Our History & Philosophy
San Francisco Lyric Chorus is an auditioned, medium-sized, mixed-voice chorus that performs a diverse repertoire with an emphasis on classical choral music and rarely performed works. We are an inclusive and welcoming community of singers, committed to excellent musicianship and creative programming.
1st Season (1995-96)
August 1996 brought a performance of Sacred Music of the 20th Century, centering on the Duruflé Requiem, Herbert Howells’ Te Deum and Magnificat Collegium Regale, Charles Villiers Stanford’s Beati Quorum Via, and Herbert Górecki’s Totus Tuus.
2d Season (1996-97)
3d Season (1997-98)
4th Season (1998-99)
Summer 1999 featured Giuseppe Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces, Columba aspexit and O ignis spiritus by Hildegard von Bingen, Gabriel Fauré’s Messe Basse, Francis Poulenc’s Quatre Petites Prières de Saint François d’Assise, and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs.
Summer 2000 brought our biggest summer yet--All American Music, including Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Missa Brevis; Charles Ives Psalm 67, Kirke Mechem’s Blow Ye The Trumpet, Aaron Copland’s Promise of Living and Simple Gifts; and four American hymns arranged by Alice Parker: Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal, Wondrous Love, Come Away To The Skies, and Saints Bound for Heaven.
Spring 2001 featured The New Choral Sound--music from the end of the 20th century: Arvo Pärt’s Cantate Domino and The Beatitudes; William Albright’s Chichester Mass; Javier Busto’s Salve Regina; John Tavener’s Hymn to the Mother of God ; Morten Lauridsen’s Dirait-on from Les Chansons des Roses and O Nata Lux from Lux Aeterna; David Conte’s The Waking; and Kirke Mechem’s Island in Space.
Summer 2001 centered on two popular favorites: Mozart’s Mass in C Minor and Bach’s Magnificat. In celebration of the year of our 5th anniversary, we splurged to engage the well-known Jubilate Baroque Orchestra and outstanding soloists Jennifer Ellis and Catherine Webster, sopranos, Scott Whitaker, tenor, and Tom Hart, bass, with our own singers, Barbara Greeno and Carol Mersey, performing the alto solos.
9th Season (2003-04)
Spring 2004 brought performances of Antonín Dvorák’s Mass in D, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his death, and Zoltán Kodály’s Laudes Organi, his last published work. In Summer 2004, we presented a concert of Calm and Passion, featuring Charles Marie Widor’s Mass, Op. 36, Selections from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s All Night Vigil: Blagoslovi, dushé moyá, Ghóspoda; Blazhén Muzh; Svéte Tíhiy and Bogoróditse Dévo ; Rachmanininoff’s Bogoróditse Dévo and Cherubic Hymn No. 8, as well as Joseph Jongen’s Mass, Op. 130.
Our Spring 2006 program was titled American Spiritual Landscapes, and featured Ernest Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service), as well as our first commissioned work--Illinois composer Lee Kesselman’s This Grand Show Is Eternal, settings of texts by naturalist John Muir. In addition, we performed Charles Ives’ Sixty-Seventh Psalm, and two works by San Francisco composers: Kirke Mechem’s Give Thanks Unto The Lord and Ludwig Altman’s Choral Meditation. We concluded our anniversary year celebration in Summer 2006 with performances of Michael Haydn’s rarely performed Requiem and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ profound Dona Nobis Pacem.
Spring 2007 brought our program: Kaleidoscope: Different Cultures/Different Voices, in which we performed music from around the world: Lee R. Kesselman’s Shona Mass and This Grand Show Is Eternal; Juan Pérez Bocanegra’s Hancpachap Cusicuinnin; Gaspar Fernandes’ Xicochi Xicochi Conetzintle and Tleicantimo Choquiliya; J. David Moore’s Annual Gaudia; Chen Yi’s Arirang and Sakura; Zhou Long’s Words of the Sun; Stephen Hatfield’s Nukapianguaq; James Mulholland’s My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose and Highland Mary; Josef Spivak’s Ma Navu, and Se Enkhbayar’s Naiman Sharag (Eight Chestnut Horses).
13th Season (2007-08)
In Fall 2008, we celebrated the restoration of the Trinity Episcopal Church E.M. Skinner organ, performing the Britten Festival Te Deum and selections from the Louis Vierne Messe Solenelle with The Trinity Choir. Our Fall program included the entire Vierne Messe Solenelle, as well as Heinrich Schutz’ Hodie Christus Natus Est; Michael Praetorius’ In Dulci Jubilo and Psallite, Robert Pearsall’s In Dulci Jubilo; Javier Busto’s Ave Maria and Ave Maria Gratia Plena, Virgil Thomson’s O My Deir Hert, Ned Rorem’s While All Things Were In Quiet Silence, William Bolcom’s Carol, John Rutter’s Shepherd’s Pipe Carol, and Randol Bass’ Gloria.
Spring 2010 brought a concert of secular music with the theme Music Expresses, taken from a Victor Hugo quotation. The works included Music Director Robert Train Adams' setting of Music Expresses; Ralph Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music, Springtime of the Year, and Dark Eyed Sailor; Gerald Finzi's My Spirit Sang All Day, I Praise The Tender Flower, and Haste On, My Joys!; jazz pianist George Shearing's Music to Hear (settings of Shakespeare songs); Matthew Harris's Shakespeare Songs, Book I; Gustav Holst's I Love My Love; Jonathan Quick's arrangement of Loch Lomond; Halsey Stevens's Like As The Culver; Robert Pearsall's Lay A Garland, and J. David Moore's Searching for Lambs.
16th Season (2010-11)
Spring 2011 was a very special concert entitled Voices of Immigration: Stories From Our Chorus Members, Expressed Through Music. In Fall 2010, we asked those choristers who wanted, to submit stories about themselves and/or their families coming to America, whether currently or in the past. A number of choristers did so, including some whose families came in the 17th century, some whose families had to leave various countries and go to other countries during World War II, and some who are recent immigrants. We selected music inspired by those stories. We also printed the stories and poems in our program, and several choristers read from those stories. The chorus sang: William Byrd All As A Sea, Antonín Dvorák Songs of Nature, Gabriel Fauré Madrigal, Heinrich Isaac Innsbruck, Ich Muss Dich Lassen, Salamone Rossi Al Naharot Bavel, Robert De Cormier, arr. Dortn, Dortn, Stephen Hatfield, arr. Mayn Rue Platz and Take A Step, Ernst Toch Geographical Fugue, J. David Moore, arr. How Can I Keep From Singing, Donald Patriquin, arr. Ah! Si Mon Moine Voulait Danser and J’Entends le Moulin, Dale Warland, arr. Boyo Balu, and Janika Vandervelde Cançao de Embalar. A double quartet sang The Leaving of Liverpool, and soloists sang Dr. E.G. Villanueva (text) and Belen Manuel (music) Pilipinas Ang Bayan Ko , Fried de Metz Herman, transl. Wie Gat Er Naar Amerika Varen? and John F. Poole No Irish Need Apply. We were accompanied on some selections by piano, percussion, and violin.
Summer 2011 brought American Music. Our program, entitled An American Summer: The Old Testament in the New World, included: Aaron Copland In the Beginning, Randall Thompson The Peaceable Kingdom, and a selection of spirituals: William Dawson Ezekiel Saw De Wheel, Stacey V. Gibbs Way Over In Beulah Land, Jester Hairston Elijah Rock, Moses Hogan The Battle of Jericho, Undine Moore Daniel, Daniel, Servant of the Lord, and André Thomas Swing Down, Chariot.
17th Season (2011-12)
In Spring 2012, Founding Music Director Robert Gurney returned as Music Director. In our program, Modern American Voices, we performed poetry set by three American composers. We began with four of Aaron Copland's Old American Songs: The Boatmen's Dance, Little Horses, Long Time Ago, and Golden Willow Tree. These poems and ballads were the work of anonymous poets. Our featured work was New York composer John Corigliano's setting of Dylan Thomas' gorgeous Fern Hill. We followed that with three different compositions by the noted contemporary composer Eric Whitacre: Animal Crackers 1, in which he sets three light verses by the American humorist Ogden Nash; Five Hebrew Love Songs, settings of poems by his wife, the operatic soprano Hila Plitmann; and Water Night, an a cappella setting of a poem by the Mexican poet, Octavio Paz. We concluded with Aaron Copland's The Promise of Living from his opera, The Tender Land. The performances were accompanied by piano and string quartet.
August 2012 brought a very special opportunity as we collaborated with the Finger Lakes (New York) Choral Festival, conducted by Adrian G. Horn; the Redwood Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Eric Kujawsky, and 140 singers from over 30 local choruses as well as 60 more singers from New York in a performance of the Berlioz Requiem in San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall. San Francisco Lyric Chorus Music Director Robert Gurney directed the San Francisco rehearsals and the San Francisco Lyric Chorus handled the local publicity. Eric Kujawsky conducted the Requiem as well as the "Fanfare" from Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra, Lyric Chorus Music Director Robert Gurney conducted the combined groups in the Shepherd's Farewell from Berlioz's L'Enfance du Christ, and Adrian Horn conducted the groups in the Final Chorus from Boito's opera Mefistofele. Instrumental works on the program included Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture, conducted by Eric Townell, Music Director of the Rochester (NY) Oratorio Society.
18th Season (2012-13)
Spring 2013 brought Music of Eastern and Central Europe--wonderfully expressive, lyrical, sacred and secular music with an Eastern European flavor. Leos Janácek's Six Moravian Choruses are a choral setting of six of Antonín Dvorak's sparkling love songs for two voices and piano. We sang a variety of gorgeous works from the Russian liturgy: Sergei Rachmaninoff's Bogoroditse Devo, Dmitri Bortniansky's Cherubic Hymn, No. 7, Alexander Gretchaninoff's Our Father and Nunc Dimittis, Nicolai Kedrov, Sr.,'s Otche Nash, and an Easter composition, Angel Vopiyashe (The Angel Cried), attributed to Modest Mussorgsky. We also sang Canadian composer Sid Robinovitch's Prayer Before Sleep, the final movement of his Talmud Suite, as well as Franz Schubert's melodic and lyrical Mass No. 2 in G.
Lyric Choristers spent Summer 2013 in learning and performing one of the most beloved of the choral masterpieces--Johannes Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem.
19th Season (2013-14)
Spring 2014 had us look homeward with I Hear America Singing. We honored William Billings, the father of American choral music, by singing his patriotic song, Chester, his delightful I Am The Rose of Sharon, and his hymn for mariners, Euroclydon. We sang Harmonious Herbst, composer Alice Parker's arrangement of compositions by the American Moravian composer, Johannes Herbst. We sang the original drinking song that is the background of The Star Spangled Banner--John Stafford Smith's Anacreontick Song. We shared two of the most poignant songs of the Civil War--Lorena and Tenting on the Old Camp Ground. We battled the evils of liquor with Ralph Hunter's arrangement of Four Temperance Songs. And, we explored the creativity of contemporary American composers, singing Daniel Gawthrop's Night, Sleep, Death and the Stars (a setting of Walt Whitman text), Stephen Paulus' Afternoon on a Hill (text by Edna St. Vincent Millay) and The Day is Done (text by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), as well as three wonderful pieces by Eric Whitacre: The Seal Lullaby (text by Rudyard Kipling), This Marriage (text by Rumi) and little tree (text by e.e. cummings).
In Summer 2014, Lyric Choristers sang the beautiful Duruflé Requiem, as well as the dramatic and exciting Mass by 20th century Belgian composer Joseph Jongen.
20th Season (2014-2015)
Fall 2014 brought special music for the holidays. Holiday Light and Love featured the delightful Messe de Minuit pour Noël by French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Norman Dello Joio's The Holy Infant's Lullaby and Conrad Susa's Three Mystical Carols brought contemporary sounds to Christmas text settings. Christmas time also is about light and love. The Chorus sang settings of O Nata Lux by 16th century English composer Thomas Tallis and contemporary American composer Morten Lauridsen. We also sang 20th century French composer Maurice Duruflé's and contemporary Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo's settings of the beloved text about love and charity, Ubi Caritas.
April 2015 brought the first concert of our 20th anniversary year. Our Spring 2015 concert was called Looking Back: American Music Highlights from Our First 20 Years. Chorus members selected their favorite works from our 20 years of repertoire, and Music Director Robert Gurney fashioned a beautiful program from those selections: Aaron Copland's The Boatmen's Dance and The Golden Willow Tree; Alice Parker's Hark, I Hear The Harps Eternal and Wondrous Love; Walter Kittredge's moving Civil War song, Tenting On The Old Campground; J. David Moore's arrangement of How Can I Keep From Singing?; two of Ralph Hunter's temperance song arrangements--Sparkling Water and Sign Tonight; Irving Fine's The Lobster Quadrille and Father Williamfrom Alice in Wonderland; Kirke Mechem's beautiful Blow Ye The Trumpet; David Conte's haunting The Waking; James Erb's ethereal arrangement of Shenandoah; Eric Whitacre's Water Night and Animal Crackers; and Stephen Paulus' Afternoon on a Hill.
Summer 2015 featured an incredibly special set of concerts. We continued celebrating our 20th anniversary, as well as celebrating the 100th anniversaries of San Francisco's 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition and Mission Dolores Basilica, in a concert titled Return To The Promised Land: Classical Choral Music of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. That concert featured selections from classical choral works popular in the 1915 San Francisco Bay Area: And The Glory Of The Lord and Hallelujah Chorus from Georg Frideric Handel's Messiah; Awake The Harp and The Heavens Are Telling from Joseph Haydn's Creation; Lift Thine Eyes and He, Watching Over Israel from Fellix Mendelssohn's Elijah; Wie Lieblich Sind Deine Wohnungen from Johannes Brahms' Requiem; the Pilgrim's Chorus from Richard Wagner's opera, Tannhäuser, and two very special compositions, American composer Amy Beach's anthem, the Panama Hymn, composed for the opening of the PPIE, and the first performance in the U.S. of Camille Saint-Saëns' oratorio, The Promised Land, since 1915's PPIE. Saint-Saëns conducted the American premiere and sole American performance of his oratorio on June 27, 1915, in the PPIE's Festival Hall. The work was performed in Paris in 1916, and then all the orchestral parts were lost. It was not performed again until 2001, in a performance by the BBC Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, conducted by Richard Hickox, as well as two performances by a French group in Paris in 2005. We were unable to find the instrumental parts we needed, but located Saint-Saëns' original full-score manuscript in Yale University's Beinecke Library. The Library had digitized it, so we were able to engage a young composer to create the parts we needed from that manuscript, letting Bay Area residents hear a live performance of that work for the first time since 1915.
21st Season (2015-2016)
Our Fall 2015 concert continued the celebration of our 20th anniversary with chorister-selected holiday favorites in a concert entitled Looking Back: Holiday Highlights from Our First 20 Years. Our concert included Kirke Mechem's sparkling Gloria, from his Three Motets; David Willcocks' delightful arrangement of Angelus Ad Virginem; the lovely Shepherd's Farewell from Hector Berlioz' L'Enfance du Christ; Marjorie Hess's pensive setting of Thomas Hardy's poem, The Oxen; Igor Stravinsky's beautiful Ave Maria; Basque composer Javier Busto's lush setting of Ave Maria, as well as his Salve Regina for women's voices; William Bolcom and Joan Morris' Carol, a setting of a text from Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows; Frank Ahrold's setting of the first verse of Edgar Allan Poe's poem, The Bells; Hal Hopson's arrangement of the Shaker hymn, O Shepherds, Aren't You Happy; Australian composer William James' carol, The Three Drovers; Bob Chilcott's ethereal Shepherd's Carol; John Rutter's lyrical What Sweeter Music, and wonderful settings by Steven Heitzeg and Eric Whitacre of e.e. cummings' poem, little tree.
Our Spring 2016 concert, Let All The World Sing!, included two works that we had not performed since our first concert in October 1995, the serene Fauré Requiem and Fauré's beautiful setting of a morning prayer, the Cantique de Jean Racine. In addition, we presented Benjamin Britten's dramatic Festival Te Deum and Ralph Vaughan Williams' lyrical settings of English poet George Herbert's mystical poems, Five Mystical Songs.
Summer 2016's concert, the sounds of war... the pleas for peace brought the performances of two masterpieces for our time: Joseph Haydn's stirring Mass in Time of War and Ralph Vaughan Williams' profound Dona Nobis Pacem, complete with soloists, string quintet, organ, and timpani.
22nd Season (2016-2017)
Fall 2016 was fun! Brush Up Your Shakespeare: Four Centuries of Songs & Sonnets commemorated the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. We sang wonderful Shakespeare texts set by his contemporaries to our contemporaries, including Robert Jones' Farewell, Dear Love; J. David Moore's beautiful setting of Fear No More The Heat Of The Sun, set to a Philip Rosseter melody; two selections from Henry Purcell's The Fairy Queen--Hail! Great Parent and They Shall Be Happy, both from masques Purcell created to be performed within A Midsummer Night's Dream; Felix Mendelssohn's Ye Spotted Snakes from A Midsummer Night's Dream; Jaakko Mäntyjärvi's Four Shakespeare Songs; and George Shearing's Songs and Sonnets from Shakespeare. We couldn't let the holiday season pass without celebrating the 70th anniversary of Mel Tormé's and Robert Well's Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire. And, we treated our audiences to a short course in music history with Craig Courtney's A Musicological Journey Through The Twelve Days of Christmas. We gave our first encore in our 21 years of performing. What could it have been? Why, Cole Porter's Brush Up Your Shakespeare!, of course!
For our Spring 2017 concert, Celebrate! Choral Masterpieces from Central Europe, we explored the works of two Central European masters--Antonín Dvorák and Zoltán Kodály. We experienced the joy of Dvorák in his delightful, folk-music inspired Six Moravian Songs, arranged for four voices by Leos Janacék. We continued Dvorák's folk-music inspired exuberance in his celebratory 1892 Te Deum. We concluded our program with Zoltán Kodály's profound 1944-1945 Missa Brevis, subtitled tempore belli, i.e., in time of war, a work of resilience and hope created during a time of absolute horror--the late 1944-early 1945 50-day World War II Siege of Budapest.
Our Summer 2017 program, Summer of Light: The Transcendental Choral Music of Verdi, Whitacre, Gjeilo and Esenvalds featured the dramatic Giuseppi Verdi Four Sacred Pieces, Eric Whitacre’s mystical Sainte-Chapelle, lyrical Glow, and ethereal Lux Nova, as well as Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s haunting Northern Lights and melodic The Ground, from his Sunrise Mass. The chorus also performed Latvian composer Eriks Esenvald’s magical Stars, complete with choristers accompanying on tuned water-filled wine glasses!
23rd Season (2017-2018)
Our Fall 2017 program, What Cheer?: Mostly Modern Takes on the Holiday Season, put us in the mood for the holiday season, as we sang the ever popular Gloria by Francis Poulenc and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols. We also sang several smaller jewels, including Vaughan Williams’ delightful Wassail Song, the beautiful Franz Biebl Ave Maria, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s ethereal Bogoroditse Devo from his All Night Vigil, William Walton’s joyous What Cheer?, and Stephen Jackson’s wonderful arrangement of the French carol Noël Nouvelet.
Spring 2018 brought a concert of beautiful music and gorgeous poetry in Between Earth and Sky: Songs of Nature and Humanity. Our featured work was Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb, set to the poetry of Christopher Smart. We also sang Britten’s Spring Carol from his beloved Ceremony of Carols. We continued our exploration of works by the contemporary composer triumvirate, Ola Gjeilo, Eriks Esenvalds, and Eric Whitacre, performing Gjeilo’s Tundra for women’s voices, and Across The Vast Eternal Sky, Esenvald’s The Cloud, set to the poetry of Sara Teasdale, and My Song, with words by Rabindranath Tagore, as well as Whitacre’s gentle Seal Lullaby, set to the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. In addition we sang Ralph Vaughan Williams’ wistful Linden Lea, Charles Villiers Stanford’s Chillingham and The Blue Bird, two pastoral settings of poetry by Mary Coleridge, Z. Randall Stroope’s In Time of Silver Rain, with poetry by Langston Hughes and The Pasture, Stroope’s setting of the beloved Robert Frost poem. We concluded with Norman Dello Joio’s exuberant A Jubilant Song, based on a poem by Walt Whitman.
In Summer 2018, our theme was Song of the Universal. Our featured composition was John Corigliano’s incredible Fern Hill, his setting of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’s reminiscences of his childhood visit to his aunt’s farm, and his musings on is own life. We turned to Eric Whitacre and his thoughts on love as we sang his Five Hebrew Love Songs, set to poems by his wife, Hila Plitmann, and This Marriage, with words by the poet Rumi. We also sang two longer works by Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo, Luminous Night of the Soul, and Song of the Universal, with text of the latter selected from Walt Whitman.
24th season (2018-2019)
Our Fall 2018 concert, Magnificat, brought music appropriate for the season. We performed exciting Magnificats by four different composers: Herbert Howells' Magnificat Collegium Regale, Arvo Pärt's Magnificat, George Dyson's Magnificat in D, and Bryan Kelly's Magnificat in C. In addition, we performed Robert Lucas Pearsall's gentle In Dulci Jubilo, Will Todd's beautiful Christus Est Stella and The Christ Child, and three of Philip Stopford's gorgeous works for the season: Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day, Lully, Lulla, Lullay, and Ave Maria. We also sang a wonderful discovery, Fr. Chrysogonous Waddell's Rosa Mystica, and concluded with Randol Alan Bass's dramatic Gloria.
Our Spring 2019 concert, Masterpieces of 20th Century Impressionism, presented the works of two impressionist masters, the French Romantic composer Maurice Duruflé and his English contemporary, Herbert Howells. We sang the beloved Duruflé Requiem, as well as his exquisite motet, Ubi Caritas and his serene prayer, Notre Père. Herbert Howells' compositions are impressionistic with some rumblings towards modernism. A Hymn for St. Cecilia has text by Ursula Vaughan Williams, poet and second wife of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Howells' 1941 anthem, Like As The Hart, gives a sense of jazz and the blues. His stirring and dramatic Te Deum Collegium Regale, composed for King's College, was the beginning of a revolution in Anglican church music composition.
Summer 2019 brought the incomparable Johannes Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem in an intimate version with piano accompaniment.