Classical Music

Ten of Denver's Best Choirs That We Can't Wait to Hear Live Again

It's hard times for choral music.
It's hard times for choral music. St. Martin's Chamber Choir
Between social distancing guidelines, bans on concerts, and the general hazard of gathering together in a shared space and singing, choirs have had an unbelievably tough year. Most have gone dark; a few have performed outdoors or masked in empty theaters; many have sung online only. Lest they be forgotten as we enter the holidays, when they would normally be caroling and belting out Handel's Messiah, we thought it was high time, in the middle of such a low time, to tip our hats to ten of the best singing groups Denver has to offer.

Kantorei is a group of volunteer singers led by Joel M. Rinsema and founded in 1997 by artistic director Richard Larson and six friends. The group has doctors, optometrists, accountants, realtors, church-choir conductors and more, who all come together for the love of song. Back in 2018, the singers released their first international recording, Infinity: Choral Works of Kim Andre Arnesen, that reached number two on iTunes’ best-selling classical-albums list, number six on Billboard’s traditional classical charts, and number nineteen on Billboard’s classical charts. You can listen to the group's music at Spotify.

Colorado Choir
A nonprofit organization founded in 1976, the Colorado Choir is an a cappella group that has belted out the national anthem at plenty of Denver Broncos and Colorado Rockies games. Since 2009, Kelly Parmenter has been this choir’s conductor and artistic director. She has also conducted the choir and orchestra at Arapahoe High School in Centennial for 35 years. Parmenter’s musical groups have performed at the United States Capitol and the Pentagon, at Carnegie Hall in New York City and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. These days, the Colorado Choir sells face masks and recorded albums such as A Tradition of Excellence, Two French Masses, Frostiana: Poetry of Robert Frost and more on its online shop as it waits to sing live again. The choir will be presenting a virtual concert on December 1 that will be available through the month.
click to enlarge The airwaves are being hijacked by Christmas music. - COLORADO CHILDREN'S CHORALE
The airwaves are being hijacked by Christmas music.
Colorado Children's Chorale
Colorado Children’s Chorale
The Colorado Children’s Chorale offers a wide variety of performances, including full-stage operas, musical theater, and a mix of classical, folk and popular music. Since 1974, this chorus has brought fresh presentations with theatrical flair, charm and artistry to audiences. Its 400 members range in age from seven to fourteen and represent more than 180 schools around Denver. 
click to enlarge The Denver Women's Chorus performs at the 2019 Womxn's March on Denver. - DANIELLE LIRETTE
The Denver Women's Chorus performs at the 2019 Womxn's March on Denver.
Danielle Lirette
Denver Women’s Chorus
Founded in 1984 by a group of lesbian singers who risked their lives to create a safe environment for members to express themselves through music, the Denver Women’s Chorus is a multi-generational group committed to musical excellence, community and defending social justice. In its early years, most members asked not to have their names printed in programs, fearing they would lose their jobs for being out. Even so, the group performed in New York and Washington, D.C., and became the first treble chorus to perform at the GALA Choruses Inc. festival, an organization that serves the LGBTQ choral movement.
click to enlarge The Denver Gay Men's Chorus in action. - DENVER GAY MEN'S CHORUS
The Denver Gay Men's Chorus in action.
Denver Gay Men's Chorus
Denver Gay Men’s Chorus
With 140 members, the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus has performed over 300 concerts since its founding in 1982. The group has sung at Carnegie Hall, the Paramount Theatre, Red Rocks, Coors Field, the U.S. Air Force Academy Chapel and even at Governor Jared Polis’ inaugural ceremony at the Colorado State Capitol. In addition to singing, the chorus works with social justice organizations like the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the LGBT Community Center of Colorado, the Colorado AIDS Project, the Boulder County AIDS Project and more to build a better future for LGBTQ people in the state. 

St. Martin’s Chamber Choir

For 26 years, St. Martin’s Chamber Choir has taken pride in being Colorado’s only year-round professional choir. Founded by Timothy J. Krueger, the group's mission is to perform classical music at the highest level and educate audiences about the joys and history of choral music. St. Martin’s has a variety of albums on its digital store, including The American Spirit, Dreams, A Glimpse of Heaven, Monastic Echoes and more. The group also has a YouTube channel with recent concerts.

Sound of the Rockies
The Rocky Mountain District of Barbershop Harmony Society, established in 1977, and the Denver Tech Chapter, established in 1987, were both victorious in various choir competitions. Though these groups sounded great individually, they merged in 2000 for an even grander sound. Mark Hale currently leads the chorus of over 100 members. The group performs in a variety of genres, such as gospel, rock, jazz standards and Broadway hits, and have five CDs on its website including Colorado My Home, Goodness & Light, Sing We Noel and more.

click to enlarge Leah Peer is the founder and musical director of Kol Nashim, the women's choir within the Colorado Hebrew Chorale. - LISA SALZER
Leah Peer is the founder and musical director of Kol Nashim, the women's choir within the Colorado Hebrew Chorale.
Lisa Salzer
Colorado Hebrew Chorale
Carol Kozak Ward founded the Colorado Hebrew Chorale in 1993. In 2013, the group, which focuses on Jewish music, started a women’s choir called Kol Nashim, or “Women’s Voices,” to broaden its membership base and reach more audiences. Both choirs perform around fifteen times a year and host the annual Essential Music of the Holocaust: History and Hope event. Their Hear My Voice concerts also raise awareness and funds for battered women and children in Colorado and abroad.

MSU Denver Choirs

Metro State University offers three choirs that are open to all Auraria students. The MSU Denver Chorale is a mixed ensemble, the University Treble Choir is for sopranos and altos only, and the University Basso Choir is dedicated to tenor and bass voices. Each group performs several times a semester. Previous concerts are available to watch on the MSU Denver Music YouTube channel, including a socially distanced performance from October.

University of Denver Spirituals Project Choir
The University of Denver's Spirituals Project Choir preserves and revitalizes the music and teachings of spiritual folk songs sung by African-Americans during slavery. The choir is led by M. Roger Holland II, a professor of music and religion. He graduated with a master’s degree in divinity from New York City’s Union Theological Seminary, where he also received the Trailblazers Distinguished Alumni Award in 2016 for his contributions to African American music.

What are your favorite Denver-area choirs? Let us know at [email protected]
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Khaleel Hayes is a writer and journalist who graduated from MSU Denver in 2018. His body of work includes profiles, film reviews, poetry, short plays and photography.
Contact: Khaleel Hayes