Choral Stream

Music with Minnesotans: Dale Warland

Music with Minnesotans: Dale Warland


December 22, 2010
Dale Warland Singers
Dale Warland set a whole new standard in sound and blend with his ensemble that choirs everywhere attempt to match.
Greg Helgeson

Dale Warland is a name one associates with some of the greatest choral singing around.

His choir - the Dale Warland Singers - created a level of artistry over their 32 year life that included hundreds of concerts, more than two dozen recordings and the commissioning of many new pieces.

Dale "retired" from the choir six years ago, but his schedule is packed with teaching, consulting, giving masterclasses all over the country, leading the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's hand-picked professional choir and writing and arranging his own music.

He stopped by briefly at my request to share some of his most favorite pieces for this time of year - that never see to grow stale for him - and always present a challenge.

He has a story about recording John Gardner's "Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day" where the instrumentalists were actually behind a screen and playing completely by feel as they couldn't see Dale - though they heard the singers just fine. It's an amazing example of great ensemble technique.

Technique, blend, ensemble - all words that describe the spectacular quality that Dale Warland coaxes from his choirs. But he tells me that he wants most of the details to be part of the intuitive package of a well-trained singer, so that more of their time can be spent on the art of great music-making.

He looks for singers who have a voice that is well-trained but doesn't need to be the most polished, just one that has character and can communicate - and above all work well with others. Dale loves singers who love the choral experience.

We also listened to a haunting Song of Mary - the Magnificat by Estonian composer Arvo Part. It is other-worldly and demonstrates the way the organism of the Dale Warland singers breathes and sings as one. It is also a marvelous piece for this time of year, focusing on the young Mary and her response when told she will be the mother of God. Artists and composers have long dealt with this moment emphasizing a slightly different reaction and mood.

Dale finishes with a setting of "Lo, How a Rose" by Swedish composer Jan Sandstrom. He brought a different recording of this piece than his own, by the Swedish St. Jacob's Chamber Choir - a fantastic group that was also on another Music with Minnesotans' playlist, Philip Brunelle's!


Dale Warland's playlist:


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