Masterworks Choral Ensemble Pays Homage to Four Elements

By Karen Lunde

The Masterworks Choral Ensemble is poised for its 38th season under the leadership of artistic director and conductor Gary Witley, who’s helmed the choir since its inception in 1981. This season begins with a concert at The Washington Center on October 13. The concert celebrates the four sacred elements: air, earth, fire and water.

A repertoire committee and the choir’s board of directors give input and approval on concert themes, but Witley ultimately chooses the music for each performance. “My rule of thumb is that the music must move me or excite me or make me laugh,” he said. “If the music reaches me, then I believe it will reach both the choir and the audience.” Rehearsals for the October concert begin at the end of August.

Each season can be thematic, offering a certain perspective. “Ideally,” said Witley, “the entire season hangs together as a set. The reality, however, is that this is a big challenge when one considers the span of musical genres we normally cover in a season.” MCE follows a yearly pattern: December’s concert is always a holiday concert. March brings Harmony Sweepstakes, the regional segment of a national a cappella competition, which MCE hosts annually but in which it does not perform. April’s concert tends to be more classically oriented.

“This season, the flame of passion is our umbrella theme,” said Witley. The ensemble’s slogan this year is “Kindle the flame — Music, like the flame of life, warms the heart.” “The flame of passion is an apt metaphor,” said Witley. “It’s the love of singing that brings all of us together to perform. The musical study, rehearsing the music weekly and the camaraderie associated with that brings us back for more each week.”

This season kicks off with a Sacred Elements concert, then proceeds to a holiday concert, Yuletide Celebration, December 1. Moving into 2019, MCE hosts the Harmony Sweepstakes on March 9. Classical concert Strength and Serenity will feature John Leavitt’s Missa Festiva and Gabriel Faure’s Requiem on April 13. The season wraps with a night of seductive entertainment, the Torch Songs concert, June 15.



Sacred Elements


7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13


The Washington Center for the Performing Arts,

512 Washington St. SE, Olympia





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