The Silicon Valley Voice

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Time Travel with Santa Clara Chorale’s Oral Historian

Santa Clara Chorale and their oral historian, Isabelle (aka Izzie) Wright, share the Chorale's journey to this year's Invocation and Dance.

If the Santa Clara Chorale were to have an oral historian, Isabelle (aka Izzie) Wright would be it. She is the longest-singing member of the community choral group, founded in 1962.

Wright joined the Santa Clara Chorale (SCC) in 1964, after arriving in California from her home state of Michigan. She travels back in time to tell her tales.

“Traveling with the Chorale has been enriching,” said Wright, who first traveled abroad to teach at a U.S. military school in Germany. “It opens doors.”


Wright has sung with SCC in grand European concert halls and in a UNESCO Heritage church in Uruguay and in Carnegie Hall in New York City.

She witnessed the July 20, 1969 moon landing and space walk 50 years ago while on a Chorale tour. Returning from East to West Berlin, the Chorale broke into song, singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Later, after viewing the moon landing, they sang “Apollo Landing,” a choral piece based on the commemorative poem “For the First Manned Moon Orbit” by James Dickey.

Wright recalls thirty years ago, Oct. 17, 1989, when the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake hit the Bay Area. The Mission Santa Clara Church was damaged, and the fall Chorale concert scheduled there was cancelled.

“Music and the Chorale have been an important part of my life,” said Wright. “Music gives me joy. It stretches me. Your mind is always learning new things.”

“Now that I’m retired and not around people as much, it’s always wonderful to see people at Monday night Chorale rehearsals,” said the 85-year-old, who retired from teaching elementary school in Campbell in 1994.

“The Chorale is a place where people can continue to make music their entire lives. We have people who are fresh out of college and want to keep singing, all the way to people like Izzie who have spent a lifetime singing and making beautiful music with us,” said SCC Artistic Director Scot Hanna-Weir. “It’s one of the few places where people of all generations can come together for a common cause.”

Invocation and Dance, the SCC 2019 – 2020 season opening concert at Mission Santa Clara on Oct. 18, was inspired by the marriage of dance, poetry and song. All pieces were scored for four-hand piano duet and played by Dan Cromeenes and Nancy Whitecar.

The program featured waltz music by Johannes Brahms and Alice Parker’s rarely-performed Songstream, a 1983 choral setting of poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

“I’ve always loved Brahms and love the intimacy of the Liebeslieder Waltzer. I thought that would be a great starting point for a concert all about Dance and was perfect to pair with one of my favorite pieces, [Bay Area composer] David Conte’s Dance,” said Hanna-Weir.

“I was so delighted when I found that Alice Parker had written a set of pieces inspired by the Brahms,” said Hanna-Weir. “It was the perfect way to complete the concert.”

With the SSC, the audience always gets more than expected. Arthur Murray Dance Center owner Juan De Dios Garcia with dancers Cari Jo Garcia and Angela Pellegrino waltzed down the aisle of the mission to Liebeslieder Waltzer selections.

Invocation and Dance paid tribute to former Chorale alto Laurel Whipple, who passed away earlier this year.

“Laurel would have been deeply touched by the tribute. The Chorale was family to her, and it brought her great joy to sing with them here in the Mission,” said Whipple’s niece Amy Whipple Haven.

For information about the Chorale’s 2019 – 2020 concert season, visit Next up is a festive holiday concert, Resounding Joy, Dec. 13 and Dec. 15.

“I’m still learning and loving music,” said Izzie Wright. “Music is one of my great pleasures.”


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