Reviews & Acclaim



"Conspirare: Seeing the Joy You Hear," by Robert Faires, Austin Chronicle, March 6, 2009.

"Conspirare special to air on PBS stations across the US," by Jeffrey Blair on Classically Austin 89.5's blog


Founder and Artistic Director

"I have long held Craig Hella Johnson in high esteem as an inspiring artist and compassionate, nurturing person. His incredible musical ear, beauty of choral tone, and innovative programming have been a hallmark of his choral work." –Conductor Anton Armstrong (May 2007)

“… your presentation of that music was stunningly magnificent. You have taken my work and have raised it to the highest level I have ever experienced. I sat absolutely spellbound while listening to your exquisite performance … It was as though you had read my mind and knew exactly how to interpret my thoughts.” –Composer Frank Ferko, on a performance of his Stabat Mater (May 2005)

“Your understanding of the piece and the loving attention to detail are manifest in virtually every measure of the work and you clearly inspired your group to a remarkable level of choral achievement.” –Composer Dominick Argento, on a performance of his Walden Pond (May 2005)

“Craig Hella Johnson … made a strong showing as guest conductor … he drew a nice intensity out of the players … the performance never let up its concentration.” (On a performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 1, with the Austin Symphony Orchestra.) –Austin American-Statesman (October 2004)

“With the opening orchestral section, music director Craig Hella Johnson set the tone … he provided gentle but firm flow to the familiar format of recitatives, arias and choruses.”
(On a performance of Mendelssohn’s St. Paul, with the Houston Masterworks Chorale.) –Houston Chronicle (March 2003)

“No question about it. Craig Hella Johnson is a genius … (he) deserves special notice for his courageous and insightful musical choices.” –San Antonio Express-News (December 2003)

“It’s our great fortune, not because Johnson is such a fine conductor (which he is) or because he has made such interesting choices in programming (which he has), but because the man has more damn charm and amiability and basic “welcomingness” than just about anyone you can imagine.” (On a performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana, with Ballet Austin and Austin Symphony Orchestra.) –The Austin Chronicle (June 2000)

“… by the middle of the rehearsal conducted by Craig Hella Johnson, I put my score down, and by the end of it I was in tears, unable to speak to the chorus or conductor. I believe that CHJ has understood my music in a way that I have never experienced before. He is a great musician who understands everything about the music he conducts. He is rare, and I felt fortunate to be able to finally hear what I had always dreamt about.” –John Corigliano, Grammy & Pulitzer Prize-winning composer (January 1997)

“Johnson showed an astonishing focus and command of the material.” (On a performance of Verdi’s Requiem.) –The Austin Chronicle (June 2008)

“Johnson has never not delivered an emotionally resonant performance. But with his Verdi Requiem … he created a singularly majestic moment.” –Austin American-Statesman (June 2008


2008-09 Season (to date)

“It’s time to declare it: Conspirare is Austin’s most original classical music group … Conspirare kept the audience captivated. These are singers so dedicated and in love with what they do their devotion spills from the stage.” –Austin American-Statesman

2007-08 Season

“Elegant and provocative. Virtuosic singing.” –Houston Chronicle

“… pumping, racing rhythms of ecstatic joy. Austin’s celebrated company of voices mined the powerful feelings deep within the music and released it to the air with striking force.” –The Austin Chronicle

“… an effort of extraordinary quality . . . alternately energetic and ethereal . . . exquisite tuning and balance.” –Austin American-Statesman

“The performance was fearless and exciting … the audience sighed in delight before applauding.” –The Austin Chronicle

“As the first full concert by Conspirare in the Long Center, the Verdi Requiem was a stunning achievement, one that showcased once again the ensemble’s mastery of the most challenging choral music and Johnson’s remarkable skills as a conductor and an interpreter of great choral works.” –The Austin Chronicle

2006-07 Season

“This amazing group was well in control of the complex music.” –Austin American-Statesman

“The singers’ joyful noise filled the chapel and moved the crowd to standing ovations and calls for encores.” –San Antonio Express-News

“Few experiences in this world can equal the exquisite pleasure of hearing an impeccable chorus performing first-rate music in an ideal acoustical setting, under gifted leadership. In other words, Conspirare.” –San Antonio Express-News

2005-06 Season

“Listening to Conspirare’s performance was like rolling on a great sea, its majesty and depth inspiring awe.” –The Austin Chronicle

“…Conspirare firmly yet gently enveloped the listeners and created a community of artists and audience. Conspirare’s many voices might be pure in tone and beautifully polished, but in this concert they sounded particularly human while singing of sorrow, acceptance and joy.” –Austin American-Statesman

“Craig Hella Johnson has done it before and he proved it again: he guided Conspirare flawlessly through Orff’s rollicking roller-coaster ride.” (On a performance of Orff’s Carmina Burana, with Ballet Austin and Austin Symphony Orchestra.) –Austin American-Statesman

2004-05 Season

“Conspirare allows spirits to soar … this was the most invigorating and satisfying concert `I’ve ever experienced at Riverbend.” –Austin American-Statesman

“… this extraordinary troupe, probably the nation’s best chorus.” –San Antonio Express-News

“… sang performance gloriously.” “The performance was a reminder of how superb ensemble singing can be.” –Houston Chronicle

“… the best moments in the second half achieved remarkable levels of concentration and a kind of mystical melding of the minds of poet, composer, conductor and singers.” –Austin American-Statesman

2003-04 Season

“Perfection. What else can we say about Conspirare? It’s not fair. Arts critics should sue Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare for leaving us with virtually nothing to criticize in their blemish-free performances.” –Austin American-Statesman

“Singing a cappella, as it did most of the evening, Conspirare created a kind of unearthly atmosphere.” –Dallas Morning News

“The piece and the performance were both astounding … considering the nature of the program and especially considering the glowing, even searing intensity of the evening’s best moments, one must acknowledge that the Conspirare singers are among the very best. Period. –Austin American-Statesman

2002-03 Season

“… simply remarkable. If Craig Hella Johnson and the members of Conspirare have a certain stamp of uniqueness, it is their ability to turn their sheer vocal power to brilliant distilled quietness that still resonates as if the roof were shaking. Brilliant, as in a diamond’s brilliance … breathtaking … clear and sharp, still retaining all that power … from its mood-bending vocal abilities to its buoyant charisma.” –The Austin Chronicle

“Less than one minute … I wept. It was the unsullied musical grace that can only be achieved through closely combined human voices … virtually impeccable performance … momentous experience … sound melted into immaculate sound … he and Conspirare are not angels, just mere mortals with saintly voices.” –Austin American-Statesman

“Conspirare's performance … engulfed like a sudden preternatural shower of light. The voices invoked a throat-tightening, hold-your-breath awe. It was like witnessing an aural tightrope dance … these luminous voices … there was only the expert hands of conductor Craig Hella Johnson, who played the 30 voices in Conspirare as if they were a single seamless instrument.” –The Austin Chronicle


Threshold of Night: Music for Voices and Strings by Tarik O’Regan (2008) – Nominated for two Grammy Awards, including Best Classical Album

“The success of these works is due in so small part to the technical and interpretational skills of Conspirare, Craig Hella Johnson and the Company of Voices. Their performance is ravishing throughout.” –Gramophone/BBC (November 2008)

“Conspirare is one of America’s leading vocal ensembles, and it’s easy to hear why in these superb performances.” –International Record Review (September 2008)

“Glowing reports have been floating north about the Austin-based professional choral ensemble Conspirare. Sure enough, this new CD reveals a 37-voice group lovingly polished by artistic director Craig Hella Johnson.” –Dallas Morning News (September 2008)

“Needless to say, the performances are first rate. This choir has an established reputation for excellence and has taken to O’Regan’s music as if it were created just for them (which some of it was!).” – (August 2008)

Requiem (2006) – Nominated for two Grammy Awards

“… the performances by the Austin-based Conspirare “Company of Voices” are exemplary in every technical respect; and the 2005 recording is all that one would expect from its venue, the renowned Troy (New York) Savings Bank Music Hall.” –Fanfare (Fall 2006)

“… let us take note most especially of a magnificent recording by the chorus Conspirare.” –International Choral Bulletin (2006)

“… I just know that I am going to gush most unbecomingly as I praise the gorgeous sound, the impeccable balance and intonation, the careful and thoughtful shaping of phrases, the delightful choice of repertoire, the supportive engineering, and so much more. Surely the Howells has never received a finer performance.” –Letter from composer Daniel Gawthrop (May 2006)

“Requiem” offers the ear – and the soul – a balm for the turmoil within.” –The Austin Chronicle (April 2006)

through the green fuse (2005)

“Craig Hella Johnson has assembled and molded a first-rate choir to be respected as highly as the best we have had. In comparison with the Robert Shaw Chorale, Johnson brings his singers closer to the emotional center of the texts, and gets them to display an accuracy of intonation that Shaw could never achieve. The overall sound and personality of Conspirare brings to mind the zenith years of the Gregg Smith Singers and their wonderful performances of Irving Fine, William Schuman, Charles Ives, and Samuel Barber. This ensemble shares the older group’s impeccable musicianship, as well as their high spirits and flawless intonation.” –Fanfare (Winter 2005)

“It’s dense with the qualities that make Conspirare such an astounding choir … sounds that are achingly lovely ... the singing rings with the natural clarity and ineffable beauty of crystal … found here in the artistry of this celestial chorus.” –The Austin Chronicle (January 2005)

“Artistic quality-10. Sound quality-9. The choir truly lives up to its professional credentials, with a consistently high standard of ensemble coordination, expression, and mastery of detail … a genuine treat for choral fans.” – (January 2005)

“This is simply gorgeous choral singing … The choir achieves near-perfect interpretive consensus and vocal ensemble, with stiletto-sharp intonation and unearthly tonal beauty … incredibly smooth, spacious, and detailed sound … really good music … But in an often ugly and arbitrary world much of this music takes me to my warm and peaceful inner place, helping me to forget the world’s travails and my own. And that, to me, is priceless.” –American Record Guide (May/June 2005

© 2009 KLRU