By Libby Parker
How is a recipe for a really good cake like a recipe for a successful chamber singing group? Well, for the cake, you need a high-quality wire whip, the finest ingredients you can obtain, and a big mixing bowl. For the chorus, you need a top-notch director, a good mix of talented musicians, and a space for the community to come to share in their joy of singing.
The Camerata Emanon is just such a group, founded in 1999 by a collection of singers and a director who “thought it would really be nice to have a group to look at a cappella music.”
At the time, the Mendelssohn Chorale and the Bach Choir were the big choral organizations in Rockford, but Rulee Stallmann, a recent winner of the Rockford Area Music Industry (RAMI) Lifetime Achievement Award, wanted to head up a small chorus that would sing without accompaniment (a cappella).
Stallmann had spent two years teaching in London as part of the Rockford College study and teaching abroad connection with Regents College.
“I was extremely inspired by the choirs I heard in England,” she recalled.
When Stallmann returned to the States and to teaching her music classes at the college, she met with singers in the faculty and the community, some of whom had been in the larger groups but were ready for the new challenges of participating in a smaller chamber choir. The new chorus could not come up with a name, so “Camerata Emanon” was born: “Camerata” from “camera” — Italian for “chamber” — and “Emanon” (read it backward).
Like the original camerata in the 16th century, this group of musicians meet to socialize, plan and rehearse for the purpose of performing.
Asked how she selects her music, Stallmann said: “I try to think about a focus for a program. Then, I do a lot of research.”
This past January, the singers performed an ambitious selection of music in a program meant to inspire the listeners for the new year ahead. They performed “Singet,” one of J.S. Bach’s most complex motets for double choir, another double-choir piece by the 16th-century composer Sweelinck, and more works including songs from the very contemporary Eric Whitacre and Morten Lauridsen.
Deb Dew, a founding member of the chorus, thinks the group has grown in the 12 years it has been singing together.
“I think we have much more depth of talent,” Dew said. “We’re larger, so we can sing more divisi.” This means there are enough singers to split into not just soprano, alto, tenor and bass parts, but further subdivisions in each part required for works such as those of Whitacre, an immensely popular composer of choral music who is composer in residence at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, U.K.
Another original member, Ginny Hatwich, agrees with Dew.
“We’ve included a variety of cultures and languages,” Hatwich said. This is apparent in their upcoming concert scheduled for May 5 titled “Music: The Universal Language.” Stallmann has selected folk songs from 14 countries that will be sung in nine different languages.
Camerata Emanon has many linguists among them, including tenor Brian Gustafson, who coached the choir in both Swedish and Swahili. Others helped with French, Yiddish, Chinese, Latvian and Spanish.
The program promises “a rich, diverse choral program opening windows on the hopes, memories, loves, losses and dances of people from the Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia and all parts of Europe.”
Many songs will be sung unaccompanied, and other works will feature accompaniment from instrumentalists Trish Rooney, piano; Becky Glover, flute; Rachel Handlin, violin; Michael Beert, cello; Ed Pawelski, percussion; and several chorus members doubling on piano, percussion and guitar.
The concert will be at 7:30 p.m., May 5, at Unitarian Universalist Church, 4848 Turner St., Rockford. Admission is $10 and $5 for students.
From the May 2-8, 2012, issue