New choral conductor will multitask in upcoming show

By From page B1 | November 30, 2012

VALLEJO — Andrew Brown is taking on an ambitious project in his new role as conductor of the Vallejo Choral Societies.

On Dec. 9, he will conduct the Vallejo Choral Society, Vallejo Symphony and Campanelli Children’s Chorus in Benjamin Britten’s “Saint Nicolas Cantata” (featuring tenor Steven Ziegler), Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria” and many traditional carols.

Brown started out as a clarinet player, working his way through college as a musician. He studied choral and instrumental conducting.

Choirs are his passion. But he’s happy conducting in both roles, despite some differences in how each is handled.

“(Working) with instruments, you need more sense of rhythm. Instruments need to be clear and precise. With a choral group, you have more fluidity. It’s more about shaping the phrases (being sung),” Brown said.

Singers deal with the text, bringing in their feelings about life. Their instrument is their voice.

Instrumentalists think about the music in context and their part in the piece. For example, a violinist can play the instrument with an angry, happy or sad tone, he said.

“And if they are good, they can fake it,” Brown said. “A singer can rarely fake it.”

Brown believes everyone can sing, just not professionally. He said that shouldn’t stop people singing along. In fact, they should sing.

“Singing is an outgrowth of being alive,” Brown said. The human brain is wired to do so, he said.

For the Vallejo show, Brown has thoroughly researched the Britten piece and the real Saint Nicholas.

“There are a lot of interesting stories about his life,” Brown said. “He was generous to the poor and was devoted in his faith.”

The show will also feature a mix of Christmas carols, including some from Russia and England.

The Vallejo Choral Society was established in 1917.

“It has a lot of depth,” Brown said.

He has plans for Solano County to become more involved in the future.

“Concerts are so invigorating for the singers,” he said. “The high a singer gets can live on for weeks and weeks.”

At the same time, attending such an event can make people “feel like they belong to something special,” Brown said.

Brown is also on the staff of the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir, Holy Names University Preparatory Music School and Vallejo’s Community Presbyterian Church.

In 2003, he served as a conductor with the Pacific Boychoir Academy, which participated in a Grammy Award-winning recording with the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus.

He also performs with several groups, including the San Francisco Choral Artists and the Philharmonic Baroque Chorale.

Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.


Tales From the Winter Hearth

  • 3 p.m. Dec. 9
  • First Presbyterian Church, 1350 Amador St., Vallejo
  • 653-6827, 643-4441
  • www.brownpapertickets.com/event/292112
  • www.vallejochoral.org
Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey

Amy Maginnis-Honey joined the staff of the Daily Republic in 1980. She’ll tell you she was only 3 at the time. Over the past three decades she’s done a variety of jobs in the newsroom. Today, she covers arts and entertainment and writes for the Living and news pages.

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