Masterworks Choral Ensemble Gets Back to Nature

By Molly Gilmore

Masterworks Choral Ensemble begins its 38th season by celebrating nature’s glories. The singing group will wade in the water — and explore the elements of earth, air and fire, too — in Sacred Elements at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. “I really resonate with the environment,” said Masterworks artistic director Gary Witley. “My family got to travel to Iceland last winter and Finland, and we got to see parts of the world that we’d never seen before. The beauty of the environment is astounding.”

What he saw on the journey inspired the selection of David Lantz III’s Fire and Ice. “It’s about the beauty of Iceland, which has the ice and the volcanic action, the fire,” Witley said in a recent phone interview. The piece includes the use of PVC pipes as percussion instruments. Singers will strike the pipes, which are tuned to various musical notes, on the floor during the song. The piece called for a limited use of such pipes, but Witley created a more elaborate arrangement for the instruments, inspired by bamboo pipes used in many indigenous cultures.

The program opens with Steve Kupferschmid’s Hymn to the Earth and Sky, an inspirational piece inspired by a Sioux Nation text. It includes James DesJardins’ Storm, which uses body percussion and drums to mimic storm sounds, and Roger Emerson’s rocking arrangement of the traditional spiritual “Wade in the Water.” Vocalist Sophia Janssen-Madden, 17, a North Thurston High School senior in the Running Start program at South Puget Sound Community College, will be the featured guest artist. Janssen-Madden, choir president of Olympia’s Kids in Concert, was the high-school winner of the ensemble’s 2018 Youth Music Competition.


Masterworks Choral Ensemble’s Sacred Elements


The Washington Center for the Performing Arts,
512 Washington St. SE, Olympia


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





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