Conspirare: My favorite year

In a banner year, Conspirare signs with the prestigious Harmonia Mundi label and plans a powerful Long Center debut with the Verdi Requiem

Between its two Grammy nominations, the symposium it hosted on American choral music, and its invitation to the 8th World Symposium on Choral Music in Copenhagen, Denmark, next summer, this already was shaping up to be a banner year for Austin's choir supreme Conspirare. But the times just keep getting better – and busier – for Craig Hella Johnson's vocal ensemble. For starters, Conspirare is set to record its third CD in October, and this one will be released by Harmonia Mundi, one of the most distinguished labels in the classical world. Considering the prestige level of many of Harmonia Mundi's artists – for example, the Tokyo String Quartet and Anonymous 4 – Con-spirare's presence on the label gives our local choir another important boost into the ranks of nationally and even internationally significant ensembles.

On the home front, conductor Johnson has lined up a suitably dramatic debut in the Long Center: the Verdi Requiem, a work all but guaranteed to rattle the rafters and stir its audience with emotion. For the occasion, Johnson will be bringing up some musicians and vocalists from the Victoria Bach Festival, where he's also the artistic director, to perform with the Conspirare Symphonic Choir, and he has four powerhouse soloists on tap: soprano Kallen Esperian, mezzo soprano Robynne Redmon, tenor Karl Dent, and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn. All have im-pressive track records on the operatic stage and, in some cases, extensive experience with the Verdi Requiem, which means they'll make the most of this monumental score.

Waiting for that explosive event on June 21 of next year will be made easier by the other concerts in the 2007-2008 season. Threshold of Night is a program devoted to music by a highly regarded young composer from Great Britain, Tarik O'Regan (Sept. 27-30). I Dream a World will feature some of the American choral classics and traditional spirituals that Conspirare will sing for Scandinavian audiences in Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; and Bergen, Norway next July (Jan. 31-Feb. 3, 2008). Love Is a Circle will premiere a new work by Jeffrey Van, A Procession Winding Around Me, which sets four Civil War poems by Walt Whitman to music (March 29-30, 2008). And, of course, there is Conspirare's indispensable holiday program, Christmas at the Carillon (Dec. 5-11). Could it get any better? For more information, visit

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Conspirare, Craig Hella Johnson, Long Center, Harmonia Mundi

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