The mission of the Kalamazoo Singers is to inspire and enrich the community through quality choral programming.
The Kalamazoo Singers is a choral ensemble of approximately fifty voices. All members are admitted by audition and include some of Southwest Michigan’s finest singers.
The prime objective of the Kalamazoo Singers is to perform quality music from the opera, operetta, musical theatre, and choral repertoire. The group typically performs three or four major concerts per season, with additional appearances for community groups.
The group’s commitment to excellence began in 1976, under the direction of Mel Ivey, when the group performed as the opera chorus in the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra / Michigan Opera Theatre production of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”. The members of the chorus enjoyed their participation so much that discussions were started which eventually led to the formation of the Kalamazoo Singers. It was agreed that not only would the group continue as an opera chorus, but that it would also branch out into other repertoire. The group remained under the direction of Mel Ivey until 1979, when Thomas Kasdorf took the helm. Thomas Kasdorf directed the group for thirty years, retiring in 2009, after which the Kalamazoo Singers Board of Directors granted him the title of Music Director and Conductor, Emeritus.
The Kalamazoo Singers has many musical credits to its name. The many operas the group has performed include:
- Bizet’s “Carmen”
- Gounod‘s “Faust“
- Mascagni‘s “Cavalleria Rusticana” / Leoncavallo’s “I Pagliacci”
- Menotti‘s “Amahl and The Night Visitors”
- Puccini’s “La Boheme”
- Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”
- Puccini’s “Tosca”
- Puccini’s “Turandot“
- Strauss‘ “Die Fledermaus”
- Verdi’s “Otello”
The Kalamazoo Singers has also formed the core of several large community choruses for concerts in collaboration with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, including:
- Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
- Gospelfest (1992)
- Home for the Holidays (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003)
- The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra 75th Anniversary (1997)
- The Verdi Requiem
The Kalamazoo Singers has been honored to be the first group to perform on the “Concerts In The Park” Summer concert series every year since the inception of the series in the Summer of 2000. The series, presented by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo and the City of Kalamazoo, is generously funded by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, and is held at the Kalamazoo Rotary Club Stage in Bronson Park.
Just one day after the Kalamazoo earthquake of May 2, 2015, the Singers, joined by Fred Sang and the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus, once again moved heaven and earth in a performance of John Rutter’s magnificent and moving Mass of the Children, complete with a professional chamber orchestra, in the beautiful First United Methodist Church on Bronson Park.
In the spring of 2009, the Kalamazoo Singers collaborated with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra in a performance of “Video Games Live”, described as “an immersive event created by the game industry featuring the best game music performed by top orchestras and choirs combined with synchronized lighting, video, live action and audience interactivity… the first and most successful video game concert tour in the world!”.
In the fall of 2009, the Kalamazoo Singers collaborated with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Jeremy Koch and Denene Mulay Koch, and the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus, in a pops concert featuring selections Broadway shows such as “South Pacific”, “Big”, “The Music Man”, “Hairspray”, and many more.
In the spring of 2008, the Kalamazoo Singers presented a “Festival of Music for Voices, Brass and Organ”. The concert featured brass ensembles, organ and chorus in a variety of combinations of sacred music from various periods of music history. Janlee Richter, organist at Kalamazoo First Presbyterian Church, played the 63-rank Casavant organ in the sanctuary of First Presbyterian. In advance of the concert, a new Trompette en Chamade rank was installed (in honor of Thomas Kasdorf and his many years of service as Director of Music at First Presbyterian) and was featured in works on the concert program.
In the fall of 2007, the Kalamazoo Singers collaborated with the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music . The concert featured both the Kalamazoo Singers and the Kalamazoo Children’s Chorus Touring Choir, under the direction of Fred Sang. Two of the featured compositions were Leonard Bernstein‘s “Chichester Psalms” and Ralph Vaughan Williams‘ “Song of Thanksgiving”. The Vaughan Williams composition was written to commemorate the end of World War I, and the Bernstein work was composed for the 1965 Choral Festival, sponsored by the Chichester Cathedral in Chichester, England.
The Singers performed during the “Taste of Portage”, the opening event of the Summer Entertainment Series, in the spring of 2006. The series, presented by the City of Portage and the Portage District Library, is sponsored by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and is held at the Overlander Bandshell in Central Park.
In the fall of 2005, the Kalamazoo Singers performed a “Concert in a Garden of Glass” (in conjunction with the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts “Chihuly in Kalamazoo” exhibit of works by Dale Chihuly).
In the spring of 2005, the Kalamazoo Singers participated in the world premiere of Gwyneth Walker‘s “Love Flows From God” with the Kalamazoo First Presbyterian Church Adult, Westminster and Youth Choirs, as well as the Western Michigan University Brass Quintet. The composition and performance were commissioned by the Kalamazoo First Presbyterian Church, in honor of the 75th anniversary and rededication of its Gothic Sanctuary. The composer of the piece, Gwyneth Walker, participated in the final rehearsals, gave a workshop, and attended the performance in Kalamazoo.
In the spring of 2004, the Kalamazoo Singers performed a concert of French choral music from 1850-1950 (in conjunction with the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts “Millet to Matisse” exhibit of paintings from 1850-1950).
In the spring of 2001, the Kalamazoo Singers performed the Michigan premiere of Benjamin Britten‘s “The Company of Heaven” with members of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.
In the fall of 2000, the Kalamazoo Singers participated in two performances of the Faure Requiem with the Kalamazoo First Presbyterian Church Adult Choir and members of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. The performances commemorated the 30th anniversary of the installation of the magnificent 63-rank Casavant organ at First Presbyterian.
In the fall of 1997, the Kalamazoo Singers participated in the world premiere performances of Andrew Carter‘s “Beauty for Ashes” with the Kalamazoo First Presbyterian Church Adult Choir and members of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. The composition and performances were commissioned by the Kalamazoo First Presbyterian Church, in honor of Thomas Kasdorf and his many years of service as Director of Music at First Presbyterian. The composer of the piece, Andrew Carter, participated in the final week of rehearsals and attended the performances in Kalamazoo.
The Kalamazoo Singers was honored during its 1985-1986 season to perform in Indianapolis before the Central Division of the American Choral Directors Association, and in October 2014 at the Fall Conference of the Michigan Chapter of ACDA in Flint.