About Conspirare

CON = with
SPIRARE = to breathe
CONSPIRARE…to breathe together

Now in their sixteenth year, Conspirare was born out of a love for singing and a belief in its power to enrich the lives of all who hear it. Under the leadership of esteemed Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson, Conspirare is known for emotionally evocative singing and an extraordinary ability to connect with the audience, providing listeners with a meaningful and often transformative cultural experience.

“Conspirare means to breathe with or to breathe together,” explains Johnson. “It is what we do together as a choir. Breath is the one thing we all share as human beings. We think of breathing with our audience, both in the literal sense and in a symbolic sense -- seeking that sense of understanding and continuity and finding common respect for everyone in the human community.”

Conspirare garners rave reviews, awards and international acclaim for its refined artistry, virtuosity and expressive singing. In 2005, they were honored with the Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence presented by Chorus America. In August 2008, Conspirare performed at the Eighth World Symposium of Choral Music in Copenhagen – the only choir from the United States to have been invited to this prestigious event.

Conspirare’s CD release Requiem received two 2006 Grammy nominations including one for Best Choral Performance. The choir’s most recent CD, Threshold of Night, featuring the works of Tarik O’Reagan, received two 2008 Grammy Award nominations – Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance. The prestigious label, Harmonia Mundi released Threshold of Night, is rereleasing Requiem, and will produce and release the CD and DVD of A COMPANY OF VOICES.

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About Craig Hella Johnson

Renowned as one of the most influential voices in choral conducting in the United States, Craig Hella Johnson brings a depth of knowledge, artistic sensitivity and imagination to his programs. Founder and Artistic Director of the Grammy Award-Nominated choral ensemble Conspirare, Johnson has assembled some of the finest singers in the country to create a world class, award-winning ensemble committed to creating dynamic choral art.

In addition to his work with Conspirare, Johnson also serves as the Music Director Laureate and Conductor of the Victoria Bach Festival, an annual event that draws musicians and critical praise from around the country. Of Johnson’s performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Mike Greenberg of the San Antonio Express-News wrote: “Through all the amazing ebbs and flows of dynamics, the radiant balances, the seamless connection of episodes, the theatrically astute tempo relations, the unified structural arc, the music shone forth with organic naturalness. Nothing sounded fussed over. Everything just sounded right.”

Johnson served as Director of Choral Activities at the University of Texas in Austin from 1990 to 2001 leading the graduate program in conducting. He was Artistic Director of San Francisco-based Chanticleer from 1998-1999 and has served as guest conductor with the Austin Symphony, San Antonio Symphony, Santa Fe Symphony, Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, and the Berkshire Choral Festival. In 2008, Johnson was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame.

Praised by audiences and critics, Johnson’s programs are hailed as thought-provoking musical journeys. One unique aspect of Johnson’s programming is his signature “collage” style: through-composed programs that marry music and poetry to seamlessly blend the sacred and secular as well as the classical and contemporary. In 2006, he was engaged to create a special peace-themed collage program for the North Central ACDA convention. He was also engaged by the St. Olaf Choir to create and conduct a collage program during a five-week residency with the choir in the spring of 2007.

A composer and arranger, Johnson is an editor with G. Schirmer Publishing and is working on a choral series featuring specially selected composers, as well as some of his original compositions and arrangements. His works are also published by Alliance Music Publications.

A native of Minnesota, Johnson studied at St. Olaf College, the Juilliard School, and the University of Illinois and earned his doctorate at Yale University. As the recipient of a National Arts Fellowship, Johnson studied with Helmuth Rilling at the International Bach Academy in Stuttgart, Germany.

About A Company of Voices: Conspirare in Concert

Harmony, connection and community inform A COMPANY OF VOICES. The rich and resonant program includes twelve songs that take the audience on a journey of innovative sound, vibrant images and thought-provoking ideas. Among them, Craig Hella Johnson’s distinctive arrangements of Let the River Run (Carly Simon), Light of a Clear Blue Morning (Dolly Parton), A Thousand Beautiful Things (Annie Lennox), Requiem (Eliza Gilkyson) and What A Wonderful World (Robert Thiele & George Weiss); the rousing spiritual, Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel; Ennio Morricone’s haunting Gabriel’s Oboe; and two major television premieres, What If from award-winning American composer Eric Whitacre’s new musical, Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings; and He Shall Arise, the third movement from dynamic young British composer Tarik O’Regan’s Triptych.

The thirty Conspirare singers are joined by internationally acclaimed cellist Bion Tsang, internationally celebrated oboist Ian Davidson, dynamic, young percussionist Thomas Burritt, six of Burritt’s talented University of Texas protégés and double bass player, Marcos Machado. Conspirare’s vocal soloists include the extraordinary sopranos Melissa Givens, Kathlene Ritch, Nancy Curtis, Stephanie Moore and vibrant alto Wendy Bloom.

A COMPANY OF VOICES is a production of KLRU, Austin, Texas, executive producers, Dick Peterson and Marion Lear Swaybill. Karen McLaughlin is the director and Jeff Peterson is the producer. The CD & DVD has six additional songs. The DVD includes two special features – an in-depth interview with Craig Hella Johnson and Midge Woolsey and a round table with the Conspirare singers and Craig Hella Johnson. Both features also include rehearsal footage and music.

© 2009 KLRU