Vocal Arts Atlanta makes its debut

by Mark Gresham | 15 SEP 2018

The Vocal Arts Atlanta team: (l-r) Jose Caballero, Chaowen Ting, Valerie Pool.

The Vocal Arts Atlanta team: (l-r) Jose Caballero, Chaowen Ting, Valerie Pool. (Photo courtesy of Vocal Arts Atlanta)

Atlanta’s newest performing arts organization, Vocal Arts Atlanta, makes its public debut this weekend with “Opera for Everyone: Who Has the Worst Day?” Hosted by the Kellett Chapel Recital Series at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead, the free 75-minute performance takes place this Sunday, September 16 at 4 pm.

Comprised of a clutch of operatic favorites, the repertoire is sewn together by a modern, relevant comic premise about how everyone has a bad day now and then, with the all-too-common assertion among friends of how “my bad day was worse than yours.” The competition for “worst day” is played out between a pair of complaining couples drawn from two highly popular traditional operas: Bizet’s Carmen and Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. The expostulating pairs are portrayed by soprano Adelaide Boedecker, mezzo-soprano Kaitlyn Costello, tenor Nathan Munson and bass-baritone Calvin Griffin. Chaowen Ting conducts the semi-staged concert’s accompanying 10-piece chamber orchestra, with stage direction by Brenna Corner, who directed the Atlanta Opera’s production of Carmen this past spring.

Vocal Arts Atlanta was founded earlier this year by a trio of musicians who are active in Atlanta’s music scene and all have a foot in the world of opera. Co-artistic director and music director Chaowen Ting is director of orchestral studies at Georgia Tech, was a conducting fellow with Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for women conductors in 2016, and was recently named music director of NANOWorks Opera (North America New Opera Workshops).

A native of Marietta, Georgia, co-artistic director and general director Valerie Pool, is an alumna of the Atlanta Opera Studio Program. She completed her second season as resident pianist and vocal coach with The Atlanta Opera in May 2018, has been a rehearsal pianist and surtitle coordinator with Cincinnati Opera since 2014, and was recently appointed music director at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Smyrna.

Director of media and public relations Jose Caballero, is an active performer and teacher, and is beginning his third season as a member of the Atlanta Opera Chorus as well as his engagements in performances by Capital City Opera.

The story of how Pool, Ting and Caballero came together as a team to create Vocal Arts Atlanta in the first place was as much a matter of old-fashioned serendipity as anything, each being in the right place at the right time, with mutually compatible ideas on their minds.

Pool and Ting were introduced last November by composer Carrie Magin, when Ting led the Georgia Tech symphonic band in a concert of music by all-female composers, in which one of her works was performed. Magin was already friends with Pool, who provided her a place to stay during her visit. Once connected, Pool and Ting started talking about a mutually perceived need within Atlanta’s operatic and classical vocal community for expanded local opportunities for performance.

Primarily involved with symphony orchestras, Ting found her experience with Dallas Opera opened a new professional door for her. “There is a whole lot of repertoire and a real cool world for me to be exposed to,” says Ting. “I felt like we should bring back to the general public as well. So I had the idea , I think we should do something together think about it and she started talking to people and then she came up with this really cool idea of Vocal Arts Atlanta.”

Pool: “I would only talk to one person, one singer that I was working with. Jose happened to talk to that same person. He was in the Atlanta Opera Chorus and I was playing piano for that rehearsal. Jose came up to me at the break and he said ‘I hear you’re starting a new company. I want to be involved and I’m really excited about this’ and so we had a team. So that’s how we got together.”

In an e-mail, Caballero told ArtsATL of that encounter, “It was just meant to be. I had been thinking about starting a performance company and started asking my colleagues at the opera if they knew anything about how to start a non-profit. One of them mentioned that Valerie was thinking about starting something similar. That’s when I approached her and we realized our goals were aligned. When I first talked to her it was still just an idea, she had already met Chaowen. We started meeting regularly and creating a vision and figure out our purpose. Things just snowed-ball from there.”

The process moved quickly, incorporating Vocal Arts Atlanta as a non-profit in April, obtaining their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status by summer, and at last the organization’s first public presentation, the afore-described “Opera for Everyone: Who Has the Worst Day?” scheduled for this Sunday afternoon.

The mission of Vocal Arts Atlanta, as described by Ting and Pool in an informal meeting with ArtsATL last month, “is to expose under-served groups, including singers professional musicians and the audience member to a large variety of vocal arts repertory that includes song cycles, art songs, lieder, to operatic excerpts, or semi-production of operas or even orchestra songs. We deliberately made the name really broad. We’re not just another opera company here in town. We want to include a great variety of anything involving classical singing featuring classically trained singers.”

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