The USU Chamber Singers is composed of between 25-30 versatile and dedicated student musicians who perform a wide range of choral styles and periods in local, regional, and national concert venues.
Though membership of the group modulates annually, the Chamber Singers standard of excellence remains stellar. Performances on the Temple Square Concert Series and in Salt Lake City's Abravanel Hall with the Utah Chamber Orchestra have brought their work to Utah audiences. Consistently outstanding Performances at Division and National Conventions of the American Choral Directors Association have earned the USU Chamber Singers a reputation of artistic integrity and musical precision among their peers. Local and national radio broadcasts of their performances are bringing their artistry to an ever-increasing audience.
USU choirs have performed in New York's Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center Avery Fisher Hall, The Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City and Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, Russia.
The Utah State University Chamber Singers, under the direction of Dr. Cory Evans, are pleased to announce the release of a new CD recording, Show Me Thy Ways: The Choral Music of Daniel E. Gawthrop. This exciting new disc features world premiere recordings of a cappella and accompanied choral works by American composer, Daniel E. Gawthrop. Grammy award-winning recording engineer Bruce Leek (who has engineered many of the recent recordings for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) has masterfully recorded the ensemble in the lush acoustics of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Hyde Park, Utah. Also featured on the recording are Bonnie Schroeder (oboe) from the Orchestra at Temple Square and USU students Jeff Detton (organ), Jonathan Rose (organ), Nicole Watts (violin), Andrea Ashdown (violin), Bethany Pereboom (viola), DJ Hesterman (cello), and Patrick Clark (double bass).
The ensemble works out some last minute kinks before recording.
Cory Evans, director of the USU Chamber Singers, reflects on the CD project:
"Show Me Thy Ways is a follow-up recording to the Chamber Singers first CD of Gawthrop's choral music, Sing Me To Heaven, released in 1995. I was a student member of the USU Chamber Singers on that disc, and developed a friendship with Dan Gawthrop while working on that project. We have communicated over the past 12 years as I have often sent live recordings of our groups performing his music. Dan emailed me last summer, said he really liked how the group had been singing lately, and that it was about time we did another recording of some of his newer stuff. I agreed, and we discussed plans over a meal at Salt Lake's Red Iguana restaurant….my favorite place to discuss things of REAL importance! He then sent me about 30 of his latest compositions. I painstakingly narrowed them down to about 15 that would be great for the disc, and we got to work in early December. Craig Jessop, Head of USU's Music Department and one of the world of choral music's brightest stars, told me he wanted to help however he could. He hooked me up with Grammy-award winning recording engineer, Bruce Leek, and headed up the project as Executive Producer. It had already been a fantastic year for the Chamber Singers, having just performed for the National Collegiate Choral Organization conference at Yale University in November. We were in good voice and had really come together as an ensemble, so I knew we could create that distinctive "Gawthrop" sound of shimmering chords and lush harmonies. We began rehearsing when the students came back from Christmas break, and spent about 2 months doing nothing but this music. The total immersion in ONLY Gawthrop music really helped the entire learning and recording process. The students really developed an instinct for how to sing this stuff!
Craig Jessop: Executive Producer (left), Lynn Thomas: Producer (center), and Bruce Leek: Recording Engineer (right)
I love Gawthrop's organ music, and had to have some pieces with organ on the disc. We lost our organ program a few years ago when James Drake retired, but Jonathan Rose, our last remaining organ student, was excited to play organ for us. He played so well, and even worked with our regular accompanist and fabulous pianist, Jeff Detton, so they could collaborate on a piece or two. The two of them did a great job! I was lucky to get Bonnie Schroeder, oboist for the Orchestra at Temple Square, to join us on Break Forth Into Singing. She is a flawless player and so easy-going, which was perfect for me when we had only one hour to lay the entire piece down! She is a tremendous musician and a joy to work with. I also got to use five of our best student string players on a few tracks, including Show Me Thy Ways, which is my own arrangement of a Gawthrop manuscript. I scored it for violin, cello, and organ, and I think the students played it beautifully.
A few of the fabulous instrumentalists tuning up before the session.
We recorded from February 25 to March 1, 2010. Those were four long, intense days! Students were battling seasonal illnesses, tired voices (preparations for a major opera were going on at the same time), and the intense, sustained focus required for a recording of this caliber. Bruce Leek, our most amazing engineer, worked our butts off, and showed the students what is required to do a first-rate, professional recording. I got really excited when Bruce arrived in Logan. A large freight truck arrived at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church carrying 17 cases of Bruce's recording equipment! It took us a whole afternoon just to set up his stuff. This was the first recording to be made in that glorious space, and I got goose bumps when I saw months of planning, worrying, and stressing finally giving way to a glorious opportunity to make something magical. Everyone had put so much into this…Tyler Anderson had specifically voiced the organ for this recording, Lynn Thomas, who has some of the best ears for choral music ANYWHERE, had set aside time from his contracting business so he could help produce this thing, and the wonderful staff at St. Thomas had blocked off the entire east side of the building so we could have room to operate. I look back on the recording process with fondness. I enjoyed seeing my students make music at such a high level. I enjoyed watching them buy into the choral concepts we had discussed all year.
Cory Evans (left), Lynn Thomas (center) and Bruce Leek (right) discuss the recording experience…and where to eat when we're done!
It was tough, though. Four days was hard, and time simply ran out. My original goal of recording 15 tracks was reduced to 11, but the disc is about one hour of music, so I feel good about it. I went to Bruce's home and studio in California in April and spent 4 days editing, tweaking, and relaxing on his couch as I watched him work his magic. He has such a tremendous ability to bring out the best of what we do well, and smoothing out what we struggle with. When I heard the final product, I couldn't believe it was OUR group….he really is a master at this stuff! I enjoyed my time in California....especially hearing Bruce's "off-color" humor.
Bruce Leek had 17 cases of recording equipment shipped in from California for this project!
I worked on the graphic design for the disc with my very talented brother-in-law, Brian Barrus, who runs Studio Element in Provo, Utah. We toyed with dozens of concepts, until he showed me a photo of doves. The entire time I was at Bruce Leek's home in California, I could see birds outside of his window. There must have been fifteen humming birds just outside his door, and doves would land and take off from his porch…mostly take off, because Bruce's dog was bent on eating dove for dinner! I was most impressed with the beauty and symbolism of those doves, and when Brian showed me the photo, I just fell in love with the simplicity of the image, the symbolic elegance of the design, and the positive energy of the concept. I think Brian's work captures the spirit of the recording….light, uplifting, peaceful, contemporary, and fresh.
The cover of Show Me Thy Ways, designed by Brian Barrus.
Dan seems pleased with how we have treated his compositions. In an email dated April 20, 2010, he said:
"I don't believe I have ever been better served as a composer in either live performances or recordings. The choral sound is absolutely first rate, lush and opulent….This choir gives the impression that they're doing all of this without breaking a sweat!"
This disc was an honor to be a part of. Learning Dan's music was a joy. Recording it was a pleasure, and seeing the members of Chamber Singers create something of lasting beauty has been a highlight of my musical life."
Singers relaxing between takes. It took four long days of intense singing to lay down material we could edit into the finished disc.
You can purchase Show Me Thy Ways: Choral Music of Daniel E. Gawthrop on itunes, cdbaby.com, emusic.com, or by sending a check for $15 per disc (check payable to: USU Music Department) along with your mailing address to the following address (postage is included in the price):
Dr. Cory Evans
Utah State University
4015 Old Main Hill
Logan, Utah 84322-4015
The disc(s) will be shipped immediately upon receipt of your order. Thank you for your support of the choirs at Utah State University.
Show Me Thy Ways will soon be available on Amazon.com, cdbaby.com, itunes.com, and other music retail sites. Check this site for updates.
Interior of St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, set up for recording.
Sample tracks from Show Me Thy Ways: Choral Music of Daniel E. Gawthrop: