing will begin with a group of eight and build to all 80 voices.

The goal is to present a concert that is uplifting and hopeful, and inspires people to take action, Rodgers said.

After Rodgers was hired last year, she said she wanted the group to do more than entertain. She wanted it to have impact. The issue at the top of her list was homelessness because "it's such an overwhelming presence in our community."

Some 100 tickets at Sunday's concert have been given to people living in shelters or dealing with hunger. Concert goers can make cash donations or bring food and clothing supplies to benefit Cocoon House, which serves homeless teens, and the Hungry Hearts Foundation, which provides food to Lake Stevens-area students.

"It's really exciting," said Erwin Saenz, community engagement officer at Cocoon House. "This is just a great way to raise awareness and make an impact."

Chorale member aLee Watson teaches in the Lake Stevens School District and is a Hungry Hearts volunteer. The music Rodgers has chosen "is breathtaking, stunning," she said.

One part of the concert has chorale members doing short improvisations of the things passersby often think when seeing the homeless on street corners.

Rodgers said people are faced with how to react: "Do we make eye contact? Do we say hello? Do we cross the street?"

Often people wonder why the homeless are in the situation they're in. "We make these assumptions and don't know anything about their situation," she said.

The concert will include a mix of songs, some familiar, such as Paul Simon's "The Sound of Silence" and "The Boxer."

There also will be poetry readings, including one by Elizabeth Romero, a former board member of Seattle's "Real Change" newspaper that advocates for the homeless.

Interspersed with the readings is music that is reflective, "Esto Les Digo," spiritual, "Grace Before Sleep," and a song by Pink Floyd, "On The Turning Away."

It's easy to feel overwhelmed or emotionally numbed by the issue of homelessness because it may feel impossible to do something about, Rodgers said.

The hope is that audience members will leave the concert "with things that they really could do right now," she said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

The Everett Chorale 'Will Sing For Food' at Sunday's concert

It's the group's first performance under the leadership of a new artistic director and conductor.

by Sharon Salyer Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Everett Chorale is promising more than just music at its concerts this weekend.

"We want to take the audience on a pretty good journey through time," Jennifer Rodgers said. It's the group's first performance under Rodgers' direction; she was named artistic director and conductor in April.

The concerts will include a mix of early music, songs that are Christmas-themed, and some she hopes will evoke a sense of wonder in the audience. "We'll do a blend," she said.

The concerts are themed "Mystery and Wonder: Birth and Light" and will include the 13th century song "Alle Psallite," the French carol "Pat-A-Pan," "Promise of Light," "O Magnum" and "See, Amid the Winter's Snow."

There are some surprises planned, too. "The other thing I love about this is to engage the audience's senses in different ways," Rodgers said. "We'll be out and about, getting the audience to listen to us a little differently."

That involves some visual and audio touches — this from a person who has a theater background (her master's degree is in opera theater). Some singers will perform from the balcony. Rodgers said she wants the audience "to be hooked into this story with us."

She is leading a group with a 53-year history, stepping into a role held by Lee Mathews for 25 years.

Any such big change brings with it excitement as well as a little apprehension, Rodgers said, both for the group and herself.

But there's been high energy at rehearsals, she said. "It's a great feeling to walk into the room and everybody is on their toes and excited."

The concert will double as Rodgers' final doctoral recital, needed to complete her degree in musical arts at the University of Washington.

The chorale will be joined by a quartet of UW chambers singers, as well as Andrew Angell, a percussionist with a doctorate in musical arts from the UW.

The 80-member chorus has met for 12 rehearsals preparing for this weekend's concert — about 36 hours of practice.

"I'm excited to meet everybody and all the people whole like to come out for the concert," she said. "We don't exist without them."

Mill Creek Chorale

The 85-member Mill Creek Chorale led by Sean Berg also will be giving two performances this weekend — both on Saturday. They're titled "It's the Very Best Time of Year."

The Holiday Brass Ensemble and the First Presbyterian Church Chancel Bells will perform with the group. The concerts will include: "Do You Hear What I Hear?", "Lully, Lulla, Lully," "O Nat Lux" and "The Very Best Time of Year."

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

Everett Chorale promises 'Mystery and Wonder' this weekend | HeraldNet.com

Jennifer Rodgers hopes to introduce singing to a broader audience — even to those who are homeless.

by Sharon Salyer Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Jennifer Rodgers has been selected as the Everett Chorale's new artistic director and conductor, the first woman to hold that title in the Snohomish County community choir's 53-year history. Her first concert will be at the group's December concert.

Here she talks about the impact music has had on her life, why she didn't pursue a career in opera despite getting her master's degree in it, and how she hopes the chorale can not only perform for the community, but have an impact on social issues as well, such as homelessness.

How did you experience music as a child?

I was singing before I could talk. Our whole family sings and we would laughingly be called the "Von Rodgers Family Singers" when we sang together. This is a "Sound of Music" reference. (I have two younger sisters, so a total of three girls.) We would sing in the car. My parents sung in choirs their whole lives. We were singing in children's choirs. We have a whole repertoire of camp and church songs. We'll sing "I Love the Mountains," and Alleluias.

Did you initially go to college with idea of pursuing music?

I did. I went to Ithaca College in 1989 as a vocal performance major. I had taken voice lessons since eighth grade. I was lucky to have good teachers. When you start taking voice lessons, you start going for classical music. That means you're headed for opera. All of a sudden that's what I wanted to do.

My parents talked to my teachers and made sure that was a feasible thing for me to do. Then on to the University of Maryland and a master's in opera theater.

But then the direction of your musical career changed?

I headed off to be an opera star. I found out pretty quickly that I might be capable, but it didn't match my personality at all. It was very hierarchical. A lot of ego and a lot of jostling for position. When I got into the professional world of opera, it was kind of dog-eat-dog. It wasn't that I couldn't compete. I had no interest in doing that.

What did you do instead?

At the time I also was singing at a piano bar in a jazz club. At the opera, you couldn't see past the footlights. I would go to the piano bar and I would stand up and sing. You would watch the people in front of you cry, de-stress or energize. You knew you were having a really tangible impact on them.

I've also led choirs since high school. I had a string of conducting positions all the way through my master's degree.

Why sing in a community choir?

There are countless studies that talk about the incredible combination of needs that music alone meets. Physiologically it lowers our blood pressure and engages our mind. They use it with dementia patients to help them retain agency. Music can trigger specific memories and using music can help people with retaining and recalling memories. That is a sense of self that they can recognize and hold onto and something that can help them engage with others.

Making music with other people activates every single part of your body. It's a challenge for your body, and your breath, and brain, your emotions. And you get to do that in an atmosphere where you all share the same love, all doing that together.

Tell me about your position with Vienna Choral Society in Virginia.

In 2007, I had been teaching adult voices and leading choirs. One of my students sang in a large community chorus that was in a time of crisis and looking for an artistic director. I got that job. I was with them seven seasons. The only reason I left them was to come out here and get a doctor in Musical Arts at the University of Washington.

How will you approach your job with the Everett Chorale?

The No. 1 thing that's important to me is that what we're doing feels relevant. It's great people want to come and sing and have that in their life. I want the singers to take that and do something for the community besides entertainment. It needs to have impact.

With the Vienna Choral Society we had a concert for a cause every year. I'll do that with Everett. As I meet people in the community I ask what needs attention and what people care about.

I'm going to start with one of the biggest ones — doing something with the homeless population. I created a music program for one of the tent cities on the University of Washington campus. Tent City 3 was one of their 90-day residencies. It was the first time the UW made that possible.

It happened in January, February and March of last year. It was cold, wet weather. The residents are transient. I'd bring a group of three to four people down every week, and we would sometimes sing and sometimes they would sing with us.

Any particular piece you look forward to performing?

I want to introduce them to some of the newer choral composers that are out there. I'm an extremely eclectic choral music lover. I love that in a community choir you can sing the classic masters, jazz, coffee house favorites and new stuff.

How does it feel to replace conductor Lee Mathews?

I am very cognizant of the fact I'm coming in after an era. For Lee Mathews to be there 25 years is an era. Without all the work he has put into this group, it would not even exist for me to come in and do what I find to be exciting.

You have a really busy schedule. How do you like to relax?

My wife, Nancy Gregory, and I love to travel and love local travel. We can be on a new street and it's new territory for us. In the Pacific Northwest we're just in a complete playground with the scenery, hiking and the wildflowers. Anytime we can get out a mountain or ferry all the better.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

New Everett Chorale director has plans for meaningful music | HeraldNet.com

Meanwhile Sno-King Community Chorale wraps up its season with two performances under a new director.

by Sharon Salyer Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Everett Chorale's upcoming concert will include a double coda — its season-ending concert on Sunday as well as the final performance for Lee Mathews, who has led the group as its artistic director for 25 years.

Meanwhile on Saturday, the Sno-King Community Chorale will wrap up its season with two performances at the Edmonds Center for the Arts with a new beginning — the first under director Dustin Willetts.

The theme of the Everett Chorale's June 10 concert, "What A Wonderful World," is part of a season of requested songs.

Audience members were polled a year ago on their favorites, Mathews said. Many were favorites of the chorale as well.

It underscores a message Mathews said he has been trying to deliver in the chorale's concerts for many years of peace and harmony. "That could come about, I feel, if we could all learn to sing together," Mathews said.

"Just making music together is such a powerful thing. It's shown it can cool tempers and bring people together because of the universal feeling of the joy of music," he said.

Although this is his last concert directing the chorale, Mathews, who is 76, said he doesn't feel it is a bittersweet moment.

As a young conductor, he said he was interested in finding out if older conductors were ready to retire so there would be room for him to move into that position.

"Now that I'm the older fellow, and it's time for me to step aside and let some younger conductors find their way," Mathews said. "It's just part of the life cycle."

In April, the chorale announced the selection of Jennifer Rodgers as its new artistic director and conductor. Rodgers, 46, is the first woman to lead the group in its 53-year history. Her first concert will be in December.

Mathews will continue his work as director of music ministry at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Everett.

The chorale's concert, with the theme "What a Wonderful World," will include three pieces by Ralph Vaughan Williams, including "O Clap Your Hands," which will be performed with the Brass Reflections ensemble.

Mathews said it's probably his favorite piece of the entire concert because "it's just so uplifting."

As the concert's title suggests, it also will include a rendition of Louie Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World."

The Sno-King Community Chorale will end its season with a concert version of "Bye Bye Birdie," on June 9 in Edmonds.

Willetts, the group's new director, is 34 and lives on Camano Island. He was selected to replace long-time director Frank DeMiero, who retired in April.

Willetts previously conducted the 120-member Kulshan Chorus in Bellingham for five years.

The music the group will sing grew out of a musical based on Elvis Presley's induction into the Army. Conrad Birdie, the lead in that story, faces an identical situation.

Brian Hodder will perform in the role of Conrad Birdie.

Among the songs included in the concert are "Put on a Happy Face," "One Last Kiss" and "A Lot of Livin' to Do."

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

Everett Chorale's season-ending concert will be Lee Mathews' last | HeraldNet.com

What is Break the Barriers?

Everet Herald Letters Letters

On Dec. 8, I had the pleasure of attending the Everett Chorale Holiday Concert at the Everett Performing Arts Center.

Since I am generally somewhat of a Grinch at this time of year, it is high praise to say that I thought it, perhaps, the most entertaining and uplifting holiday choral concert I have ever attended. The group's director, Jennifer Rodgers, engaged the audience from the start with her down-to-earth but thoughtful anecdotes about each of the pieces performed.

Besides the competent keyboard accompanist, she wisely included an expert brass quintet who ensured that the place was swinging from the start. The chorale singing was solid and sensitive.

Eyes glued to each other throughout, the singers and leader melded to one huge force of confidence, hope and joy, seemingly forgetting that their audience was even present in their enthusiasm of working together to produce such a wondrous sound.

And when the audience, music in hand, joined the performers in a rousing singing of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," all the stops were out, and even we Grinches felt tears of joy in our eyes and a semblance of holiday spirit emerging somewhere deep within. Surely, the Everett Chorale is a local treasure.

Jeanne Aldrich, Lynnwood

Everett Chorale's holiday concert soothed a Grinch's heart | Saturday, December 21, 2019 - The Everett Herald