The Houston Symphony Chorus 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 Juraj Valčuha, 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.
Houston Symphony Chorus 2023–24 season:
- Opening Weekend: Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe: September 29, 30 & October 1, 2023
- Handel’s Messiah: December 15, 16 & 17, 2023
- Very Merry POPS: December 20, 21, 22 & 23, 2023
- Takemitsu + Brahms’s Requiem: January 19, 20 & 21, 2024
- Carmina burana: April 26, 27 & 28, 2024
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets™ In Concert: May 10 & 11, 2024
- Adams’s El Niño: May 25 & 26, 2024
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.
For questions about the Houston Symphony Chorus, please send an email to Suré Eloff.
Special thanks to Trinity Downtown Lutheran Church for providing the Houston Symphony Chorus with rehearsal space.
The Houston Symphony Chorus is one of Houston’s oldest and most distinguished musical organizations. Founded in 1946 as the Houston Chorale, it became the Houston Symphony Chorale in 1968, and the Houston Symphony Chorus in 1986.
- The Chorus has enjoyed the leadership of eight directors: Alfred Urbach (1946–1986), A. Clyde Roller (1967–1968), Wayne Bedford (1968–1969), Don Strong (1969–1977), Virginia Babikian (1977–1986), Charles Hausmann (1986–2014), Dr. Betsy Cook Weber (2014–2022), and Allen Hightower (2022–present). Because of Dr. Hausmann’s extraordinarily long service, he was named Director Emeritus upon his retirement.
Over the years, the Chorus has sung with dozens of the world’s most notable conductors, including Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Steven Reineke, Michael Krajewski, Robert Shaw, André Previn, Leopold Stokowski, Christoph Eschenbach, Sir John Barbirolli, Ferenc Fricsay, Lawrence Foster, and Hans Graf, to name only a very few.
In addition to performances in Jones Hall, the Symphony’s home venue, the Chorus has also delighted audiences in various concert halls throughout the United States, Europe, and Mexico.
Recent reactions to its performances include:
“…beautifully balanced, modulated sound that seamlessly blended with the orchestra.”
—Review of A German Requiem, Houston Chronicle, May 8, 2018
“… the chorus was magnificent.”
—Review of Stabat Mater, Houston Chronicle, September 27, 2018
The Chorus consists entirely of volunteer singers who have considerable musical skill, vocal talent, and choral experience. They audition for placement each year. The Chorus performance schedule is possibly the busiest in the country, consisting of up to fourteen different sets of repertoire for a total of 45 concerts. Knowing that good singers are usually very busy people and that most could not possibly participate in a full season, the Chorus uses a unique method of placement. At the time of their audition, singers indicate in which series they are interested in singing. Some will be interested in singing only one series with us, while others will hope to sing all fourteen. They are subsequently placed based on their audition scores and stated preferences.
If it is appealing to imagine yourself singing wonderful repertoire as part of a dedicated, skilled, talented choir, with one of the world’s great orchestras, and under the batons of some of the world’s most exciting conductors, please view the Audition Information listed on this page.
July 2023 auditions for the Houston Symphony Chorus will take place in-person and will consist of three portions:
2. Messiah Chorus (optional; if you choose not to sing a Messiah chorus, you will be asked to sing a brief folksong or hymn—“My Country Tis of Thee,” for example.)
You also will be asked to fill out a Google form indicating series interest and availability.
When Does This Placement Take Place?
The auditions will be held July 22 from 11: 30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Trinity Downtown, 800 Houston Ave., 77007.
Sign up for an audition time; the audition times are in 6-minute blocks; you will vocalize and sing for Dr. Hightower, and then you will sight-read in a different room.
You should receive an email reminder regarding your audition time, but, just in case, record the date and time so you don’t miss your audition.
Messiah Chorus (Optional)
This portion of the audition is required if you want to be considered for Messiah. It is optional otherwise. 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. You may use the score and the accompaniment links below to practice; these accompaniment links will be used in the audition.
If you opt not to sing a Messiah chorus, then you will be asked to sing a brief hymn/folksong (My Country Tis of Thee, as an example.)
Option 1: Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder
Option 2: His Yoke Is Easy
Option 3: All We Like Sheep
Option 4: Hallelujah! (Chorus)
Sight-reading: Our sight-reading exercises are taken from the online platform Sightreading Factory, Level 6 (major key). They are 12-16 measures long. 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.
By your audition date, you will receive a link to a Google form, in which you will indicate your interest and availability in the series with chorus for the 2023–2024 season.
If you have any questions/difficulties with the audition process, please email Suré Eloff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allen Hightower, Director
Dr. Allen Hightower, a seventh-generation Texan, is director of the Houston Symphony Chorus beginning in the 2022–23 Season. He is the director of choral studies at the University of North Texas, where he leads the master’s and doctoral programs in choral conducting and oversees a comprehensive choral program of eight ensembles. He serves as conductor of UNT’s A Cappella Choir, Grand Chorus, and the early music vocal ensemble Vox Aquilae.
As a teacher and conductor, Allen has visited 30 states, Asia, and Europe. His students hold leadership positions as choral conductors in public schools, colleges, universities, churches and community choirs throughout the United States. Prior to joining UNT, Allen held the Weston Noble Endowed Chair in Music at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he was conductor of the renowned Nordic Choir and artistic director of Christmas at Luther. Previously, he served as professor of music and director of choral studies at Sam Houston State University and taught at the high school level in the Houston and Odessa areas.
Outside the academic setting, Allen was Houston Masterworks Chorus and Orchestra’s artistic director, leading an annual concert series of choral/orchestral masterworks. As a deeply committed church musician, he has served churches in Texas, California, and Minnesota. Currently, he is on the music staff of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and is the church music vice-president of the Texas Choral Directors Association.
Allen earned his undergraduate degree in music education and piano from Sam Houston State University, a master’s in choral conducting from the Eastman School of Music, a master’s in orchestral conducting from Baylor University, and his doctorate in conducting from the University of California, Los Angeles. He pursued additional studies in orchestral and choral conducting at the University of Southern California, at Westminster Choir College, and the Oregon Bach Festival. After winning first prize in the graduate division of the American Choral Directors Association’s Conducting Competition in 1997, he was assistant to Paul Salamunovich, conductor of the Los Angeles Master Chorale.
Julia C. Hall, Assistant Director
Julia C. Hall is the retired chair of the vocal music department at Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. In addition to her duties as the primary HSPVA voice instructor, she conducted the Concert Singers, Chorale, and HSPVA Madrigal Singers. Before returning to her high school alma mater 12 years ago, Julia taught at Lamar High School, Episcopal High School, and Memorial Middle School. She conducted invited choirs twice at the Texas Music Educators Association Convention: in 2011, with the Memorial Advanced Treble Choir and in 2017, with the HSPVA Treble Chorus.
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 University of Houston’s Moores School of Music. 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.
In addition to her many years as a Houston Symphony Chorus soprano, she has sung with the Houston Chamber Choir and Houston Masterworks Chorus. A life-long Episcopalian, she served on the Episcopal Diocese of Texas Music Commission for many years.
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.
Suré Eloff Chorus Manager
Tony Sessions Librarian
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:
- Give online now: Use this link to donate online and be sure to designate “Chorus Endowment” from the list of supported programs.