Vox Nova Chamber Choir is a mixed ensemble of 24 – 32 adult voices. Vox Nova rehearses Thursday evenings 7-9:30 PM and performs four concerts annually. Directed by Shannon Chase. Steven Weston, Assistant Conductor. Accompanied by members of the instrumental consort.
Vox Nova Chamber Choir was founded in 2009 by Dr. Shannon Chase on the campus of Bowdoin College and features singers from Maine and New Hampshire. A mixed choir of 32 – 36 voices, the Chamber Choir seeks to champion the expansive body of modern and contemporary choral repertoire and to expose its audiences to performances of new music.
“Vox Nova’s ability to interpret complex scores, making them both accessible and meaningful, is exceptional.” (Christopher Hyde, Classical Beat, Portland Press Herald)
Concert goers attend Vox Nova’s concerts to hear modern composers they know and love – Pärt, Britten, Barber, Poulenc, and Stravinsky to name few – but also to be surprised by the unconventional contemporaries of Northern Europe, the Baltic States and beyond. Per its mission, Vox Nova strives to deliver richly rewarding performances of modern and contemporary choral works, with special emphasis on music by living composers.
Its members, comprised of both professional music educators and amateur choral singers, live in Maine and New Hampshire. Championing modern and contemporary choral music, the choir performs mostly a cappella, but is also accompanied by solo and ensemble instrumentalists.
Vox Nova is known for its bold, sleek sound and innovative programming. Noting the choir’s ability to interpret complex scores, reviewer Christopher Hyde described Vox Nova as “one of the brighter stars in the classical music heavens”, burning with “a high level of musicianship and excitement” (Portland Press Herald, 2012, 2014).
To foster the intimate, well-blended sound, Chase often moves singers into mixed formations where, for example, a bass standing next to a soprano learns to fine tune and blend with his neighbor while mastering a separate vocal line. “I seek to build independent, confident singers,” she says, “singers who are attentive to, and care for each other.” Thus, Vox Nova enthusiastically and deftly performs pieces in various formations, depending on the particular composition and its desired musical effects.
ABOUT THE CHOIR
Vox Nova Chamber Choir was founded in 2009 on the campus of Bowdoin College. Its members, many of whom are trained performers, music educators and choir directors, come to The choir champions the vast repertory of modern and contemporary choral music and has a strong tradition of championing a cappella singing.
Vox Nova is known for its bold, sleek sound and innovative programming. Noting the choir’s ability to interpret complex scores, reviewer Christopher Hyde described Vox Nova as “one of the brighter stars in the classical music heavens”, burning with “a high level of musicianship and excitement” (Portland Press Herald, 2012, 2014). Peter Alexander praised the choir’s “near perfect intonation even in some terribly difficult passages [and its] clear, unaffected voices, and superb execution under [Shannon] Chase’s precise and emotive direction” (Coastal Journal, 2015).
Audiences routinely describe the ensemble’s signature sound as stellar and fascinating. By promoting and helping to preserve the vitality of contemporary classical music, Vox Nova occupies a unique niche in the Maine musical community.The Choir is smaller and more skilled than most community choirs. While not neglecting choral favorites, Vox Nova specializes in music that employs complex chords, polyrhythms, and elegant dissonances, while requiring
vocal dexterity and a finely calibrated blend.
Sometimes a composer asks for dramatic sounds, such as whistles, sweeping wordless glissandos, birdcalls, tonal chants and whispers, even aleatoric (by chance) singing, in which each musician repeats a musical phrase at will. “Aleatoric singing produces an ethereal, heavenly effect,” says Shannon Chase, citing a recently performed piece, In Paradisium by Edwin Fissinger. “It is just one example of how birthing new music into the sphere of sound is one of labor and love,” she explains. “Vox Nova’s mission demands commitment to technical mastery, disciplined approach to musicianship, and readiness for unconventional compositional language.”
The singers belong to a community of people who genuinely care for each other and who are grounded in this common endeavor. “They come back,” Chase says, “week after week, learning to hear true, pure vocal intervals, not the compromises built into a modern keyboard,” which Director Chase uses as little as possible, and only in the very early stages of rehearsal. “Reliance on the piano is the enemy,” she explains. “I want each singer to learn to hear those pure intervals, and to hear tones differently according to where they fall within a particular, and often complex chord.”
To foster the intimate, well-blended sound that results from such training, she often moves singers into mixed formations where, for example, a bass standing next to a soprano learns to fine tune and blend with his neighbor while mastering a separate vocal line. “I seek to build independent, confident singers,” she says, “but singers who are attentive to, and care for each other.” Thus, Vox Nova enthusiastically and deftly performs pieces in various formations, depending on the particular composition and its desired musical effects.
Director Chase is solely focused on preparing Vox Nova for its concert series and performances, however, the choir engages in artistic collaboration to extend the reach of the choir’s core mission. Vox Nova has appeared with the Midcoast Symphony, Portland Symphony Orchestra and recently assumed the role of chorus in Portland Ovation’s premier production of The Summer King, an opera by USM composer Daniel Sonenberg. Vox Nova commissions and premiers new compositions and collaborates in performance with Maine musicians and ensembles such as the DaPonte String Quartet who have joined the choir in a number of programs such as Music of the Spheres (2012) and With Strings Attached (2016).
-Contributed by Burke Long