Getting to Know New Seattle Men’s Chorus, Seattle Women’s Chorus Artistic Director Paul Caldwell

Getting to Know New Seattle Men’s Chorus, Seattle Women’s Chorus Artistic Director Paul Caldwell

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Artistic Director Paul Caldwell
Artistic Director Paul Caldwell

Artistic Director Paul Caldwell has mighty big shoes to fill in August 2016 when he takes over the reins at Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus. As The Seattle Lesbian previously reported (Dennis Coleman on Seattle Men’s Chorus, Seattle Women’s Chorus and Leaving a Legacy), current Artistic Director Dennis Coleman will depart from the helm of his celebrated 35-year tenure with the Choruses later this season. In his place, an award-winning visionary from Chicago.

Recognized in 2008 with the Michael J. Korn Founders Award for Philanthropic Contribution to the Arts, Caldwell currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Chorus America. Caldwell is currently the artistic director for Windy City Performing Arts in Chicago. As such, he has provided renewed leadership and vision for both the Windy City Gay Chorus and Windy City Treble Quire. He is also artistic director for the Youth Choral Theater of Chicago, a community-based after-school program enrolling 200 young people in Chicago’s northern suburbs. Caldwell’s work with youth garnered national recognition, receiving the Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.

Caldwell composes and arranges music collaboratively with Sean Ivory. Their choral works have been telecast on PBS and A&E and performed at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, and throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Legendary guitarist Steve Vai recently collaborated with Caldwell and Ivory to create a choral-rock fusion song, Book of the Seven Seals.

Caldwell’s first concert at the podium will be for Seattle Women’s Chorus in October.

What are you most looking forward to as you step into this new role as Artistic Director for Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus?

In the choral field, Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus are legendary. I’m excited about being in a place where I can devote all my artistic energy to creating commentary on issues relevant to the LGBTQ experience.

How well do you know Dennis Coleman? Has Dennis offered any tips of the trade regarding your new role?

Dennis is a pioneer, a musical entrepreneur, and community builder, and a beacon. He’s established and maintained the standards by which other gay and lesbian choruses measure themselves. He has made the world a more beautiful place. He’s a true gift and I hope that I can do his legacy justice.

Caldwell came out to himself – and everyone else – while in Chicago.

I have spent over 20 years leading award-winning youth ensembles. I was out in my private life, but I hadn’t thought about intersecting my work life with being gay. The fall of 2010 changed all that. In the span of a few short months, the harassment of young gay people took on the character of a nightmarish epic. Like many others, I used itgetsbetter.org to take a stand. I came out to my Board of Directors and rallied my own youth chorus kids (which is not an LGBTQ chorus) to help me make a video. To my knowledge, this is one of only two submissions to the project by a youth chorus.

Three years ago, I was named Artistic Director of Windy City Gay Chorus and Windy City Treble Quire. This has become my greatest joy, an opportunity to be a more deeply rooted participant in the gay community. LGBTQ choruses are uniquely positioned to help singers and audiences explore and extend the public discourse about the issues that continue to impact us as members of a pluralistic society. We create moments that inspire people to change the world.

With life being so hectic for many, what can you share as the appeal of still going to the theatre?

Well, the question really points to the value of the arts in a community. As the Artistic Director for a community-based ensemble I think about the value and benefits that singing offers to the participants. It’s a source of joy, a place to do something you love while simultaneously developing a communal purpose, and a healthy intimacy with other people. I also believe choral performance offers audiences a chance to celebrate the places we’ve been, to laugh hysterically, and also a chance to mourn.

I showed up incognito for the Seattle Men’s Chorus holiday show at Benaroya Hall this past December. When 350-plus guys entered the room singing, I heard power and purpose. It was thrilling. I was so happy to be there, my eyes welled up. Even if I hadn’t been asked to be their artistic director, I’ll always remember that moment.

What show themes might viewers expect under your direction?

As I said before, LGBTQ choruses are unique in their ability to create thoughtful and meaningful dialogue about a shared, community experience. That’s special, and I look forward to giving my all to that kind of artistic discourse. In the coming generation, these conversations will include giving more and more attention to the fluidity of gender expression.

Are you familiar with Seattle? Favorite things you’re looking forward to/dreading about living here?

Dreading? Omigosh, no. I’m not dreading anything. I’m excited to get to know the choruses. I felt a real sense of sympatico when I worked with them in January. And the audience’s excitement when the choruses sing, that’s palpable. I’m looking forward to experiencing that as well. The Pacific Northwest will be a great adventure for me. I’ve been there are few times, but never spent significant time there. And orcas.

Caldwell is as down-to-earth as they come.

I’ll be new in town! And I don’t know anyone. Invite me out for coffee.

Details on remaining concerts in the 2015-2016 season are listed below.

Seattle Men’s Chorus
Everything Broadway – Seattle, McCaw Hall

A stage full of 250 fabulous men, gaily singing showtunes? It’s the concert they were born to sing! Let SMC be your colorful guide down the Great White Way for a show-stopping concert packed with songs from Broadway’s biggest hits and hidden gems. From classics of the Golden Age to today’s Tony award-winners, experience the dazzle, flair, and savoir faire that comes naturally to the boys of the Chorus. Celebrate Broadway with SMC’s definitive guide to showtunes.

Dates: 4/2/16, 8:00 p.m.; 4/3/16, 2:00 p.m.

Seattle Men’s Chorus & Seattle Women’s Chorus
Encore! Celebrating 35 Years with Dennis Coleman – Seattle, McCaw Hall

Celebrate the end of an era – the final concert under the baton of the incomparable Dennis Coleman. Together over 500 chorus members honor their shared past, present and future with a legend. They take a look back with a poignant sampler of Coleman’s favorite songs from the past 35 years. They sing of today with exciting new music written in Coleman’s honor.  And they look ahead with a fond choral farewell to a dear friend while also opening the door to an exciting new future.

Dates: 6/24/16 & 6/25/16; 8:00 p.m.

Subscription Packages: On Sale Now: $49 – $300.40
Individual Tickets: Tickets on sale to the General Public in the Fall of 2015:  $25-$75
Box Office: 206.388.1400, Mon-Fri, Noon-5:00 p.m.

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