Stunning vocal range, flexibility, drama, and power are among the hallmarks of the 39-year-old San Francisco Girls Chorus Premier Ensemble, recognized as one of the world’s most widely known and respected vocal ensembles for youth.
Under the direction of composer-performer Lisa Bielawa and Music Director & Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe, the Premier Ensemble has achieved an incomparable sound that underscores the unique clarity and force of impeccably trained treble voices fused with expressiveness and drama. As a result, the Chorus vibrantly performs 1,000 years of choral masterworks from plainchant to the most challenging and nuanced contemporary works created expressly for them in programs that are as intelligently designed as they are enjoyable and revelatory to experience. A leading voice on the Bay Area and national music scenes, the Chorus has produced award-winning concerts, recordings and tours; empowered young women in music and other fields, enhanced and expanded the field of music for treble voices and set the international standard for the highest level of performance and education.
The San Francisco Girls Chorus’ level of training, performance, quality, range, and leadership in commissioning music for treble voices are lauded by musicians, critics, and audiences. The Chorus has been awarded the music industry’s highest honors including five GRAMMY Awards and recognition for programming and highest artistic standards from ASCAP, Chorus America and others.
Frequent collaborator, San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas says, “The San Francisco Girls Chorus is a treasure. Their training, musicality, and vibrant spirit are evident whenever they perform. I have enjoyed our long association and look forward to many years of collaboration.”
During the upcoming 2017-2018 Season, the Premier Ensemble will present a three-concert subscription series in San Francisco at Herbst Theatre, Davies Symphony Hall, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. In February, the chorus makes its Carnegie Hall debut with Philip Glass and the Philip Glass Ensemble for a remounting of the composer's seminal 1971 work, Music With Changing Parts. The chorus will also present a co-production of Henry Purcell's Baroque operatic masterpiece, Dido and Aeneas, with the San Francisco Early Music Society and Voices of Music for the 2018 Berkeley Festival & Exhibition and again collaborate with the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, and Kronos Quartet.
Highlights from the 2016-2017 Season included the Chorus's debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with The Knights chamber orchestra for the acclaimed SHIFT Festival of American Orchestras. The Chorus also performed with the Kronos Quartet, for the ensemble's festival at SFJAZZ and appeared on stage with the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Film Festival, and the Golden Gate Men's Chorus. The Premier Ensemble also went back to the studio to record works by nine living composers, including Philip Glass, Lisa Bielawa, John Zorn, Meredith Monk, and Gabriel Kahane, with the Kronos Quartet for its forthcoming album, Final Answer, to be released in early 2018.
Other recent performance highlights include the inauguration for President Barack Obama; Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony with Gustavo Dudamel and Venezuela’s celebrated Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra; and the New York Philharmonic's Biennial Festival of New Music, at Lincoln Center. Recent touring activities have taken the chorus to Cuba, Berlin, Nordic countries, New York, Washington DC, and Oregon, for appearances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Oregon Bach Festival and the Britt Music Festival, with Teddy Abrams and the Britt Festival Orchestra.
Founded in 1978, the San Francisco Girls Chorus quickly became a regional center for choral music education and performance for girls and young women ages 5-18. Hundreds of singers from 46 Bay Area cities participate in this internationally recognized program, deemed “a model in the country for training girls’ voices” by the California Arts Council. The organization consists of a professional-level performance, recording, and touring ensemble; the four-level Chorus School training program; and a Preparatory Chorus for 4-7 year olds.
Honors and Awards
The San Francisco Girls Chorus has earned many honors, most recently being named Best Choral Group in the Bay Area for the 2016-2017 season by readers of San Francisco Classical Voice. Other awards include the prestigious Margaret Hillis Award and two ASCAP/Chorus America Awards for Adventurous Programming in 1999, 2004, and 2011.
The Chorus is invited annually to perform with musical organizations including San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and others. The Chorus has been honored to sing at many national and international venues, including the World Choral Symposium in Kyoto, Japan in 2005. SF Girls Chorus has been featured at the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) Western Division Convention in Salt Lake City, and represented North America in the prestigious World Vision Children’s Choir Festival in Seoul, Korea, and in the Gateway to Music Festival at the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing.