ChoralNotes, May 2018

In this Issue...

  • Looking ahead: celebrating the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein at Tonight, Tonight Won't Be Just Any Night with his daughter, Jamie Bernstein
  • Meet Houston Chamber Choir tenor, Jeffrey Ragsdale!

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Meet the Singers: Jeffrey Ragsdale

Jeffrey Ragsdale has been a member of the Houston Chamber Choir almost since it's very founding! Needless to say, he has been a wonderful, dedicated member and asset to the Choir. Manager of Operations Grace Roman sat down with Jeff and got to know him a little better this week!

GR: When did you begin singing with the Houston Chamber Choir and how did you discover the organization?

JR: In August 1998, my voice teacher, Jeanette Lombard, told me about Chamber Choir. Straightaway, I auditioned for Bob, and in September of that year began singing with the group.

GR: What have been some of your favorite memories and highlights from your time with the Chamber Choir?

JR: It all happily blurs together, really. My first rehearsal with the group was right out of college, where in my life in choir, I was used to working for months at a time on a few pieces of music. At that first Chamber Choir rehearsal, we sight-read everything for our first concert of the season in one go. It was a revelation to me, and that practice session of 2.5 hours felt like twenty minutes. Duke Ellington's Third Sacred Concert in 2009 stands out to me as does the collaborations with Dave Brubeck, Peter Phillps, Alex Blachly, Paul Hillier, Maria Guinand, Elena Sharkova, Anton Armstrong, and all the others. The trip to Piccolo Spoleto in 2006 was very nice, and singing at the Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales was brilliant. The ACDA National Convention performances in 1999 and 2013 were wonderful.

GR: Favorite concert this past season?

JR: All of them. I can't choose just one.

GR: Favorite choral piece of all time? Or top 3?

JR: The 'Sacred Service' of Ernest Bloch is not performed often enough. Ligeti's 'Lux Aeterna' deserves by our group to be performed, and Rautavaara's 'Vigilia' would be a most-worthy mountain to climb.

GR: What other kind of music do you like to listen to?

JR: I recently discovered the 'Sleepy Man Banjo Boys'. Those guys are virtuosic, to put it mildly (https://youtu.be/OxfS4vOV3IQ). Ornett Coleman's 'Free Jazz' is remarkable, and I'm pretty much open to anything else.

GR: Do you sing anywhere else in town?

JR: I am one of the staff singers at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston and one of the members of the professional choir at Temple Emanu- El. I am also a substitute cantor at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

GR: Favorite thing to do or place to go in Houston?

JR: I enjoyed myself at Houston Roller Derby a few weeks ago. The Museum of Fine Arts is world-class, and the Villa de Matel is like walking out of Houston and into another country.

GR: Do you prefer cake or pie?

JR: I love a good carrot-cake and Italian cream-cake.

GR: What should our patrons know about our last concert of the season? Which piece are you looking forward to the most?

JR: The music is accessible, tickets are cheap, there is plenty of free parking, and we will not hold you hostage in terms of time or late ending-hour. And, how often does one get to listen to Leonard Bernstein's daughter talking about her dad?

[Interview conducted by Grace Roman on May 2, 2018]