Sarasota Herald-Tribune: “Rise Up” for New Season

By Jay Handelman
September 11, 2020

With the theme of “Rise Up!,” Choral Artists of Sarasota plans to re-emerge from the coronavirus pandemic with a season of programs that will be presented virtually at first, then in outdoor venues with online options as well.

The choral group’s 42nd season will feature eight concerts from October through July, including the delayed “Listen to the Earth Project” that was planned for earlier this year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

That program, now slated for the weekend of April 23-25, will include a concert presentation of James Grant’s cantata “Listen to the Earth,” a keynote speech on the State of the Earth by Tony and Emmy-winning actress Jane Alexander, film screenings and panel discussions.

Throughout the season, Artistic Director Joseph Holt will host a series of virtual “Concert Insights,” about a week before each performance, to provide context and background to the programs. Special guests will be featured in each pre-concert conversation.

Like every other arts organization, Choral Artists has canceled or postponed its programs since the pandemic forced theaters to shut down in mid-March.

Holt said the organization “turned our entire planning for this season on its head, reflecting the need to maintain a healthy performing environment for both audience and performer alike.” The design of the “Rise Up” season, which was originally conceived late last year, “showcases overcoming challenges in life and society, certainly topical for our time in ways we did not envision but clearly embrace through the choral medium.”

He said the season will begin in October with virtual concerts and small ensembles of singers and instrumentalists who can be safely distanced. By April, he hopes to be able to bring the entire ensemble and instrumentalists together for “Listen to the Earth.”

All the season’s concerts will be filmed so that those not ready to venture out will be able to watch them for 30 days after each performance.

The season opens online at 4 p.m. Oct. 18 with “Out of Adversity: Embracing Our Differences,” a concert featuring works by Handel, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Barber and Poulenc as it explores societal adversity they faced as gay composers. The insight conversation will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 8.

“Spanish Flair,” at 4 p.m. Nov. 14, will feature music that captured the sounds of Spain by non-Spanish composers. It includes Schuman’s “Spanisches Liederspiel” for vocal quartet and piano. The conversation will be at 10 a.m. Nov. 5.

Choral Artists celebrates “Holiday Lights; Music of Christmas and Chanukah” at 4 p.m. Dec. 23 focused on how light plays a significant role in the music and traditions of both holidays. It features tenor Rafael Davila, who frequently appears with Sarasota Opera, and a performance of Ariel Ramierez’s “Navidad Nuestra,” which looks at the Christmas story through the eyes of indigenous people of Argentina. The pre-concert talk will be at 10 a.m. Dec. 10.

The ensemble will be “Marching to Freedom” at 5 p.m. Feb. 3 with a concert featuring gospel and spirituals and art songs by Black composers tracing the early days of slavery through the Civil War, Reconstruction and the struggle for civil rights. The live performance will presented outdoors at Historic Spanish Point, with an online replay Feb. 14. The concert insight will be at 10 a.m. Jan. 21.

Broadway performer and Sarasota actress and director Ann Morrison joins Choral Artists on Feb. 28 for “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” a concert featuring uplifting music from such shows as “Les Miserables,” “La Cage aux Folles,” “Carousel,” “A Chorus Line” “Wicked” and “Sweet Charity.” It will be presented outdoors at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens with a video replay available at 4 p.m. March 11. The conversation will be at 10 a.m. Feb. 18.

The chorus collaborates with choreographer Elizabeth Bergman for “Love is in the Air” at 4 p.m. March 28. She will create a new dance piece to the music of “Liebeslieder Walzer” by Johannes Brahms, joined by a vocal quartet and four-hand piano accompaniment. A pre-concert conversation will be held at 10 a.m. March 18.

The “Listen to the Earth” weekend will close the official season. A live performance of the cantata will be presented at 4 p.m. April 25, with an online replay at 4 p.m. May 6. The piece is based on an original libretto by Grant inspired by writings of NASA astronauts, astronomer Carl Sagan, environmentalist John Muir and poet Robert W. Service. It will feature baritone Marcus DeLoach.

Tickets for the season and more information are available at or by calling 941-387-4900.