Thursday, May 24, 2018
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Masterworks Chorale names artistic director

Meanwhile at the University of Toledo, the future of the Community Chorus is in doubt


Timothy Cloeter, assistant director of choral activities at Bowling Green State University, will succeed Masterworks Chorale artistic director Donna Tozer Wipfli, who retired in April.


For Toledo’s busy choral scene, news this week is good and bad.

With the announcement of a new artistic director, Masterworks Chorale enters its 42nd season with reason for optimism and growth.

But singers with the University of Toledo Community Chorus will be left without a song, at least in the short term.

First, more about the good news:

“After a comprehensive search process, the board of directors for Masterworks Chorale is delighted to name Timothy J. Cloeter as the chorale’s new artistic director,” wrote Katharin Mason-Wolf, president of the chorale board, to membership late last week.

The group had launched a quick search for a successor to 23-year veteran director Donna Tozer Wipfli after she announced her retirement in April. Four candidates auditioned; Cloeter emerged as winner.

Cloeter, assistant professor of choral activities at Bowling Green State University, had the inside track, thanks to subbing for Tozer Wipfli at Masterworks’ holiday concert last year.

That introduction also convinced Cloeter that the fit could be a good one, even if adding another layer of responsibility to his BGSU workload. He conducts Collegiate Chorale and Men’s Chorus and teaches undergraduate and graduate classes.

In his fifth year at BGSU, Cloeter sees the addition as complementing his academics. “It allows me to serve my community and brings visibility to the university on a regional level,” he said.

Cloeter’s own musical influences include Joseph Flummerfelt of Westminster Choir College, Bruce Chamberlain of the University of Arizona, and Helmuth Rilling of the Oregon Bach Festival.

“I am interested in moving people’s hearts and being moved myself,” he said of his overall choral conducting goals.

Ahead for Cloeter and Masterworks will be three concerts in its regular season — including a first for the group, the production of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta Trial by Jury in March — as well as its educational and community outreach activities.

Meanwhile, for Stephen Hodge, UT director of choral activities and longtime conductor of the community chorus, and its loyal singers, the future is in question.

In an Aug. 6 thank-you letter to choristers, Hodge waxed nostalgic about the many programs the group has performed, with big works by composers including Schubert, Rutter, Mozart, Persichetti, Beethoven, and Honegger offering the opportunity to study choral masterworks.

Over a quarter century, the UT Community Chorus collaborated with the Toledo Symphony and Toledo Opera as well as presented two major concerts each season. “It was such a wonderful membership,” he said.

With UT’s newly revived opera program gaining momentum under the direction of Denise Ritter-Bernardini, a shift in class assignments affects Hodge, who will conduct four choirs at UT as well as teach, forcing an assessment of the community group’s place in the music department.

“Community Chorus has always been offered as a community outreach program, but it has not generated sufficient enrollment from the student body to warrant continuing its existence as a class,” was Hodge’s official explanation.

UT’s professor of vocal and choral studies cited dropping community enrollment in the 25-year chorus as another factor leading to the decision. Where once some 65 singers came to weekly rehearsals and concerts, last year’s head count was about 45, Hodge noted. Moreover, in both Masterworks and the UT group, young singers are not finding their way to rehearsals and concerts.

“I’ve graduated a flock of students who are still living in the area,” noted Hodge. “But they apparently choose not to be involved in singing, whether as part of church life or community choirs.”

For Hodge, the potential to re-form the community chorus on a different model is very much alive. He promised his membership that news of an alternate direction would be forthcoming.

Meanwhile, at Lourdes University, music department head Karen T. Biscay has issued a call for new singers for the Lourdes University Chorus who need not stand and deliver vocally before being admitted.

This will be the 30th season for the group, which is based at the Sylvania Franciscan Center. It rehearses weekly and presents several campus concerts each season as well as going on the road for other performances.

Rehearsals begin at 6 p.m. Aug. 28 in the Franciscan Center. For more information, contact Biscay at 419-824-3772 or

And young singers have a chance to grow up singing with church-based choirs.

The newest is Young Voices of Greater Toledo, based at Monroe Street United Methodist Church, 3613 Monroe St. There, music director Denise Mathias is gearing up for a second season for singers in grades 3 to 8.

Information and enrollment sessions are scheduled for parents and involved adults at 11 a.m. Sept. 7 and 6 p.m. Sept. 10. Children who apply will receive a free professional evaluation of his or her voice. For more information or a private appointment, call 419-473-1167 ext. 230 or

The Toledo Ballet Adaptive Dance program will present a free student performance from 2-2:30 p.m. Sunday at Toledo Botanical Garden. Members are children and young adults with Down Syndrome who participate in the ballet’s Shared Lives program. The event goes on rain or shine.

Readers, presenters, members: The Blade’s Season of the Arts section is taking shape. If you want your performances listed, send them to right away.

Send News of Music items to at least two weeks in advance.

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