Kansas City's Grace And Holy Trinity Cathedral 'An Instrument' For Saint Louis Chamber Chorus

Nov 11, 2016

The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, celebrating its 61st season, performs about six concerts a year in St. Louis, Missouri. This Saturday, the choral group sings on the other side of the state at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Kansas City. 

Artistic director Philip Barnes, a native of Great Britain, has been at the helm since 1989.

"I think that what we have tried to do in the last few decades is move particularly toward the a cappella repertoire, carving that niche for us," Barnes told Kansas Public Radio's classical music director Michael Keelan. "And also, we've done our best to champion new music." 

The chorus has traveled to dozens of different sites in the St. Louis area, but rarely performs outside that city. In 2015, they performed in Kansas City, Missouri, for the first time. 

"We have about 44 or 45 members ... from graduate students all the way to heart surgeons, and that's not hyperbole," Barnes said. "And the challenge of getting that many people on a tour is just about insurmountable."   

But a city like Kansas City, "full of its own wonderful choirs and choral traditions," is only a few hours from St. Louis, said Barnes. He described how a venue such as Grace and Holy Trinity can also play a role in the overall sound of a performance. 

"I like to think of the building almost as an instrument in itself," Barnes said. "We try to choose music that's not just appropriate in terms  of the traditions of the building, but also the architecture and the acoustic qualities of it. I'd rather work with a building, instead of against an acoustic.

"I've chosen music from our current repertoire that I think complements the cathedral in Kansas City." 

Saint Louis Chamber Chorus, Saturday, November 12, 5 p.m. at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. (corner of 13th and Broadway), Kansas City, Missouri. 816-474-8260. 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.