Quire of Voyces | Credit: Clint Weismann

One of the sublime traditions of Santa Barbara’s Christmas music calendar comes with the sound of many voices singing, sans instruments and in a magical setting. We are talking, of course, about the Quire of Voyces, the a cappella group led by founder Nathan Kreitzer, presenting the annual understated splendor of its Mysteries of Christmas program.

That tradition, stymied by the pandemic, springs back to life December 17-18. The space matters: Kreitzer and company have enjoyed an angelic pact with the reverberant, old-worldly ambience of Christ the King, Chapel, tucked behind the former St Anthony’s Seminary (now the Garden Academy). Once nestled into the sanctuary, listeners expect the group’s tightly knit and sensitive choral weave, on musical turf ranging from the Renaissance to the newly minted.

Kreitzer recently expanded on the subject of his 25-plus-year-old project, coming in from the cold this year.

Is there a strong sense of renewal and liberation in the group at the moment, after the long haul of oppressive conditions?  Kreitzer: Definitely. We tiptoed back into in-person concerts last year with much trepidation but managed to avoid COVID mishaps, which I think was just the luck of our performance dates. Our numbers are stronger this year, and we are ready to make some music. We will still have our audiences masked, which should make things a little less troubling for the singers.

The Quire of Voyces presents a few concerts each year, but do you feel that the Mysteries of Christmas event is, in some way, a centerpiece of the group’s calendar?  Yes, it has always been an audience favorite, and thank goodness for people ready to return to live performances. Trying to live virtually was a disaster.

The program looks like another strong and varied selection, from Thomas Tallis to contemporary. Is that always a challenge, and a built-in objective for you, to present the Quire in settings spanning the centuries?  That was my original intent when I started the group. We have done fewer early music tunes with personnel changes over the last several years, but it remains one of my key areas of interest.

You will be doing three pieces by Matthew Culloton, from the choral hotbed of Minnesota. Can you tell me about him, and about these pieces?  He is the successor as conductor of the Dale Warland Singers, one of my favorite choral groups of all time, and Dale is a national treasure. They have rebranded themselves as the Singers since his retirement. His arrangements not only display the beautiful, lush texture that the choir loves to perform, but they are crafted smartly enough to hold the listener without being redundant.

Quire of Voyces and its reverberant home venue of King’s Chapel seem symbiotically linked by this point. Can you remind me how that connection was made, and have the acoustics and ambience there informed your vision for the group’s identity? Is it strange to perform in other spaces?  When I started the group in ’93, I made it to the chapel for a concert — though I’m not sure which — and realized that we had to perform in that space. It is ideal for the size of our group and the a cappella repertoire we do. After a few unsuccessful attempts to convince the powers that be that we were a good fit, they finally relented, and we held our last concert of ’93-’94 in the chapel and have stayed there ever since. Our first concert was held at the Presidio Chapel. And yes, singing anywhere else is really strange.

You have been leading the group for more than a quarter-century now. Has it taken off beyond your early expectations? And do you have specific future hopes for the group?  We have made some stunning music over the years and taken international tours and made several recordings. I think I’m just grateful for the people that want to do this music and to support us in so many ways. It’s hard to complain about doing what you love.

See quireofvoyces.org.

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