Arts and Entertainment

For the love of song: Bellevue Chamber Chorus celebrates 30 years

The chorus performing at Bothell United Methodist Church during their holiday concert series. - Courtesy Photo
The chorus performing at Bothell United Methodist Church during their holiday concert series.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

They’re desk jockeys and work-a-days, game designers, lawyers, homebodies, doctors and accountants. They are male and female, young and old. A motley group, but a group united by one commonality: they all have a great set of pipes.

The Bellevue Chamber Chorus is in the midst of its 30th season, further cementing itself as a pillar of the Eastside arts community. The group was started in 1984 as an informal gathering of song enthusiasts seeking camaraderie. Within a few years of their foundation, the chorus formally incorporated and evolved into a semiprofessional organization. They’ve released three albums — the latest, “Christmas Visions, Winter Dreams,” came out at the end of 2013 — and performed at prestigious venues at home and abroad, including Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House.

“I think it has, over the last 30 years, become a more polished ensemble,” Debra DeFotis said.

DeFotis, the executive director of the chorus, has been with the group since its inception and was a board member for its first 15 years.

“I really didn’t have any idea (the chorus would make it to this point),” she said. “I knew we all wanted a group with longevity. But you never know what’s going to happen in life.”

The chorus proved to be a stable element. The group has consistently maintained a roster of about 30 singers, meeting weekly to practice at Bellevue Christian for most of its lifespan.

The chorus is presently preparing for the second of three concerts planned for the season. Brahms Fest takes place March 29 at the University of Washington and will be presented in collaboration with the Kirkland Choral Society. It will mark the first time the Bellevue Chamber Chorus has performed in Meany Hall, DeFotis said.

Artistic Director Fred Lokken said selecting performance pieces for any given season was an “enormous job” requiring distilling hundreds of songs down to fewer than 20 finalists.

“What the audience sees in a concert is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg,” he said.

Lokken has been the conductor for the chorus for 13 seasons and is the only paid member of the organization. He was hired shortly after completing doctoral work in the Netherlands. The conductor said the singers of the chorus were consistently committed to bringing the highest level of quality to their performances.

“Besides that, they’re just a fun, crazy group of people,” Lokken said. “I can’t remember one practice that didn’t break down in hysterical laughter.”

Brahms Fest will be followed by the concert In Praise of Music, to be held at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church May 31 and Newport Covenant Church June 1.

The chorus auditions new members throughout the year.

More information can be found at bellevuechamberchorus.net.

 

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