ChoralNotes, January 2019

In this issue…

  • Coming up next... Hear the Future! It's the 20th Anniversary of our annual invitational choral festival!

  • And shortly after, our first ticketed concert of the spring season: I Could Write a Book featuring guest artist, Grammy Award-Winning Kim Nazarian!

  • SAVE THE DATE: Our 23rd Annual Gala, Some Enchanted Evening

  • Meet long-time Chamber Choir member, tenor Wayne Ashley!

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Meet the Singers: Wayne Ashley

Wayne has been a longtime member of the Houston Chamber Choir. He wows audiences with his smooth voice and connection to the music. When he's not singing with the Chamber Choir, however, Wayne is busy! Read below to find out more about him.

Grace Roman: Hi Wayne! Tell us more about when you first joined the Houston Chamber Choir and how you found out about the organization.

Wayne Ashley: I first learned of the Houston Chamber Choir when I was a student at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. They were performing a concert with jazz legend Dave Brubeck. Sadly enough, I actually never made it to the concert because I had a rehearsal at the same time!! But hearing how amazing it was from my friends, I sure made it to the next one, and was immediately interested in auditioning for the group.

GR: You've been able to experience some incredible concerts during your time with the Chamber Choir! Any favorites?

WA: Wow, there really are a whole bunch, and I can say with honesty that I have some special moments in every season. But a few that stay with me would be the entire process of performing the pieces on soft blink of amber light, and then recording the CD. To be part of an ensemble that recorded a whole CD of new, 21st century choral works. I love that project and listen to it frequently. And performing the Duke Ellington Sacred Concerts with members from his original band. Trumpeter Barry Lee Hall was the band leader for Ellington’s small band, and he’s passed on since then. That whole moment was beyond special for me. And OOOH just this season performing the incredible ballet with METdance!! Ok, better stop there because this question is dangerous.

GR: We know you keep yourself busy! What do you do outside of the Chamber Choir?

WA: Yes! Well I work at the University of Houston in the wonderful Department of English, and I am a member of the choir at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. And I am a member of Cloudburst Vocal Jazz Ensemble. That’s music-type things, and I also write a blog called Texas Leftist which covers local and national politics, and you might even catch me on Houston Matters as part of their Good, Bad and Ugly panel. I also just started my very first podcast, called Ingressive Voices. That’s most of the stuff, I think.

GR: Tell us more about the ensemble that you founded in 2015, Cloudburst! Is jazz a particular passion of yours?

WA: Oh, yes… I was raised on Blues and Jazz music. My grandfather and uncles used to love playing music from Delta Blues legends like Sonny Boy Williamson, Roosevelt Sykes and Muddy Waters. My uncle Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes is a Zydeco and Blues musician over in New Orleans. Between church and family gatherings, music has always been a big part of my family, and something I have always been drawn to.

GR: So you must be excited for our upcoming concert, I Could Write a Book! What should audience members expect from this concert? Anything we should know in particular?

WA: Kim Nazarian is basically everything!! From her silky, smoky soprano voice to her incredible Jazz skills, I’m really trying to temper my excitement for this concert. And I love the arrangements that she and Bob have selected for us. But the excitement level for this concert… I mean, if I talk about it much more, we will have issues. To quote Oleta Adams, Get Here if you can!!

GR: There is still a huge spring season ahead of the Chamber Choir! What else are looking forward to during the remainder of this season?

WA: Yes, our very next concert Mass Observation promises to be an incredible event. I am a huge fan of Tarik O’Regan, and this collaboration is going to be a special experience for us all.

GR: We're getting back into the swing of things after the holidays! What's one of your favorite holiday traditions?

WA: For my second year, I have had the opportunity to celebrate Kwanzaa. Given how crazy busy all of our lives can get during the season, Kwanzaa is a holiday festival which offers important time for reflection and evaluation, and I found that to take on a very special meaning as I welcomed in 2019. So it is definitely a new tradition which I hope to perpetuate in the future.

GR: It will soon be spring in Houston! As a long-time Houstonian, do you have any favorite things to do around the city? Favorite restaurants, attractions, etc.?

WA: Houston is a city which is constantly reinventing and rediscovering itself. I never cease to see wonder and complexity. I am FAR from a professional photographer, but one of my favorite activities is to take a bike ride to a new part of the city, and take photos along the way. As for favorite places, right now I would have to say the International District in Southwest Houston. Seeing so many people of different, diverse cultures come together and form a harmonious community never ceases to astound me.