San Francisco Choral Artists, a chamber choir of the highest quality, fosters new American choral music and presents imaginative and emotionally engaging programming of diverse repertoire, with emphasis on works by living composers.
SFCA has premiered over 300 works and won the Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in 2012 and again in 2015, affirming its reputation for eclectic programming and stunning performances.
SFCA’s artistic vision is to explore the implications of its mission with programs that offer stimulating and moving choral music—new and old works that entice, reward, inspire, and intellectually challenge listeners and performers.
The fostering of composers—living American and local composers—and new choral music is a key element of SFCA’s DNA. The ensemble commissions new works by composers it admires, provides a high quality performance forum to help advance the professional careers of composers, and encourages young composers. Through its Roger Nixon Living Music Initiative, SFCA offers six formal programs to support living composers and the creation of new music:
- Composers Invitational [since 1994];
- Composer-in-Residence [since 1999], to commission and showcase local composers;
- New Voices Project Competition, for American composers under age 30 [since 2005];
- Composer-Not-In-Residence [since 2010], to commission and showcase diverse musical styles;
- SFCA+1, to commission new music for chamber choir + an instrument [new 2015];
- Wild Card Program [new 2016], to expand support of composers whom SFCA admires.
To date, SFCA has hosted 20 Composers-in-Residence, 9 Composers-Not-in-Residence, 27 New Voices composers under age 30, four SFCA+1 composers with two SFCA+1 guest artists, two Wild Card composers, two Wild Card collaborations that commissioned 21 new works, and more than 130 Composers Invitational premieres.
SFCA strives to bring its music to a wider community, to educate people about the music, and to bring pleasure to a diverse audience of listeners. The ensemble launches new projects, new collaborations, and new ways of using its voice to connect with the hearts, minds, and spirits of music lovers, presenting wonderful new works paired with beloved repertoire of the last 700 years.
Performance Season and Music-Making
Each year, SFCA offers 3 subscription concerts sets (occasionally 4 sets), each consisting of 3-4 live performances. Each performance includes musical lectures, and at least one subscription set offers “meet the composer” panels where composers discuss their creative processes. To enrich the diversity of its programs, most seasons include works in at least 8 languages.
All subscription concerts showcase two distinctive and popular features of Artistic Director Magen Solomon’s programming. First, she places contemporary works within a musical context that assists the audience to truly hear and connect with the works. Context dramatically affects the way a work is perceived, e.g., a Bach chorale sounds old when heard after a Brahms motet but modern after a motet by Victoria, and she frames new works in the context of familiar works and styles. Second, Dr. Solomon provides program notes that draw attention to the structure or texture of the music, pointing out markers that enhance the listeners’ understanding and appreciation of the program.
While SFCA performs mostly unaccompanied, it cultivates unusual collaborations and has performed with Composers Inc., jazz/classical violinist Mads Tolling, The Alexander String Quartet, the Veretski Pass klezmer/East European instrumental trio, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, The Whole Noyse wind band, actors, and dancers.
SFCA has been acclaimed as “…amongst the foremost unaccompanied singing groups… on this or any other coast” (artssf.com), and is sought after for guest appearances and collaborations. Each season, the ensemble appears as Guest Artists at public music events in San Francisco and across the Bay Area and beyond. It also records new choral works—including SFCA-commissioned works and works by local composers—for commercial distribution.
The ensemble actively seeks to develop young student composers through outreach with local schools, and has partnered in student-focused concerts with SF Conservatory of Music, SF School of the Arts, Crowden School of Music, UC Berkeley New Music Project, University of the Pacific, and Santa Clara University, and in workshops with the University of San Francisco, among others. SFCA also performed by invitation at the Chorus America Conference in 2011 and at three American Choral Directors Association conventions.