Volti’s professional vocalists, under the direction of founder and Artistic Director Robert Geary, are dedicated to the discovery, creation, and performance of new vocal music. The ensemble’s mission is to foster and showcase contemporary American music and composers, and to introduce contemporary vocal music from around the world to local audiences.
In the fall of 1979, Robert Geary established The San Francisco Chamber Singers, opening that first season with an all-Bach program. Quickly favoring the music of Benjamin Britten, the choir soon began to sharpen its focus on today’s music, and by the 1990s was focusing almost exclusively on premieres and commissions by living composers from the U.S. and abroad. (To learn more about our commissions, premieres, and other repertoire from recent seasons, click here.)
2003-04 marked the choir’s 25th Anniversary, and the ensemble celebrated with concerts featuring eight commissioned world premieres, as part of a season dedicated to American music. And, after 25 years, the choir adopted a new name – Volti – meant to evoke the energy, vigor, and forward-looking spirit the group is known for (taken from the Italian, volti means “turn”; used in music, it’s normally used in the construction volti subito, which directs musicians to “turn the page quickly” or “look ahead”).
Volti is esteemed for its commitment to and excellence in performing works by contemporary composers, particularly American composers. With 36 seaons of performances to its credit, the group has become one of America’s renowned professional choirs. The ensemble has performed at music festivals in the U.S. and abroad to remarkable critical acclaim, always performing new works by American composers as representative of the artistic excellence and spirit of its home.
“Among the wealth of choirs and vocal ensembles in the
San Francisco Bay Area, few can claim their commitment to and excellence in performing contemporary music with as much conviction as Robert Geary’s Volti. Their steadfast dedication to new works has made them one of the most exciting and forward-thinking performance groups, and a cornerstone of the rich community of new music,
in our region.”
–Charles Amirkhanian, Other Minds
Volti has collaborated with many distinguished theatrical and musical organizations, both on stage and in recording. Last season alone, we sent eight singers to perform Berio’s Sinfonia for Eight Amplified Voices and Orchestra with the UC Davis Symphony; we sang at the 50th anniversary celebration of the San Francisco Night Ministry at Grace Cathedral; we recorded a CD of holiday music by five contemporary composers with the New Century Chamber Orchestra at Skywalker Sound; we sang at the first-ever national New Music Gathering, held at the SF Conservatory of Music (the only vocal ensemble chosen to perform); we provided the chorus for the premiere of the opera Death With Interruptions by Kurt Rohde, produced by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble; and we produced Pandora’s Gift, a choral performance art piece by Mark Winges, Volti’s resident composer since 1990, with Ensemble from the Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir. We capped off the year by winning two San Francisco Classical Voice “Best of the Bay” awards: Pandora’s Gift for new music performance, and Volti for new music performers.
Past partners have included Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, George Coates Performance Works, Earplay, SF Contemporary Music Players, the Berkeley Symphony, the Oakland Symphony, San Francisco Sinfonietta, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and others. In April 2013 we presented the West Coast premiere of David Lang’s major choral work, battle hymns, in collaboration with the San Francisco Choral Society, Piedmont Children’s Choirs, and the Philadelphia-based Leah Stein Dance Company.
In addition to touring in the United States and Germany, the group was for many years the Choir in Residence of the Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island. Volti’s performances have been broadcast in the Bay Area on KALW, KQED, KKHI, KDFC, and KUSF; nationally on Monitor Radio, Voice of America, and National Public Radio; and internationally on American Armed Forces Radio and Swiss International Radio.
In 2003-04, Volti inaugurated the Choral Arts Laboratory, a program for young American composers. Those selected have the opportunity to work with Volti’s professional vocalists as they prepare one of their works for performance. The composer selected for the current season is Tonia Ko, whose work will be premiered in the spring of 2016.
In addition to the commissions and premieres of the concert season, Volti continues its commitment to education by producing the annual Choral Institute for High School Singers. This innovative program, developed by Robert Geary, provides concentrated training and performance opportunities for multiple choirs numbering up to 200 students over the course of an intensive weekend schedule. Volti’s professional singers serve as the resident choir and faculty and, along with Bob, lead rehearsals and teach voice lessons, classes, and seminars. These sessions are designed to give a focused and concentrated training experience to high school singers in an atmosphere that encourages, inspires and supports emotional and intellectual growth in a highly structured and creative musical environment.