About Boston Choral Ensemble
Boston Choral Ensemble is an auditioned chamber choir of approximately 40 mixed voices under the direction of Andrew Shenton. Boston Choral Ensemble is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization now entering its 16th season.
Boston Choral Ensemble’s mission is to preserve and promote engaging music, both time-honored and new.
We envision a world with a richer and more diverse choral scene.
- Preserving new and rarely-performed music through professional recordings.
- Promoting composers and commissioning new works.
- Performing choral music in a creative and enlightening manner.
- Educating our community with insightful program notes, musical demonstrations, and concert talks.
- Engaging all members of our community by providing pay-what-you-can concerts.
Andrew Shenton is a scholar, prize-winning author, performer and educator based in Boston, Massachusetts. Born in England, his first professional music training was at The Royal College of Music in London, where he studied under a scholarship from The Royal College of Organists. While at the RCM he read for a B.Mus. degree at London University and was an organ scholar at St. Paul’s Cathedral. He moved to the US to study for a Master’s degree at the Institute for Sacred Music, Worship and the Arts at Yale University and then for a Ph.D. in musicology at Harvard University.
Dr. Shenton has a Master’s degree in organ performance from Yale, and holds the Fellowship diploma of the Royal College of Organists. He has given recitals in such venues as King’s College, Cambridge; Westminster Abbey; St. Paul’s Cathedral, London; St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue; and Washington National Cathedral. He has toured extensively in Europe and the US as a conductor, recitalist and clinician, and his two solo organ recordings have received international acclaim. Shenton maintains an active performance career because he believes it is important that any scholarly engagement with the arts is not divorced from its creation and performance.
In addition to diplomas in both piano and organ Dr. Shenton holds the Choir Training diploma of the Royal College of Organists. He has pioneered contemporary music in a variety of styles and has given more than fifty world or US premieres by composers such as Geoffrey Burgon, Joe Utterback, John Tavener, Judith Weir and Stephen Feigenbaum. He has been the recipient of numerous scholarships and awards including a Harvard Merit Fellowship, Harvard’s Certificate of Distinction in Teaching and a Junior Fellowship from the Center for the Humanities at Boston University.
Moving freely between musicology and ethnomusicology, Shenton’s work is best subsumed under the heading ‘music and transcendence.’ This is demonstrated, for example, by his recent and ongoing work in popular music, which includes an essay that analyses the acoustic ecology of rave music as a way of negotiating an ecstatic experience (Fordham University Press, 2013), and lectures and writing on how hip-hop has become a complex soundscape that signals religious identity, notably for Christians and Muslims. A subsidiary to this work is his interest in how sound studies deal with issues of cognition, and the physical and mental elements of transformation and transcendence. His pioneering work on Olivier Messiaen includes a monograph Olivier Messiaen’s System of Signs (Ashgate, 2008), which won the 2010 Miller Book Award; and a collection of essays which he edited entitled Messiaen the Theologian (Ashgate, 2010). More recently his work on Arvo Pärt includes several lectures and recitals, and publications such as The Cambridge Companion to Arvo Pärt (CUP, 2012) which he edited.
Dr. Shenton is Artistic Director of the Boston Choral Ensemble and Director of Music at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Weston, MA. At Boston University, Dr. Shenton holds appointments in the School of Theology, School of Music (College of Fine Arts) and College of Arts and Sciences (musicology faculty). He is an Associate Professor of Music, the James R. Houghton Scholar of Sacred Music, Director of the Master of Sacred Music program and Director of the Boston University Messiaen Project [BUMP].
- Website: Link
President, Board of Directors
Alex Speir joined Boston Choral Ensemble as a tenor in January 2012, and joined the Board of Directors that June as Treasurer. At the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season, the Board of Directors elected Alex as BCE’s seventh President.
Alex grew up on a farm near Bristow, Oklahoma and studied history at Amherst College where he graduated cum laude in 2011. At Amherst, Alex spent four years under the direction of Mallorie Chernin and was the President of the Glee Club, Vice President of the Concert Choir, a Madrigal Singer, and, on special occasions, a Women’s Chorister. Alex sat on the Glee Club’s 150th Anniversary Planning Committee and is a board member of the Greater Boston Choral Consortium.
Various hobbies include travel, urban exploration, cooking, reading biographies, trying new food and beer, celebrating — and creating — needlessly convoluted sentences, and mapping the evolution of small liberal arts colleges.
Sean J. Watland is Assistant Conductor for Boston Choral Ensemble. He is pursuing a Masters in Music with an emphasis in Choral Conducting from Boston University. Alongside Boston Choral Ensemble and his coursework, Sean serves as the Conducting Fellow with Music at Marsh Chapel. He will graduate from Boston University in the spring of 2017.
Born in Chicagoland, Sean attended Valparaiso University where he received his Bachelors in Music Education with honors. At Valpo, Sean served as student conductor for two choral ensembles under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Cock and Dr. Lorraine Brugh. Following his graduation, he accepted a teaching position at St. James Lutheran School in Chicago, where he taught general music, directed two instrumental ensembles, four curricular choral ensembles, and an adult men’s chorus.
In the summer of 2015, Sean accepted an invitation to travel to Leipzig for a masterclass with Valparaiso University and the Leipzig Baroque Orchestra. As a participant of the masterclass, he directed the University Chorale and Leipzig Baroque in two services at J.S. Bach’s final church, the Thomaskirche.
Treasurer, Board of Directors
Chris has been singing with BCE since the spring of 2014, having joined shortly after his arrival in Boston from the UK. During his previous fifteen years living in Edinburgh, Scotland, he dabbled in various different forms of vocal music making, from large choruses to musical theatre, before settling into small chorus singing with the Calton Consort for the past few years.
By day Chris works as an investment manager here in Boston, a job which also takes him around the United States from time to time, so he is fast becoming an expert on Tuesday afternoon flight schedules to work out how to make it back to Boston in time for 6.30pm rehearsals…!
Clerk, Board of Directors
Jamie is a singer-songwriter from Cloquet, MN. He currently works at the Boston Ronald McDonald House and lives in Jamaica Plain, Musical experience includes the Yale Spizzwinks(?) and the MN bluegrass trio Saint Anyway. In addition to singing with BCE, Jamie sings and performs his own songs in bars and cafes around New England.
Ben joined the Boston Choral Ensemble in 2015, and joined the BCE Board of Directors as Clerk in May 2016.
Member at Large, Board of Directors
Joanna began singing in the alto section of the Boston Choral Ensemble in the fall of 2007, and joined the board in the summer of 2008. She is a 2007 graduate of Denison University, where she studied English, vocal performance, and Spanish. Joanna started her choral career at an early age, singing and touring with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir. At Denison she spent most of her free time singing with Chamber Singers, Concert Choir, and other ensembles; some of her favorite performances as an undergrad were madrigal dinners, traditional lessons and carols services, and singing on the roof of the Duomo in Milan.
A native Hoosier, Joanna moved to Boston after graduation to serve as an AmeriCorps for theUrban Ecology Institute, and then worked as the faculty assistant to Marshall Ganz at the Harvard Kennedy School. Currently she is pursuing a dual-degree at Tufts University in Agriculture, Food and Environment (MS) and Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy (MA).
Membership, Board of Directors
Julia joined BCE as a soprano in January 2013 and took on the role of Membership Chair in 2014.
Growing up in the Boston area, Julia sought out opportunities to sing wherever and whenever possible. While this usually involved a school choir or musical production, vocal activities often extended to Julia and her friends creating harmonies with Boston street performers, writing a cappella arrangements of their favorite songs, and the occasional impromptu sight-singing of madrigals around the kitchen table.
Julia ventured to the Hudson Valley in New York to attend Vassar College in 2008. There, she studied music theory, music history, and vocal performance under Christine Howlett and James Ruff and was a soprano section leader in the Women’s Chorus. She also sang with the Vassar Devils, a co-ed a cappella group, and acted as the ensemble’s musical director for three years. As director, Julia oversaw the recording and production of a full-length album and the group’s participation in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.
Since returning to the Boston area after graduating, Julia has been pursuing graduate work in Music Education while working with children in various capacities, including as a vocal instructor, a cappella coach, and first grade teacher. She is thrilled to be starting her first year as an elementary music teacher for the Brockton Public Schools in September of 2014.
Marketing, Board of Directors
Development, Board of Directors
SarahEmily currently supports the National Consumer Law Center as their Manager of Conferences and Trainings and has worked with various other nonprofits in fundraising, grant writing, and donor cultivation. Prior to development work, SarahEmily taught and coordinated programs for adult English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) both overseas with the Fulbright program, and within the Dorchester Vietnamese community in Boston. She holds a BM from Millikin University, a Masters of Music in Ethnomusicology from Northern Illinois University, and continues to engage with music by sitting on the boards of two prestigious choral ensembles.
Alumni, Board of Directors
Cyndi Sacco is an at-large board member for Boston Choral Ensemble. From 2005-2011, she served as marketing chair and performance manager, and sang alto with BCE from 2003-2011. Her relationship with BCE began with her interest in music, and continues as an interest in helping the Ensemble grow and succeed in the greater Boston arts community.
By day, Sacco is Assistant Director for Alumni Marketing & Communications at Harvard Business School, where she oversees marketing communications programs focused on promoting alumni events, including The Harvard Business School Campaign. Previously, she was a senior account manager for Keating Associates, a boutique marketing firm focused on creating marketing communications programs for higher education and independent school clients.
Boston Choral Ensemble was founded in 2001 by its first music director, Tom Cunningham. A graduate of Yale University and Westminster Choir College, Cunningham was interested in creating a choir that was smart, but not stuffy—a place for people who may not have chosen music as a profession to produce high-quality music and have fun in the process. He drew a repertoire from various time periods and traditions, both sacred and secular, and was committed to sharing that variety with the community. The choir started small, with 13 members performing in its first concert series in Gordon Chapel at Old South Church in Boston during March 2002.
In its second season BCE expanded to 23 members and presented its first concerts with professional soloists and instrumentalists, and by its third season the choir took on the ambitious In the Beginning by Aaron Copland. Throughout, the choir maintained its tradition of member-based leadership under the guidance of president Laura Gassner-Otting with all other board positions occupied by members of the choir. By the time Cunningham departed at the conclusion of the 2003 season, the choir had developed a stable, committed membership, experienced volunteer leadership, and was consistently putting on high quality performances of challenging pieces.
In the spring of 2004 the choir reached its first major turning point: the selection of a new music director. A special search committee was formed and after auditioning many applicants and receiving significant feedback from all choir members, the board selected Miguel Felipe to succeed Cunningham. Felipe came with a Masters of Music in Choral Conducting from Boston University and 5 years of experience with the Maine Gay Men’s Chorus. The Board of Directors also made a major turnover, becoming entirely member-based, with the addition of new faces in several positions including a new president, Laura Gibson. This transitional season saw performances of Victoria’s Missa O Magnum Mysterium, Howells’ Requiem, and Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia in the choir’s three primary concerts, as well as an appearance at “Lux Aeterna”, a major Boston benefit concert for the victims of the Southeast Asian Tsunami.
In the spring of 2005, BCE took an organizational step forward. The Board of Directors adopted a revised and expanded mission and instituted a committee structure to organize the escalating tasks associated with running the choir. Under this new format, BCE ran auditions for its 5th season that drew more than 30 interested singers. The fall cycle included concert performances of challenging pieces by Distler and Schütz, a special performance at the Boston Opera House before The Nutcracker, and a caroling outing to a nursing home in Concord. The 2006 season also included a performance of Rachmaninoff’s All Night Vigil and a May concert event celebrating the BCE’s 5th Anniversary Season through the performance of music written since the BCE’s founding.
The 2006–07 season included a performance of Byrd’s exquisite Mass for 5 voices within an all-English program for Christmastime. During the winter, one of BCE’s most ambitious projects brought Arvo Pärt’s Passio to Boston audiences for the first time in 15 years. The performance included six professional singers and five instrumentalists. The year concluded with an all Americana program that featured works from colonial America, 20th century a cappella staples, and a few spirituals. This season also marked a major outreach event when BCE visited Dedham High School and shared a concert with the school’s choir. At the close of this season, the one-year tenure of president Andrea Rosal ended when she moved with her new husband to North Carolina. Succeeding her was Matthew Baggetta, tenor and former membership chair.
Boston Choral Ensemble’s 7th season saw further stability and growth of the organization. Fundraising increased due, in large part, to BCE’s participation in the Walk for Music. Repertoire included an all-madrigal concert in the fall, Lassus’ masterwork Lagrime di San Pietro during the winter, and Thompson’s The Peaceable Kingdom in the spring. Alongside the Thompson, BCE premiered Zachary Wadsworth’s Look down, fair moon, the result of our first annual Commission Competition.
The Ensemble’s 8th season continued Baggetta’s presidency and included the revision of our mission to focus on ambitious and innovative programming. During that season, BCE presented Magnificat, a program of Marian music that blended an especially diverse repertoire into four almost-seamless sets. The March program celebrated Latin American music—even a bit of tango and salsa! The year concluded with a concert comprised of works that set Eastern texts set by Western composers. This program included two premieres of two works commissioned by BCE.
In the fall of 2009, BCE presented one of its most adventurous programs to date, the North American premiere of Thomas Yennefelt’s Villarosa Sequences. This minimalist masterpiece was followed by a winter program of music inspired by the Catholic Tenebræ service as set by Gesualdo, Lassus, Victoria, Poulenc, and contemporary British/American composer Paul Crabtree. BCE was thrilled to welcome Crabtree to Boston for the East Coast premiere of his Tenebræ Reponsories on Songs by Bob Dylan. The ninth season ended with a concert based on musical re-appropriation, featuring the world premiere of Tribulationes by Armenian composer Vahram Sargsyan, the winner of BCE’s third annual Commission Competition. In addition to presenting three innovative and ambitious concert programs, BCE was also thrilled to collaborate with Quincy High School and to execute a highly successful Walk for Music fundraising campaign. The close of the ninth season was marked by the departure of Baggetta for Indiana University and the announcement of new Board President Lauren Roller.
BCE’s 10th Anniversary season was an exciting time of organizational growth and change. Under the guidance of Felipe as artistic director, BCE presented three concert programs led by Boston-area guest conductors, as well as its first annual Choral Holiday concert in collaboration with Winchester High School. BCE’s first program, Evocations, was led by Christopher Nickelson and celebrated the ensemble’s history with a set of pieces inspired by past repertoire. The Door to Paradise, BCE’s winter program led by Boston University professor Andrew Shenton, explored varying perspectives on death and life after death as seen through the finest twentieth-century British choral music. BCE finished the year with Bang!, a program for choir and percussion that featured the premiere of A Depth We Cannot Sound by Commission Competition winner Timothy Takach. At the end of the 10th season, BCE was thrilled to announce the appointment of Andrew Shenton as its third artistic director, following a national search. With Shenton’s appointment, BCE said goodbye to Miguel Felipe, who accepted a position at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.
Under the leadership of Andrew Shenton, BCE enjoyed a strong 11th season that included welcoming Assistant Conductor Michael Dauterman and many new members to the group. The ensemble’s first concert honored the 400th anniversary of Tomàs Luis de Victoria’s death with a performance of his Missa Ascendens Christus in altum, paired with selected works by contemporary British composer Judith Weir. In December, BCE continued its Choral Holiday tradition through a joint performance with the choirs of Marlborough High School. Butterfly Dreams explored a wide variety of repertoire around sleep and dreaming in March, and BCE finished it’s regular season with a program of music commissioned for Chichester Cathedral, including Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. This concert also featured the world premiere of The Mountain Lion by Stephen Feigenbaum, the winner of BCE’s 4th annual commission competition. Finally, BCE was thrilled to have an opportunity to give a special performance with the Manado State University Choir from North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Led by Shenton, as well as MSUC conductor André de Quadros and guest conductor Miguel Felipe, both ensembles performed selections from their own repertoire and came together to sing several joint pieces. The end of the 11th season also marked the end of Lauren Roller’s term as president, and the Board was thrilled to select Deborah Rosenstein as BCE’s new leader.
The 12th season was one of growth and of record-breaking. BCE’s fall concert, Chansons Profanes, celebrated the music of Claude Debussy and Jean Françaix for the 150th and 100th anniversaries of their births. Since this season’s theme was snow and roses, Francis Poulenc’s Un soir de niege and Morten Lauridsen’s lush Les Chansons des roses provided chilled and warmed the hearts of the audiences. For their third annual Choral Holiday, BCE updated the lessons and carols format by interspersing traditional congregational carols with music by Randall Thompson, selections from Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, and readings of poets John Audelay, Robert William Service, and Maya Angelou. Despite a sudden snowstorm, BCE’s March concert was an exploration of different composers’ reactions to death, mourning, and lamentation. Déplorations highlighted settings of When David heard by composers from the renaissance through the twentieth century. The concert concluded with 40 guest singers joining BCE in singing Thomas Tallis’s monumental and rarely performed 40-part motet, Spem in alium. BCExposed marked the singers’ first foray into a cabaret evening that celebrated singers’ talents and surpassing the goal of the annual fundraising drive. The penultimate concert, Rose Songs, captured the essence of spring with Britten’s Five flower songs, the ethereal To be sung of a summer night on the water by Frederick Delius, Edward Elgar’s deceptively polytonal There is sweet music, and a preview of next season: Joby Talbot’s Léon, an acoustically astounding movement from The Path of Miracles. The 12th season ended in June with a reprise of the Déplorations concert & Tallis’s Spem in alium for the Boston Early Music Festival.
With the start of the 13th season, BCE welcomed Alex Speir as President. 2013-2014 was a year of big ambitions with BCE visiting Amherst College in the fall as part of a concert celebrating the music of Arvo Pärt, the premiere of Rita Ueda’s “Raindrops, Footsteps,” winner of the 2013 Commission Competition, a concert celebrating the 100th birthday of Benjamin Britten, a complete performance of Joby Talbot’s The Path of Miracles, and a series of out-of-this-world concerts presented in conjunction with the Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science.
BCE’s 14th season centered around the theme of Night. In our first concert, Dark, dark night, we sang the music of Tavener, Tallis, and Geusualdo before launching into a candlelight performance of Durufle’s Requiém, Op. 9. Our annual holiday concert, Still, still night, celebrated motherhood and the launch of our new CD! Cold, cold night paired David Lang’s 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning setting of “The Little Match Girl” with the premier of our 2014 Commission Competition winner, Riding on a Train at Rush Hour, a short opera by Samuel Beebe. Our final concert cycle, Long, long night explored the metaphysical through the themes of travel, resurrection, and rebirth as we reflected on the meaning of our individual and collective journeys.
Throughout its history, Boston Choral Ensemble has been committed to the high quality performance of challenging and engaging music. The group continues to be driven by the collective joy unique to live musical performance and the desire to share that joy with as many people as possible.