Sad songs for local choral companies -- Austin ProChorus ends its song and Chorus Austin lets go its executive director -- but a sweet tune for Arts Center Stage: a million-dollar donation from Southwestern Bell.
The week has been an especially tough one for Austin's vocal ensembles. An ambitious experiment on the city's choral music scene has come to an end. Austin ProChorus, a 16-voice ensemble dedicated to the performance of works by living composers, suspended operations indefinitely earlier this week. Kinley Lange, director of music at First Presbyterian Church, founded the company four years ago with the idea of providing the city with its first professional chorus and developing an audience for contemporary choral literature. In its brief life, the ProChorus paid tribute to Texas composers, including Donald Grantham and Caroline Lyons, and commissioned several pieces -- a setting of Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by California composer Eric Whitacre was one -- and premiered them locally, often with the composers present. The passion was there, as was the technical achievement, but the choir was never able to build enough of an audience to survive. According to Lange, "A great deal was invested in the organization by many people, including the singers and the board of directors. Austin ProChorus made some very good music and brought to birth some good new choral literature. I'm disappointed that we're not continuing but very proud of what we've accomplished." Later this summer Lange will move to Houston to serve as director of music for Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church.
The news follows another unfortunate announcement from a local choir, Chorus Austin. Due to fundraising shortfalls, the company has had to let go its executive director, Sue Johnson. In her place, Vicki Buterbaugh will manage the office on a part-time basis. Fortunately, the company is able to move forward with its Austin Civic Chorus/Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble spring concert, At the Round Earth Imagined Corners, a concert of a cappella choral music from around the world, at Northwest Hills United Methodist Church, 7050 Village Center Dr., on May 4. Call 719-3300 for information.
Arts Center Stage has scored another major gift for the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Center for the Performing Arts. The gift, from the Southwestern Bell Corporation (SBC) Foundation, is in the amount of $1 million, which makes it the largest corporate gift ever given to the arts in Austin. Shawn McKenzie, president of SBC-owned Southwestern Bell-Texas, "We chose this project for economic development reasons and because it gives access for a large number of arts organizations to a first-class facility." This $1 million addition brings the campaign up to $60 million -- two-thirds of the $89 million goal. For more info, visit www.artscenterstage.org.
Help the Kindermann
Physical Plant Theater is looking for production assistance for its upcoming show, The Kindermann Depiction, at the Blue Theater. Help is needed starting May 25 and would continue through the run May 3-June 1, Wednesday-Sunday nights. The position pays $200. For more information, call Steve Moore, 443-2955.