Conspirare’s Big Sing! was Big Fun!
Austin-based Conspirare includes two adult vocal ensembles: Community of Voices with professional members from around the US and Symphonic Choir with 100 auditioned professional and volunteer members from Central Texas. The group has recorded several critically-acclaimed albums, was featured in a PBS special, and has received several Grammy nominations. A release party for their latest recording, Samuel Barber: An American Romantic, will be held this Wednesday over at Waterloo Records. Conspirare also has two youth choirs.
I knew that Conspirare periodically holds these free community sing-a-longs, “where the audience is the choir,” but had never attended a Big Sing! before. Symphonic Choir members were scattered throughout the audience to provide guidance and support. Ushers handed out some packets of printed music which were helpful, but not required, since all of the song lyrics were displayed on the front screen. The music was easy enough so that even non-singers and non-music-readers could participate and enjoy themselves.
Conspirare director Craig Hella Johnson was quite entertaining as a conductor, as a voice instructor, and as a commentator. He chose a wide range of musical styles for us to sing, ranging from folk to gospel to Broadway to classical. My favorites were “Edelweiss” (continuing my recent obsession with The Sound of Music) and an abridged version of the “Hallelujah Chorus.”
This particular Big Sing! doubled as a sound test for the soon-to-be-opened Topfer Theatre at Zach Scott. At times we were instructed to face different walls or adjust our singing volume for acoustical testing. I know nothing about sound engineering but 500 voices raised together in song sounded awesome in that theater.
Zach’s Artistic Director Dave Steakley spoke about the new large and flexible theater space. Stadium seating means that every seat has a good view of the stage and seats can be removed to create an orchestra pit, allowing for more elaborate musical productions. Some finishing work such as touch-up painting and minor tilework remains to be completed before the grand opening celebrations planned for later this month.