Arts & Culture

Choral groups enter important seasons

The 2007-08 season is an important o ne for both the Olympia Choral Society and the Masterworks Choral Ensemble. For the Choral Society, this is its 10th season, which the ensemble will celebrate in May with the debut of a newly written work.

And this is the 27th year for Masterworks - not a round number, perhaps, but it's an indicator of an impressive tenure for an arts group.

"I think it speaks well to the community that we're still going strong after 27 years," Masterworks director Gary Witley said.

Masterworks's season starts with an Oct. 13 performance of opera music, featuring selections - sung in English - from operas "Aida," "Lohengrin" and operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan.

"They are the choruses of the operas, which are often the really fun parts," Witley said.

On Dec. 1, the choir will present Christmas carols and the sounds of handbells, the latter provided by the Portland-based group Bells of the Cascades. Northwest vocal groups specializing in jazz, barbershop, folk and gospel will converge on The Washington Center for the Performing Arts on March 8, when MCE puts on the regional Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival.

The next month, MCE performs Mendelssohn's grand oratorio "Elijah" on April 19, and the season closes out with a June 14 performance of the music of Carole King.

The Olympia Choral Society presents its 10th annual Christmas benefit concert Dec. 14-16, including Christmas carols, excerpts from Rachmaninoff's "Vespers," and more. The Choral Society's Christmas concerts always take donations for charity; this year's beneficiaries have not yet been determined.

On March 16, the Choral Society will join the Olympia Symphony Orchestra to present Haydn's "Lord Nelson Mass," and in the spring, the chorus marks its first decade May 16-18 with a program featuring a piece by Richard Nance, a faculty member at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma. The new work, still being written, is the result of an anonymous donation to the chorus for its anniversary.

"I'm still just in awe and wonder that we're still going here 10 years later," Choral Society director Terry Shaw said. "It's going to be a great season."

Amy Swanson is a freelance writer living in Seattle.

More information

Masterworks Choral Ensemble: 360-491-3305 or

Olympia Choral Society: 360-705-6462 or