We are the official choral unit of the Houston Symphony

The Houston Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Betsy Cook Weber since 2014, is the official choral unit of the Houston Symphony and consists of highly skilled and talented volunteer singers. Over the years, members of this historic ensemble have learned and performed the world’s great choral-orchestral masterworks under the batons of Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Hans Graf, Christoph Eschenbach, Robert Shaw, and Helmut Rilling, among many others.

In addition, the Chorus enjoys participating in the Houston Symphony’s popular programming under the batons of conductors such as Steven Reineke and Michael Krajewski. Recently, the ensemble sang the closing subscription concerts with the Prague Symphony Orchestra in the Czech Republic.

Singers are selected for specific programs for which they have indicated interest. A singer might choose to perform in all 45 concerts, as was the case in a recent season, or might elect to participate in a single series. The Houston Symphony Chorus holds auditions by appointment and welcomes inquiries from interested singers.

Betsy Cook Weber, Director
Julia Fitzgerald, Interim Chorus Manager

The Symphony Chorus presents its 2021–22 season

Andrea Bocelli in Concert: October 21, 2021
Handel’s Messiah: December 10–12, 2021
Very Merry POPS: December 18 & 19, 2021
Andrés’s Farewell: Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony: April 29, 30 & May 1, 2022
Season Finale: Beethoven 9: May 20–22, 2022
The Best of John Williams: Star Wars & More with Chorus: May 27–29, 2022
 
Trinity Lutheran

For questions about the Houston Symphony Chorus, please contact Julia Fitzgerald, Interim Chorus Manager, at Julia.Fitzgerald@houstonsymphony.org. Special thanks to Trinity Downtown Lutheran Church for providing the Houston Symphony Chorus with rehearsal space.


The Houston Symphony Chorus, the official choral unit of the Houston Symphony, is led by Dr. Betsy Cook Weber. It is a chorus of volunteer singer-musicians who are committed to rehearsing and performing the choral-orchestral repertory at the highest level of choral artistry. In addition to presenting an annual schedule of concerts in Jones Hall with the Houston Symphony, the Chorus has toured Europe several times and performs regularly in Mexico City with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Mineriá.

The group, originally known as the Houston Chorale, was founded in 1946 by Alfred Urbach, then principal cellist of the Houston Symphony. The Chorale made its debut with the Houston Symphony in 1949 with a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This inaugurated what was to be a lasting relationship, one that has produced hundreds of memorable performances of the great choral masterworks led by some of the world’s leading conductors. In 1986, the Chorale was renamed the Houston Symphony Chorus.

Overview

Houston Symphony Chorus Auditions for the 2021–2022 Season will take place remotely and consists of six portions: 1.) Complete Interest form, 2.) Vocalise, 3.) Recording of Messiah Chorus (optional), 4.) Sight Reading Appointment, 5.) Fill out Google Form, and 6.) Sight Reading Audition. Details for completing these components of the audition are below.

When Does This Placement Take Place

We do accept audition material all year long, but for first-round placement consideration, all portions of the audition must be completed by July 31, 2021 at 11:59 pm. Note that, for this first round, the last sight singing appointments take place July 30, 2021, so please plan accordingly.

First, please read this document, the 2021–2022 Season rehearsal and performance calendar, which lists season information as well as some answers to frequently asked questions.

Step 1.

Complete the Houston Symphony Chorus Interest Form, which can be found below.

FILL OUT FORM

 

Step 2. Vocalise (Required)

a. Record an audio recording of yourself vocalizing with the appropriate voice track below. When it gets too low or too high, drop out. You will be asked to write down your highest and lowest (beautiful) pitch in Step 5, so keep that in mind while recording your vocalise. It MUST be an audio file (ex. .mp3, .m4a) and no larger than 10MB. We recommend recording with “Voice Memos” if you have an IOS device.

Soprano/Alto Track:

 
Tenor/Bass Track:

 
b. When you have finished recording, double check your work to make sure you and the vocalization track can be heard. If the sound quality is poor, try adjusting your microphone placement, or recording with a different device.

c. Your recorded track will be uploaded in Step 5.

Step 3. Sight Reading Appointment (Required)

a. Sign up for a sight reading appointment at the link below (Note that the last sight reading appointments take place July 30, so please plan accordingly).

SIGN UP

b. You should receive an email reminder regarding your sight reading appointment, but, just in case, record the date and time so you don’t miss your Sight Reading Audition.

c. Our sight reading exercises are taken from the online platform Sightreading Factory, Level 6 (major or minor key). They are 12–16 measures long. Most of our singers struggle with these exercises, so don’t worry if you do, too. We’re looking for reasonable proficiency not wizardry.

Step 4. Messiah Chorus (Optional)

a. This portion of the audition is optional. Record ONE of the four Messiah choruses listed below if you want to enhance your audition. For example, you may feel that your sight-singing is not great, in which case singing the Messiah chorus would demonstrate that you have a strong ear and work ethic. Using the score and the accompaniment links below, download, sing, and record your part to ONE of these choruses. (Yes, we know that the tempi are slow, but there is method to our madness; these slow tempi reveal a great deal.) Your submissions MUST be an audio file (ex. .mp3, .m4a) and no larger than 10MB. We recommend recording with “Voice Memos” if you have an IOS device.

Option 1: Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder
PDF: Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder

Listen on Soundcloud

 
Option 2: His Yoke Is Easy
PDF: His Yoke Is Easy

Listen on Soundcloud

 
Option 3: All We Like Sheep
PDF: All We Like Sheep

Listen on Soundcloud

 
Option 4: Hallelujah! (Chorus)
PDF: Handel Hallelujah Chorus

Listen on Soundcloud

 
b. When you have finished recording, double check your work to make sure you and the accompaniment track can be heard. If the sound quality is poor, try adjusting your microphone placement, or recording with a different device.

c. Your recorded track will be uploaded in Step 5.
 

Step 5: Google Form

Fill out the following Google Form. This is where you will upload your vocalise and optional Messiah Chorus.

FILL OUT GOOGLE FORM

 

Step 6: Sight Reading Audition

On the date and time of your sight singing appointment, click on the link you received when you signed up for an appointment (Step 3). This will take you to a virtual meeting with Chorus Director, Dr. Betsy Cook Weber. There, you will complete the sight singing portion of the HSC audition.

NOTES
• Please be prepared to wait by your computer in the Zoom waiting room for up to 30 minutes to audition.
• One of several possible sight reading exercises will be digitally delivered to you after you have entered the meeting. You will be given the starting pitch and 30 seconds of practice time. (Very few singers get through the entire exercise during this practice time, so don’t worry if this happens to you.) Then, you will work your way through the exercise. To repeat, we are not looking for perfection; we are looking for a reasonable skill set.
• You may encounter technical difficulties at any point during this audition process. Breathe — we will work with you to make the process as painless as possible.

If you have any questions/difficulties with the audition process, email Interim Chorus Manager, Julia Fitzgerald at Julia.Fitzgerald@houstonsymphony.org.

Betsy Weber
betsy.weber@houstonsymphony.org

Betsy Cook Weber, Director

Dr. Betsy Cook Weber was appointed director of the Houston Symphony Chorus in 2014. Under her leadership, the Chorus has performed more than 200 concerts with repertoire as varied as Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem and Video Games Live. She has collaborated with some of the world’s best conductors, including Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Steven Reineke, Michael Krajewski, Jane Glover, Christoph Eschenbach, and Nicholas McGegan. She has led the HSC and HS Chamber Singers on two European tours to the Czech Republic in 2017 and to Poland and Germany in 2019, including a performance at the world-renowned Bachfest in Leipzig.

Betsy also serves as a Madison Endowed Professor of Music and director of choral studies at the University of Houston Moores School of Music. There, she teaches a full load of coursework, oversees the large and varied choral area at the Moores School, and is internationally active as a conductor, clinician, adjudicator, and lecturer. In addition to appearances throughout the United States, she looks forward to engagements in the United Kingdom, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden, Czechia, Hungary, and Germany in the coming year.

The University of Houston Moores School Concert Chorale, which she directs, has established a reputation as one of the world’s finest collegiate choirs and has been a featured choir at multiple state (2002, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2017) and national conventions (ACDA 2007, 2017, NCCO 2017). Internationally, Chorale has received acclaim at six prestigious competitions in Wales, France, Germany, Hungary, and Italy, winning or placing in every category in which it was entered. In 2015, Musica mundi, in its ranking of the top 1000 choirs in the world, placed UH Concert Chorale #1 in its age category and #3 among all choirs worldwide.

In 2013, Betsy became the 13th person and first woman to receive the Texas Choral Director Association’s coveted Texas Choirmaster Award. She holds degrees from the University of North Texas, Westminster Choir College (Princeton, NJ), and the University of Houston.

Scott Holshouser

Scott Holshouser, Pianist

Scott Holshouser, principal keyboardist with the Houston Symphony, has been a member of the orchestra since 1980. He began his musical training in Athens, GA and attended Florida State University before moving to Houston to continue his studies at the University of Houston. He is now a member of the faculty at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music.

He is a former staff pianist with the Houston Ballet and the Houston Grand Opera and presently is the accompanist for the Houston Symphony Chorus, the Ima Hogg National Young Artist Competition and the Corpus Christi Young Artist Competition.

Anna Diemer

Anna Diemer, Principal Vocal and Diction Coach

Anna Diemer is a Houston-based voice teacher, soprano, and arts entrepreneur. She has been teaching voice at the high school, collegiate, and adult levels for the past seven years, and she strives to help her students reach their personal singing goals through a physiological approach. Anna is an adjunct professor of voice at Brazosport College, and her private studio consists of students from Porter and Shadow Creek high schools, along with members of the Houston Symphony Chorus. She also works with area middle and high school choirs on vocal technique, diction coaching, and repertoire for UIL.

With a background in opera, musical theater, and jazz, Anna enjoys performing in all genres, with an interest in reviving the medium of art song. She serves as the Personnel and Programming manager for the Houston chapter of Opera on Tap, and she regularly organizes and sings in art song recitals and cabaret-style performances, including outreach concerts at the Campbell Learning Center and nonprofit fundraisers at Saint Arnold. Anna specializes in new music and has commissioned and premiered works by Houston-area composers Joshua Zinn and Mark Buller. She made her Houston Symphony solo debut in 2016, and most recently, she collaborated with Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Music Director, on a project involving singers in a performance of Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 3, The Camp Meeting.

Anna graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelor of Music from Furman University and earned her Master’s degree in vocal pedagogy and performance at the University of Houston, where she studied with Melanie Sonnenberg.

Kaitlin DeSpain

Kaitlin DeSpain, Rehearsal Conductor

Kaitlin DeSpain is beginning her first year of doctoral studies at the University of Houston studying with Dr. Betsy Cook Weber and Dr. Jeb Mueller. Prior to her time at UH Kaitlin served as the Choral Director at middle schools and high schools in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Texas. In her time teaching Kaitlin has taught Concert Choir. Show Choir, Music Theory, Music History, Piano, and Rock Band courses. During her time as a show choir director Kaitlin’s choirs earned numerous awards, including a state championship at the West Virginia Music Educators Association state competition.

Kaitlin received her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Marshall University and her Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Kentucky under the tutelage of Dr. Jefferson Johnson and Dr. Lori Hetzel. As a singer Kaitlin has performed with many university and community choirs, including the West Virginia Symphony Chorus, the Lexington Singers, and most recently the Symphony of Southeast Texas Chorus.

Julia Hall

Julia Hall, Rehearsal Conductor

Julia Hall is the Director of Vocal Studies at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. In addition to her duties as the primary HSPVA voice instructor, she conducts the Young Performers and Bella Voce Women’s Chorus and teaches music theory and music history. Before returning to her alma mater eight years ago, Julia taught at Lamar High School, Episcopal High School, and Memorial Middle School. She has conducted twice at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention: in 2011 with the Memorial Advanced Treble Choir and in 2017 with the HSPVA Bella Voce.

Julia earned her Bachelor of Music Education, cum laude, from the University of St. Thomas, where she studied voice with Diane Tobola, and her Master of Music, choral conducting, from the Moores School of Music, UH. She is a member of Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Choral Directors Association, American Choral Directors Association, Texas Music Adjudicators Association, and Phi Kappa Phi and Pi Kappa Lambda honor societies.

Emily Jenkins

Emily Jenkins, Rehearsal Conductor

Emily Jenkins is entering her third year of Doctoral studies at the University of Houston under the tutelage of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber and Dr. Mueller. She served as the Assistant Conductor/Choral Conducting Intern with the GRAMMY award-winning Houston Chamber Choir for the 2019-2021 seasons. Prior to moving to Houston, she served as the Assistant Director of Choirs at the University of West Georgia. She was as a conductor of the Greater Atlanta Girls Choir; a nonprofit choral organization striving to empower young women through choral music. Previously, she served as a choral director of middle and high school programs in Fayette County and Marietta City Schools.

A very diverse choral conductor and music educator, she is originally from Mississippi where she received her Bachelor’s of Music Education degree from Mississippi State University graduating cum laude with an emphasis in piano and voice, studying with Dr. Gary Packwood and Dr. Rosangela Yazbec Sebba. She then went on to obtain her Master’s degree in Choral Conducting graduating summa cum laude from Georgia State University in Atlanta, studying with Dr. Deanna Joseph.

As a singer she has sung in a variety of professional choral ensembles; most recently the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus and Chamber Chorus. In Houston, she sings with the University of Houston Moores School of Music Concert Chorale and the Houston Symphony Chorus. She recently presented a session entitled: Gratifying and Engaging Early Music Repertoire for Treble Choirs at the 2021 Texas Music Educators Association Conference.

Matthew Lyon Hazzard

Matthew Lyon Hazzard, Rehearsal Conductor

Matthew Lyon Hazzard is an award-winning composer, conductor, singer, and educator. Praised for his “exquisite text-setting” and for creating “stunning landscapes of sound”, Hazzard’s music has garnered numerous accolades. He was named the winner of the 2017 American Choral Directors Association Raymond W. Brock Student Composition Competition, a prize winner of the International Choral Composition Competition Japan 2016, and the inaugural winner of True Concord’s Stephen Paulus Emerging Composers Competition. His music is increasingly performed by collegiate and professional ensembles around the world, including the Metropolitan Chorus of Tokyo, KC Vitas, the Vancouver Chamber Choir, the Bob Cole Chamber Choir, and others.

Hazzard earned his M.M. in Choral Conducting with honors from the Bob Cole Conservatory at California State University Long Beach, and his M.A.T. and B.M. in Music Composition from East Carolina University. Before pursuing his graduate studies, Hazzard taught at Greene Central High School (NC) for four years. His choirs received numerous awards, consistent superior ratings, and were invited to perform on the stage of Carnegie Hall under his leadership. He is now pursuing his D.M.A. Choral Conducting at the University of Houston, where he continues to write for voices.

Janwin Overstreet-Goode

Janwin Overstreet-Goode, Rehearsal Conductor

Janwin concluded her twelfth year as the choral director at Friendswood High School in the spring of 2017. In 2008, the FHS Campus Singers were a TMEA Invited Performing Choir. Janwin also serves as music director of the school’s annual musical. The school’s production of South Pacific received the Tommy Tune Award for Best Musical in 2006, and the award for Best Musical Directon for Oklahoma! in 2010.

Prior to joining the faculty at FHS, she taught at Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena, TX; the SRHS Chorale Women were selected to perform for the Texas Music Educators Association in 2001. Her choirs have been consistent Sweepstakes and superior ratings recipients at the University Interscholastic League contests, and have been named Best in Class at contests in Florida, Louisiana, California and Texas. They have performed on concerts with the University of Houston, Lamar University and Houston Baptist University.

Carlin Truong

Carlin Truong, Rehearsal Conductor

Carlin Truong is a DMA student at the University of Houston under the tutelage of Dr. Betsy Cook Weber and Dr. Jeb Mueller. In Houston, he has served as the interim director for ManCorps and the teaching assistant for Choral Conducting and Concert Chorale. In the upcoming year, he will be the instructor of record for Soundscape and the assistant conductor for Moores Opera Center where he will conduct Handel’s Giulio Cesare.

Prior to his studies in Texas, he taught at Clovis East High School in California where he directed the choirs and instructed AP Music Theory. In 2020, the Clovis East Choraliers were invited to perform at the California All-State Music Education Conference and Western Division ACDA Conference. During his tenure at Clovis East, he was also the co-founder and artistic director of the Central Valley Vocal Project, the premiere men’s community chorus in the Fresno area.

Truong has a B.A. in Psychology from UC San Diego. He studied at the University of Ghana where he founded a course in contemporary a cappella music and discovered his passion for music education. Consequently, he pursued a Master’s degree in Choral Conducting from San José State University where he studied with Dr. Jeffrey Benson.

Julia Fitzgerald
julia.fitzgerald@houstonsymphony.org

Julia Fitzgerald, Interim Chorus Manager

Julia FitzGerald has been singing in choirs for more than 40 years – and loving every minute of it! Following graduation from Alma College in Alma, MI, where she sang under Dr. Will Nichols, Julia spent 12 years singing with the Seattle Choral Company (SCC), under Freddie Coleman. During her time with the SCC, Julia served as both Alto Section Leader and Chair of the annual live-auction fundraiser.
Since moving to Houston in 2008, Julia has performed with VOX-The Rob Seible Singers, the Houston Cecilia Chamber Choir, and the Houston Gilbert & Sullivan Society where she performed the roles of Pitti-Sing (Mikado), Leila (Iolanthe), Cousin Hebe (HMS Pinafore), Mrs. Partlett (Sorcerer), and Kate (Pirates of Penzance).

Julia began singing with the Houston Symphony Chorus in the fall of 2015 and served as Alto Section Leader from 2017-2019 and Vice President of the Chorus Council 2019-2020. She is currently serving as Chorus Council President for the 2021-2022 season.

When not singing, Julia volunteers with the Speakers Committee of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo where she is part of the Howdy Dancers Line Dance Team. In her professional life, Julia works as a Senior Associate for Data Collection, Analysis and Reporting for the Center for Offshore Safety, a division of the American Petroleum Institute (API).

Tony Sessions

Tony Sessions, Librarian

Tony maintains the Chorus’ music library and distributes and collects music. He is the person to contact if you have any questions regarding our performance scores. You can normally find him in the Tenor section (look for a person in possession of a large box of music).

Since the Chorus Endowment was established in 1997, all proceeds have helped enrich the choral experience at the Houston Symphony. With your generous support, the Chorus Endowment has helped fund exciting new commissions, underwriting workshops and free community performances.

Please join us in giving to the Chorus Endowment. Here is how you can donate:

For more information, please contact Michael Arlen at (713)337-8529 or at michael.arlen@houstonsymphony.org.

For current Houston Symphony Chorus members: Click the Chorus Portal link to log in and access chorus resources.

Go to Chorus Portal