Passing the Baton

(Photo courtesy of Central Oregon Mastersingers)

New Artistic Director of Central Oregon Mastersingers Christian Clark

It’s quite fitting that Central Oregon Mastersingers’ (COM) first concert of the season under the baton of new Artistic Director Christian Clark will focus on the works of contemporary choral composers such as Eric Whitacre, Jonathan Dove, Will Todd and Daniel Elder. Each selection explores the concept of “light” and representations of new beginnings as well as endings; morning light, sunlight, twilight, evening light, starlight, moonlight; light shining like a diamond, a new dawn, a new age.

Collectively these young, passionate, inspired composers represent the new era of choral music… and Christian Clark is their contemporary. So it goes as the baton is passed from one generation to the next. By not only figuratively but literally passing the baton to Clark (who was hand-picked to succeed him) retiring COM Artistic Director Emeritus Clyde Thompson has assured that COM’s tradition of presenting stunning works of choral music with excellence will continue well into the future.

According to COM President of the Board Jeff White, “Christian Clark brings a friendly, approachable demeanor that exudes an infectious passion for choral music to the Artistic Director position, along with a perfect blend of high artistic standards, dynamic podium skills and a wide-ranging repertoire. We are thrilled to have Clark lead COM as we begin our next exciting chapter of exquisite choral music performance. We think he is absolutely the right person to build on Artistic Director Emeritus Clyde Thompson’s impressive legacy.”

Clark’s extensive resume includes multiple stints as musical director, music conductor and associate or assistant musical director with such venerable musical organizations as Sam Houston Opera (La Bohéme, La Traviata, and The Tales of Hoffman), Houston Masterworks Chorus (where he prepared choirs for and performed with the Houston Ballet and Orchestra), SHSU Concert Choir and Chorale and Holy Cross Lutheran Church plus additional rewarding work with multiple award-winning community and school choirs.

Not only highly accomplished as a choral conductor, Clark excels as a tenor soloist. He has performed internationally as a soloist singing works of Mozart and Mendelssohn, among others. Favorite operatic roles include Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Nemorino in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore and Tamino in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. In Texas (while earning degrees in vocal performance plus a masters in choral conducting) Clark performed as a soloist with Sam Houston State University Chorale and Symphonic Choir plus Houston Masterworks Chorus in works including Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, Beethoven’s Mass in C and Choral Fantasy, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass and Mass in Time of War, Bach’s Cantata No. 140, Dubois’s The Seven Last Words of Christ and Mozart’s Requiem.

Clark is currently serving as choir director at Nativity Lutheran Church in Bend, and is a founding member of Bend Camerata. He will be conducting Bend’s Cascade Chorale for winter and spring terms 2018 while CC Artistic Director James Knox is on sabbatical. And if all that isn’t enough he will be singing the ethereal O Holy Night tenor solo for Cascade Chorale’s Holiday Magic concert at the Tower Theatre this December — just one week before conducting COM’s own holiday concert at The Tower Theatre (Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria, performed with chamber orchestra and soloists.) Whew! When not directing or singing, Christian and his wife Audrey (a fabulous soprano) stay busy raising three young children. In true Bend fashion, they also have a dog.

A celebration of the 20th anniversary of Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, along with other works exploring the topic of “light” by contemporary choral composers including Eric Whitacre, Jonathan Dove, Will Todd and Daniel Elder; featuring guest organist Dr. Barbara Baird on pieces by Jean Langlais Saturday, October 21 at 7:30pm and Sunday, October 22 at 3pm at Nativity Lutheran Church, 60850 Brosterhous Rd., Bend. $20 general admission online or at the door; students free with ID.

Dr. Baird is professor of organ and harpsichord at University of Oregon School of Music and Dance. She will play selections from two pieces by renowned organ composer Jean Langlais (1907-1991): from Three Characteristic Pieces I. Pastoral – Prelude, III. Bells and from Neuf pieces, Chant de joie (Song of Joy) and Chant de paix (Song of Peace).

Now in their thirteenth season, Central Oregon Mastersingers comprise many of the area’s finest singers who share a common passion for the best in choral music. Their repertoire spans musical eras (12th to 21st centuries) and styles, from catchy arrangements of popular music to major masterworks for chorus and orchestra. Over 150 singers have participated in the choir since its inception, and the group has collaborated with numerous ensembles and performers including the Sunriver Music Festival, Cascade Chorale, Central Oregon Symphony, Youth Choir of Central Oregon, Bells of Sunriver, Eugene Vocal Arts Ensemble and several of the area’s finest jazz musicians.

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