Musicians Hunt, Brady, Duke cite power of the human voice
The new conductors and accompanist for the Cascadia Chorale all speak of the exceptional power carried by the human voice.
“Singing is best for musicianship, even for instrumentalists,” said Terry Hunt, who was recently chosen as the chorale’s new conductor. “Conducting singers is all associated with the breath — it’s easier to create a blend and dynamics.”
Assistant conductor Michael Brady is enthused about vocal music and the opportunity to introduce people to music. “That is one of the most appealing aspects of this position — working with beginning musicians and getting them going in the world of music,” Brady said.
Pianist Marcus Duke, who’ll be the accompanist for the chorale, has a special affinity for backing up singers.
The three musicians bring some 150 years of collective music experience to the choir. Despite their main focus — Hunt is a guitarist and Brady and Duke are pianists — they all have an extensive background in choral music.
Hunt started singing in a church choir at the age of 10. “I always liked it, even though I pretended I didn’t,” he said. His wife, Pam — initially trained as vocalist as well as a violinist — convinced Terry to sing along in the car on road trips. When they lived in Japan, Terry joined a local choir and enjoyed singing music by Bach. “I figured if Japanese can sing in German, I can, too,” he said.
Since then, Hunt has focused on guitar — from classical to rock to jazz — but also on conducting. He conducted the Pipestone Orchestra for 10 years and the Okanogan Valley Orchestra for six, often directing music for combined orchestra and choir. He composed a Gloria for orchestra and singers and hopes to reprise some movements with the chorale.
Brady has sung with the Cascadia Chorale for 16 years, and will continue to do so when he’s not conducting. Hunt will fill his spot in the bass section when Brady takes the podium. Brady was the piano accompanist for his high school choir, sang in the college choir and glee club, and toured the Soviet Union with a Russian chorus in law school.
Years ago, Duke was substitute organist for dozens of church choirs in New York City (when the regular organists took summer vacation), although he’s devoted the bulk of his long career to jazz and jazz-fusion.
It’s too early to announce a program for this year’s holiday concert — the chorale directors are still consulting with Matt Armbrust, conductor of the newly renamed Methow Valley Orchestra (formerly the Pipestone Orchestra) — but all have exciting ideas, including choir pieces from the Renaissance, works by 20th-century composers, traditional carols, and “feel-good music about love,” said Hunt. They also hope to program jazz, folk or gospel numbers and to feature guest singers.
As assistant conductor, Brady will select and conduct one piece. He’ll also offer musicianship training for the choir, working on sight-singing, rhythm and reading music.
When he first bought a house here, “one of the things that really impressed me was the number of musicians, singers and pianists who get together to produce a concert for the community,” said Brady, who said that was a big factor in his decision to make the valley his home.
Duke moved to the valley two years ago and has been heard around town with The Marcus Duke Project, a four-member jazz ensemble. Before moving to the Methow, Duke spent eight years doing session work and recording in Los Angeles, and several decades playing original jazz, world music, reggae and calypso in Seattle.
Dana Stromberger, who conducted the choir for eight years, will rejoin the alto or tenor section. The chorale has been a part of the Methow music scene for more than three decades.
The chorale meets weekly on Mondays at the Methow Valley United Methodist Church from 7 to 9 p.m. Rehearsals start on Sept. 16. All singers are welcome.