Choral Artists want historic church to be permanent home

Published July 28, 2014 10:57 am
Music • S.L. Choral Artists picks up the tempo in quest to purchase a building.
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Salt Lake Choral Artists isn't just a choir.

It's seven choirs under one umbrella, for starters.

But singing is only half the story. SLCA also conducts a busy schedule of classes, workshops, retreats and outreach activities for interested singers and conductors at varying levels of proficiency. One of its signature offerings is the Summer Choral Institute, which for the past seven summers has brought together ad-hoc groups of adults and teens to perform choral masterworks, as well as lighter fare, after intensive three-day rehearsal sessions.

"It's not just performing," SLCA artistic director Brady Allred said of his group's mission. "It's training people to sing better and to be better musicians and better members of the community."

The group has been headquartered in a former LDS meetinghouse in Salt Lake City's Marmalade Hill neighborhood the past three years — an arrangement SLCA is striving to make permanent. If Allred and Co. can raise $500,000 toward the building's $1 million purchase price, the Salt Lake City-based Benjamin Foundation, named for the Book of Mormon king who exhorted his people to help those in need, will pitch in the difference. The group is almost halfway there, but a deadline is looming: SLCA must reach $400,000 by Aug. 31.

"That will give them another year to earn the last $100,000," said The Benjamin Foundation's Jan Garbett. "There is great urgency there. … To continue on, they have to get to that marker."

Jane Fjeldsted would rather not contemplate the alternative. The former secondary-school music teacher and Mormon Tabernacle Choir veteran has found a new musical home with SLCA, which she terms "a complete choral music organization." In addition to singing in Salt Lake Vocal Artists, the organization's elite touring choir, Fjeldsted is SLCA's associate conductor, directs the men's and women's choirs, and oversees the entity's many educational offerings. (The organization also includes a 150-voice concert choir, 50-voice chamber choir, and ensembles of children and teens.)

"If we don't get this building, where are we going to do all of this?" she said, adding that finding a new place to house SLCA's six pianos, music library, rolling whiteboards and other educational materials would be another tricky task.

On a quick tour of the facilities, Allred pointed out the two main offices, upstairs studios, two downstairs rehearsal rooms, conference room, music library and the onetime chapel that now serves as SLCA's main rehearsal space. The footprints of the building's most recent occupant, the Cooper/Roberts architecture firm, remain in the form of holes in the chapel's carpet where cubicles used to stand. Allred hopes to renovate the space further so it can be used for performance and recording. His ambitious plans also include international choral festivals.

SLCA's strong educational mission was a strong selling point for Garbett and her husband, Utah homebuilder Bryson Garbett. Jan Garbett, who sang in SLCA's concert choir for five years and hopes to rejoin when her schedule permits, also praised the diversity of the organization's membership and the breadth of its choral offerings.

"It's an exciting variety — from the Beatles to Rachmaninoff's 'All Night Vigil,' " she said. "This is not your average community choir."


Pitching in

For more information on Salt Lake Choral Artists' capital campaign, visit http://www.saltlakechoralartists.org/support.


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