If you Google “Puget Sound community chorales,” more than 100 groups pop up, from small Eastern European folk ensembles to the 250-member Northwest Girls’ Choir.
“Every sporting event starts with the national anthem. Everybody’s birthday gets the happy birthday song,” enthuses chorale conductor Mark Adrian. “People just have to sing!”
For one of his singers, Karin Rogers, singing satisfies a deep need.
“My family suffered a great loss in the death of our son,” she says. Her eyes well up, but her voice doesn’t falter.
“Since that time, these ways of finding peace have become incredibly important,” she says.
Rogers devotes much of her free time to making music. It’s a creative outlet for her and one of the places where she finds fellowship.
“Some of the secular songs my family had on a Firestone Christmas album of 1968, or whenever,” Rogers says. “That kind of takes me back to growing up and listening to the records on the phonograph.”
For Adrian, a sense of peace and grace are fundamental to singing.
“It’s all spiritual,” he says. “It’s like the heavens open up, all this harmony. It’s impossible to describe to somebody who’s not there experiencing it.”
Adrian is a cheery bearded man who leads four North Seattle choirs. Two are based at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, where Adrian is the music director. The other two groups are volunteer organizations.
He started out singing as a kid. “Then I took up piano and some band instruments,” he says.
He always believed he’d be an orchestral conductor. Then, in a story that sounds like it came straight out of Hollywood, Adrian’s life changed direction.
He was 20, the piano accompanist for a local choir. One day the conductor got sick and Adrian took over his baton. He loved it.
“You get in there, find out what it’s like and just take over,” he says laughing.
Adrian has never regretted the switch from directing instruments to conducting a vocal group.
“There’s something much more intimate, I think, about voices. And I think that’s what draws the singers,” he says.
Adrian’s 50-member Cantare Vocal Ensemble performs several concerts every year, but he says the Christmas concert is special. Adrian believes that, for Christians, there’s something primal about both the spiritual and secular music of the season.
The Cantare ensemble draws singers from around the area, including Rogers.
Tenor Marty Mullin has been part of the group for more than a decade. Every Tuesday during afternoon rush hour he treks from his home in Federal Way to a rehearsal in Seattle’s Maple Leaf neighborhood.
It’s a change of pace from his job as an operations and logistics manager for an industrial sales company.
“It’s a refuge,” says Mullin, who has been singing since he was a child. “The work I do is completely opposite. It’s really a refuge to come here, despite the traffic, which is pretty difficult for me.”
The Cantare ensemble’s annual Christmas concerts run Dec. 11-13.