The Choral Arts Laboratory is an annual commissioning and residency program, begun in 2003, which is designed to give American composers under the age of 35 the opportunity to work with the professional singers of Volti during the compositional process. The composer is invited not only to create a work for the ensemble, but to develop the composition in a workshop setting. The composer is then given more time to work out issues discovered during rehearsal with the singers, as well as during consultations with Artistic Director Robert Geary and Volti’s longtime Resident Composer, Mark Winges. This collaboration culminates in the world-premiere performances given by Volti during the regular concert season.
What makes Volti’s Choral Arts Laboratory program so unique is that over an extended period of time, you learn the finer points of writing for a great choir that loves new music, with a conductor and resident composer who really care about the process. You are allowed to try different options, see what works and what doesn’t work, refine what you write the first time around and get it right for the premiere. I cannot think of a better program than this one, in North America or anywhere else, for honing your craft as a composer of choral music. This was one of the most important educational experiences I have ever had as a composer.
—Robert Paterson, 2004/05 CAL composer
Volti is the kind of choir I always hoped existed but until now had never encountered: a group of extremely smart musicians, dedicated exclusively to new music, in search of genuinely new compositional voices. They program some daring (not to mention difficult) repertoire, and the singers themselves are proud of their work and their unique place in the music community here.
—Ted Hearne, 2009/10 CAL composer
Each year composers from around the U.S. apply to Volti for this opportunity. Nearly all of the states have been represented over the eleven years of this program, which usually attracts 40 to 50 applications each year. Peter Knell, Robert Paterson, Eric Lindsay, Amy Beth Kirsten, George Lam, Ruby Fulton, Ted Hearne, Matthew Barnson, Francisco Cortés-Álvarez, Dan Visconti, Melissa Dunphy, LJ White, Ryan Brown, Tonia Ko and Jack Hughes are past CAL composers.
This season’s CAL composer is Danny Clay. Danny is a composer and teaching artist from Ohio, currently based in San Francisco. His work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration, and the sheer joy of making things. His projects often incorporate musical games, open forms, found objects, archival media, toy instruments, classrooms of elementary schoolers, graphic notation, digital errata, cross-disciplinary research, and the everything-in-between.
We are very much looking forward to playing with Danny this season and to premiering his new work in May 2018.
Due to a number of factors, Volti will not be offering the CAL residency in the 2018/19 season. We hope to resume this program in 2019/20.