Professor of music and director of choral studies Betsy Cook Weber has been a part of the Cougar family for 23 years. In 2002, Weber directed the Moores School of Music Concert Chorale, UH’s premier chorale ensemble.
Under her direction, the choir has achieved a high level of distinction locally and internationally. Most recently, they competed in the 13th International Chamber Choir Competition Marktoberdorf in Germany. Of the 10 choirs representing eight different countries, the ensemble was awarded first prize in two categories.
The Daily Cougar interviewed Weber about her background, the Concert Chorale and their recent success in Germany.
The Daily Cougar: When did you come to the UH Moores School of Music, and how long have you been directing the Concert Chorale?
Betsy Cook Weber: I came to the Moores School of Music in 1990 to work on my doctorate. Happily, the school kept me on after I finished my degree. I began conducting the Concert Chorale in 2002.
TDC: How are members of these prestigious choirs determined?
BCW: The Concert Chorale is our most advanced choral ensemble. Singers in our choirs have a great deal of pride in being members of their respective choirs regardless of which choir they sing in. We audition singers who are interested in singing in advanced choirs by vocalizing them, running them through some tonal memory drills and having them sing an exercise on site.
TDC: Can you elaborate on the choir’s most recent success in Germany?
BCW: The Concert Chorale competed in the Marktoberdorf International Chamber Choir Competition and won first prize in the overall competition and first prize in a special category for Best Interpretation of a Sacred Work.
TDC: Which performed pieces do you believe were the most special or memorable?
BCW: The audiences loved our two spirituals. Without question, those were the pieces that brought down the house each time. We loved premiering the director’s new piece, “In Love with the Beautiful Eyes,” because it’s fabulous. The International Federation of Choral Music has selected our performance of Rihards Dubra’s “Stetit Angelus” as “Favorite Piece of the Month.”
TDC: Can you share a bit about the performances outside of the competition?
BCW: We sang in a church in Marktoberdorf and another church in Steingaden. We also gave a secular concert in a concert hall in Wiespolden. The organizers took everyone to a farm museum where all the choirs sang a few pieces outside, which was really fun and low-key.
TDC: How does it feel to be a demonstration for a conducting master class, and what does this entail?
BCW: The conducting master class was an extra for us. After the competition, we served as a demonstration choir for 15 conductors from all over the world. The Concert Chorale had to sight-sing about 30 new pieces. I was concerned about this, but they did very well. The two world-renowned conductors leading the master class commented about how well chorale sang over those days. It was hard but very gratifying work.
TDC: What does winning first prize mean for the Moores School of Music and for the University?
BCW: It is continuing evidence that our students perform at the highest, international level.
TDC: Looking forward, what is the next step for the Concert Chorale?
BCW: We have some interesting opportunities that have already arisen because organizers of festivals and competitions from all over the world attend Marktoberdorf to listen to the choirs there. I need to digest all of the invitations and think about what is in the best interests of our students and the chorale program. It’s exciting.