Sonoro Presents “Mysterium”

Sonoro is proud to announce our Christmas 2017 concert series, “Mysterium” featuring Felix Mendelssohn’s Three Motets for Women’s Choir and Organ, Op. 39 played by organist Dr. Curt Sather.

We will also be singing O Magnum Mysterium by Tomas Luis de Victoria and many Christmas favorites.

Mysterium Web Link

We’ll be presenting two performances:

Saturday, December 2nd at 7:00 pm.
First Presbyterian Church
20 N Tacoma Ave.
Tacoma, WA 98402
Tickets Here

Sunday, December 3rd at 3:00 pm.
Steilacoom Community Church
1603 Rainier St
Steilacoom, WA 98388
Tickets Here

Tickets are $15 in advance at Brown Paper Tickets or $17.00 at the door.

Keep an eye out for sneak peaks and announcements on our Facebook page!

Or visit our YouTube videos from rehearsals like at the end.

About our Guest MusicianIMG_3043

CURT SATHER received degrees in Organ Performance from Arizona State University, and the Eastman School of Music, Rochester NY. After serving 13 years as Organist & Choirmaster at St. Barnabas on the Desert Episcopal Church, Scottsdale AZ, he joined the Benedictine monastery of San Miniato al Monte, Florence, Italy, where he also served as organist for several churches. He is currently Organist & Choirmaster of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Olympia, where in March of this year he performed the complete organ works of J. S. Bach on a 24-hour recital marathon.

Youtube videos

Sonoro Going to “Seattle Sings”!

And you should too!


We’ll be singing on Thursday, October 12 at 7:20p. Opening ceremonies start at 6pm. The evening ends at 9pm. The Festival continues until Oct. 14 at Seattle First Baptist Church.

This is a great opportunity to enjoy choral music of all types and flavors from local professional and amateur artists including Choir of the Sound, Swedish Singers of Seattle, and Choral Arts Northwest.


About Sonoro’s Cell Phone Recycling Fundraiser


Photo Courtesy of New York Times who has a great expose about cell phone afterlife.

Sonoro Choral Society is proud to partner with GRC Wireless to keep mobile phones out of landfills through their comprehensive recycling program. There EPA-approved recycling program safely handles hazardous waste and diverts useable materials away from the landfill.

How It Works:

Sonoro collects flip phones, mobile phones, and iPads and ships them to’s recycling program. Technicians erase personal data from the phones, resell useable phones or useable parts to refurbishment companies, and shred the rest to reuse the metal etc. They pay us between $0.10 to $350 per phone depending on quality and age of the phone. We use the money to provide quality music and musical education to our community.

How to Help:

  1. Collect all your old phones and iPads.
  2. Make sure they are deactivated and erase personal data. (They will be erased and reformatted again at the recycling plant.)
  3. Deliver them to your favorite Sonoro Choral Society member or mail them to

c/o Vanessa Cameron
Sonoro Choral Society
1604 181st St. East
Spanaway, WA 98687

   Include batteries and battery covers, but don’t include other accessories.

      4. Ask for a receipt, if you want one for tax deductions. We’ll handle the rest.

What to Recycle:

Donate phones and batteries including flip phones, iPhones, Samsungs, Blackberrys, HTCs, Motorolas, LGs, and iPads. Attach the battery and back plate to the phone, if you have them.

Don’t donate accessories or charging cables including earpieces, headphones, or bluetooth accessories, mounting accessories, screen or body covers.

By participating you:

  1. Support your local community arts
  2. Get rid of junk in your house
  3. Prevent mobile phones from filling up landfills and leaching toxins into the land and groundwater.
  4. Feel good about making something useless useful again.
  5. Earn our genuine gratitude.

Questions? Contact Fundraising Director Vanessa Cameron at

Songs of Empowerment

12045367_10153624296054799_9207590057271539424_oWe have always been proud here at Sonoro of our commitment to empowerment for amateur artists. We empower our singers by providing them a supportive place to practice and grow in their art and by providing them high quality places to perform.

We also empower our singers–currently all women–by selecting meaningful literature and challenging music to perform. Historically, women-only choirs have been given frivolous, useless songs to sing. We often credit Brahms (1850s) for being one of the first composers to write large, important works strictly for women’s voices.

This season, some of our music is more specifically concerned with women’s empowerment. For instance, Voice on the Wind by Sarah Quartel was commissioned for an all girl’s choir to “celebrate 20 years of providing a place where girls find their voices.” It’s an earthy, a capella song accompanied by hand drum with the following lyrics:

I heard a voice on the summer wind
hoo wah hoo wah hoo
Who she is I can’t explain
hoo wah hoo wah hoo

I heard a voice on the summer wind
Blowing free and blowing strong
Strength and spirit in her song.
hoo wah hoo wah hoo

I heard a voice on the summer wind
Sounds familiar like my own
hoo wah hoo wah hoo

I am the voice on the summer wind
hoo wah hoo wah hoo
Strong and sure where e’er I stand
hoo wah hoo wah hoo

The singers, rooted and confident, finding their voice on the summer wind reminds me so strongly of Walt Whitman asserting his hale and hearty human-ness with his “barbaric yawp” in verse 52 of “Song of Myself”. In the poem, Whitman explores his place in nature, his exuberance at being alive, and his abhorrence of death while reveling over grass in the woods. Finally, he says:

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me– he complains of my gab and my loitering.
I too am not a bit tamed–I too am untranslatable;
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

There is something obstinate and joyful about shouting wordlessly into the space between; something wonderful about finding your strength, untamed and untranslatable. That’s what we want for you and for our singers.


Come here the Sonoro Women’s Choir sing “Voice on the Wind” and other delights May and June.

Summer 2017 Concert: Love and War…

About our concert:

The Sonoro Choral Society is excited to present an intense and powerful concert entitled, Love and War: The Conflict and Passion of Humanity.

This program will explore the intensity of the human existence from deep love and joy to the harshness of our conflicts and ultimately, the unifying qualities in these shared experiences. We are proud to feature a trilogy of songs by Keven Memley based on the poetic work by Sara Teasdale, named Reflections on Humanity, with Ms. Hope Bales on oboe.

We will also be presenting Eric Whitacre’s wonderful work, Five Hebrew Love Songs, featuring Ms. Gwendolyn Taylor on violin.The rest of the evening will range from exciting and passionate Spanish folk music to Broadway favorites!

Still curious? Read more about our concert pieces at the links below:


This season, we are offering a discount for online ticket sales:
$15 for online tickets, $17.50 for tickets bought at the door.

Please note, if you buy a ticket online for one night, you may exchange the ticket for another night at no extra charge. Just show up on the night you want to attend and we’ll exchange it at the door. (Premium tickets will be exchanged for regular seating with no refund.)

If you belong to the congregation at Steilacoom Community Church, your ticket is free. However, you must have a ticket to enter the performance. Simply pick up a ticket ahead of time from your church staff.

Follow the links to buy online tickets for your night.

Love and War1_link Love and War2_link Love and War3_link

Singing Like Rain

I (Johanna, volunteer women’s-choir attendee and occasional alto) just finished listening to one of my favorite podcasts “The Allusionist” which is usually about the etymology of words but in this episode was about music. The subject was “vocables” the application of which any choir member will be familiar, if with not the actual term. In linguistic parlance, a “vocable” is simply a sound used in speech (not to be confused with phoneme. Phonemes are the atoms, vocables are the molecules of speech). In musical terms, a vocable is a thing you say on purpose but which doesn’t have meaning, for example: shoo bop sha wadda wadda yippety boom de boom.

The music experts on the Allusionist (read the transcript or listen to the story here) made the distinction between vocable use and “scatting” which is more improvisational, though equally senseless. Especially in pop music, vocables are planned and are used strategically to set the tone and rhythm of the song, provide a memorable hook, and/or fill in the background. Sometimes, they are used to leave things unsaid. For instance, here’s JLS’s “She Makes Me Wanna”

While it can seem lazy to not finish the dang sentence, the song-writer allows the listener to fill in the meaning of the lyric, leaving radio-friendly vocables as scaffolding. It won’t take you long to find tons more examples of vocable use in pop songs. In fact, often the music industry relies on these vocable hooks to sell music and keep you tuned to their radio station (read this New Yorker piece on the subject).

But in choral singing, vocables take on an even weightier meaning. Like in jazz scatting, vocables allow choral singers to treat their voice like an instrument. Notice how the scatting in Ella Fitzgerald’s “One Note Samba” sounds like a saxophone.

The difference is, in choral music, vocables are all meticulously planned and strategically organized. This season, Sonoro Women’s Choir is singing several different pieces which all use vocables for different purposes.

Firstly,”Tundra” by Ola Gjeilo (which we did last season) uses simple “ooh”s to evoke a wintry wind. This is a great example of how choral music uses vocables to paint a picture beyond words. On the other hand, in Eric Whitacre’s “She Weeps Over Rahoon,” the choir is instructed to sing “muttering rain and” over and over on one note at each singer’s independent speed for a whole page. The overlapping words–though initially meaningful–are divorced from their meaning and become unquestionably the sound of soft rain. Listen carefully, in this video it’s hard to tell they’re saying words at all!

The second way song writers use vocables is to use them as color. At first peek, Kevin A Memley’s “If I Were the Velvet Rose” (based on Sara Teasdale’s poem “A Maiden”) seems to use vocables as run-of-the-mill filler. However, as you can see below the vocable-singing altos are deliberately instructed to match vowels with the lyric-singing sopranos.vocable eg

Matching vowels in the vocable line makes sure that there is no tonal turbulence. (It just sounds clash-y when one person sings an ‘ehh’ and another person sings an ‘eeee’. Try it with a friend.) In this way, the writer was very careful about the selection and use of vocables. Another great example of this careful consideration of nonsense syllables is “Adiemus” by Karl Jenkins.

Here, Jenkins uses sounds meant to evoke Latin, but which are actually nonsense. He uses vocables the whole song through and selects them based on rhythm and color. They are not simply background, but the whole song. Jenkins asks the listener to place their own meaning upon the song.

We’re singing a similar song: “Tango to Evora” which began as a violin piece by Loreena McKennit and adapted by Jon Washburn for choir. There is not a single word, only “la la la” the whole way through. I asked our Director, Jeremy Shilley, ‘isn’t it a bit lazy to not put words to a song?’ He replied, ‘no, because when you use words, you have to make a decision as to the meaning of the piece. Using ‘la la la’ allows the listener to decide on the meaning.’

‘But,’ I countered, ‘why even bother to adapt a song which does so well as a violin piece to choral music in the first place?’

‘Why not?’ he shrugged and we laughed. That’s art. Adapting and and reinventing. If we can have Gregorian chant version of Metallica songs, I suppose we can have women be a violin. ‘Think of it as an impressionistic painting’ he told me. Where “Tundra” uses vocables to evoke a place, “Tango to Evora” uses vocables to inspire a feeling.

Vocables: the paintbrush strokes of music.

See Sonoro Women’s Choir at their vocable best this summer; details to come.

Extra Reading