Interviews with Albany Pro Musica Performers


Here, performers from Albany Pro Musica representing each of the voice parts share how they become interested in choral music—and what the experience of singing together means to them.

Jean Leonard, Soprano

Jean Leonard, Soprano

How did you first become interested in choral music?

“I’ve sung as a soprano with Pro Musica for 13 years. I first became ‘interested’ in choral music in first grade when my father decided I should be in the children’s choir at church. As I remember it, I wasn’t too happy as we marched into the rectory that day to sign up—and I’ve been singing ever since, so I think Dad gets some serious kudos.”

What do you enjoy most about singing with Albany Pro Musica?

“What I enjoy most about choral singing is the idea that we create something together that I cannot create alone. I have a degree in voice, and I’ve done some solo singing here and there. Solo singing is fun, and I enjoy it a great deal, but it’s an entirely different emotional experience than choral singing. There are moments when I’m singing with Albany Pro Musica that I am so moved by the blanket of sound I ‘feel’ around me. You just can’t get that when you sing alone.”

What has been your favorite concert performance?

“I’m not very good at choosing ‘favorite’ performances. There are points in almost every concert that I would like to freeze time and stay inside a particular musical moment. That said, our performance of the Brahms Requiem (spring 2008) was absolutely a highlight of my choral singing career. There were moments of transcendence…I’ll never forget it.”

What advice would you give new listeners?

“If you’re new to choral music, I would say TRY IT! Read the texts—they’re often wonderful, and knowing them gives you the opportunity to experience the music on a deeper level. That piece of advice aside, take at least a couple of moments to listen with your eyes closed. That’s my favorite way to listen. Less distraction. More focus. Great experience…”

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Alyssa Fluty, Alto

Alyssa Fluty, Alto

How did you first become interested in choral music?

“This is my second year singing with APM, and I’m loving it! I’ve been singing choral music for so long that I couldn’t even tell you how I first became interested in it. It’s just something I’ve been doing practically since birth. I love music and singing, and choral music is a great way for me to incorporate those loves into my life.”

What do you enjoy most about singing with Albany Pro Musica?

“I love the process of working with other passionate musicians to bring a piece to life. There’s nothing more amazing to me than listening to the progress a group of individuals make in readying a piece, taking it from that first (often scary!) read through to a polished, cohesive performance piece that’s fit for an audience’s ears.”

What has been your favorite concert performance?

“I was really shocked to discover how much I loved singing Thomas Tallis’ ‘O Nata Lux’ for the December 2008 holiday concerts. As someone who has been singing with various choirs for most of my life, I’ve had a lot of exposure to singing holiday music, and sometimes it can lose its punch for me as a result of overexposure. I’m always amazed when a piece of music feels new and fresh to me during the holiday season—especially when it’s a piece of music from the 16th century that’s made me feel that way!”

What advice would you give new listeners?

“Open your mind and your ears, and give us a shot! You may not love everything you hear, but you’re bound to be touched by something, in some way. Music is extremely powerful. You just never know what’s going to reach you until you give it a try.”

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Paul Nooney, Tenor

Paul Nooney, Tenor

How did you first become interested in choral music?

“I have been singing choral music as long as I can remember. I’m pretty sure the first time was when my 4th grade music teacher said I should join the select chorus…and my interest has only grown since then.”

What do you enjoy most about singing with Albany Pro Musica?

“I enjoy the beautiful sound this group of people can produce. Even when reading music for the first time, I’m still amazed at just how wonderful it sounds. And it only gets better from there to the concert.”

What has been your favorite concert performance?

“I really enjoy singing Handel’s Messiah. Having the opportunity to perform both the Christmas and Easter portions last year was great! Most people know the Hallelujah Chorus, but they have no idea what an amazing work the rest of it is!”

What advice would you give new listeners?

“Music, no matter what style, has a way of communicating to anyone. I’ve met many skeptics over the years, who after hearing Albany Pro Musica sing for the first time were hooked!”

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Colin (Chuck) Helie, Bass

Chuck Helie, Bass

How did you first become interested in choral music?

“I always sang in high school, and in my church choir when growing up. When I was a junior in high school, the music director at my church asked me to sing in the adult choir for a performance of the Duruflé Requiem. I’ve been hooked on choral music since then. This continued through college and beyond.”

What do you enjoy most about singing with Albany Pro Musica?

“Choral music offers the singer a unique opportunity to be a participant in something that is greater than the sum of its parts. When we reach that perfect blend—when we perform a piece the way it was intended to be performed, with all the sensitivity the composer put into the piece—for that instant in time a special something has taken place. For me it’s very real, very tangible.”

What has been your favorite concert performance?

“The Brahms Requiem in 2008 was absolutely one of the highlights of all my years in APM. We had a good length of time to prepare it, and David [Griggs-Janower] was able to impart to all the singers an understanding of the profound emotional impact of a great masterpiece. During the applause I felt that Brahms was in the room with us, and he approved.”

What advice would you give new listeners?

“I try to tell people not to compare one of our concerts with listening to popular songs. Classical music can take a bit more effort, but the reward is so much greater. The gamut of sounds in choral music might run from an early music madrigal to a jazz tune to a gospel piece to a huge choral and orchestral mass of music. There’s certainly something for everyone.”

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