The Best of the Best: Durham’s Vocal Arts Ensemble Marks its 10th Anniversary
Fans of choral music will find ample reason to stay home the weekend of June 24-25 as Durham’s Vocal Arts Ensemble marks its tenth anniversary with what will surely be one of the year’s most important programs. The main event, in Duke Chapel on Sunday June 25, features an extraordinary lineup that includes a world premiere and a significantly augmented choir, since all 110 or so singers who have ever sung with the VAE have been invited to return for the grand finale, Steven Sametz’s “I have had singing.” The premiere, “Love Song,” was commissioned from Canadian composer Imant Raminsh; it is, VAE Artistic Director Rodney Wynkoop advises “a lovely setting for chorus and violin of a poem by Rilke.” Also on the program is a reprise of Thomas Tallis 40-voice motet “Spem in alium” and, the Maestro reports, at least one piece from every concert given in the past ten years. Pianist David Heid will accompany, assisted by a host of distinguished artists, named in our calendar listings.
The Vocal Arts Ensemble of Durham was founded in 1996 by Rodney Wynkoop to provide superior choral performance opportunities for outstanding singers in North Carolina’s Triangle region (Durham, Chapel Hill, and Raleigh). According to Wynkoop, “Even ten years ago, there were so many excellent singers who were in one or another of the choirs that the temptation to put some of them together in one new, smaller choral ensemble was just irresistible. The 32 singers who are selected to sing with VAE include some professional musicians but most are in a variety of other occupations, including doctor, attorney, accountant, scientist, and writer.
“VAE’s mostly a cappella repertoire ranges from the Renaissance to the present and has included such diverse and challenging works as Shoenberg’s Friede auf Erden, Penderecki’s Agnus Dei, and MacMillan’s Cantos Sagrados. In addition to presenting its own concerts, VAE has performed regularly as part of Duke University’s Summer Music series, at Hinshaw Music’s annual Celebration, and for the national convention of the American Choral Directors Association, in February 2005 in Los Angeles. In previous years they were chosen to perform at the ACDA Southern Division Convention in 2000 (Orlando) and 2004 (Nashville) and appeared at the NC-ACDA Fall Conference in Greensboro in 2002.
“The VAE’s first CD, My Spirit Sang All Day, was released in 2004 on the Arsis label ( [inactive 6/07]).”
(We are grateful to the Director of University Choral Music at Duke for his assistance with the preparation of these notes – and for the superb music making he contributes to the cultural life of our community!)

(Portions of this news item will appear in Independent Magazine 6/21/06)