Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 4:08 pm | Fair 71º


Santa Ynez Valley Chorale Director, Chris A. Bowman, Passing Baton After 20 Years

Maestro Chris A. Bowman (Santa Ynez Valley Chorale photo)

After 20 years as the Santa Ynez Valley Master Chorale’s music director, Maestro Chris A. Bowman is passing his baton.

Under his direction, the Chorale, an auditioned community choir, has presented two concert series per year, a free Fourth of July concert and a Veterans Day performance. The Chorale has also performed in Europe and Quebec, Santa Barbara and up and down the central coast.

“I never dumbed down the music. I always strived for excellence,” Bowman said.

His resolutions paid off. The Chorale has performed ambitious works by Mozart, Handel, J.S. Bach, Haydn and more, as well as a number of Bowman’s own award-winning compositions.

Now, after 20 years, he’ll pass the baton to the next conductor, but not before he directs the Chorale and Orchestra’s presentation of “The Coronation Concert,” featuring Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Handel’s Coronation Anthem, April 30 and May 1.

And yes, he’ll direct the Chorale’s free Fourth of July Jamboree with The All Star Jamboree Band.

Under his watch, the Chorale added a youth chorale that performs with the Chorale, and an orchestra to accompany the holiday program.

Bowman says the stretch of performing in front of hundreds with an adult choir and a professional orchestra is an opportunity that few children will ever experience but one that could change their lives forever. He makes this statement from personal experience, as his interest in music started very early.

“Ever since elementary school, I have been interested in composing, song writing and experimenting with sounds and how they work together. In elementary school, I performed on trumpet, keyboards and vocals, and in junior high school, I directed and lead different types of ensembles.”

After touring the country with a rock band and working professionally at recording studios and other venues in Los Angeles, Bowman knew that knowing more about music would help his career.

He received double master’s degrees in conducting and vocal performance with additional emphasis on keyboards, composing, arranging, trumpet and recording.

“Throughout my life, I have either been conducting an ensemble or leading a rock/pop/jazz band or both,” he said. “I would say music picked me, and I immersed myself in it.”

Bowman’s joy comes when he is able to “bring music to life” from conception of an original idea, writing it down and then realizing it with other musicians.

“The power and force of music and its ability to communicate emotions is the most rewarding thing about being a musician,” Bowman said. “Sometimes I work with lyrics and find a melody that works nicely and then a chord progression. Sometimes I sit down at my piano or Hammond B-3 and work with ideas, motifs and more chord progressions. Other times, I just pick up my trumpet and get ideas with it.”

The result, Toad Hall: A Musical Based on The Wind in the WillowsThe Law of Love, Be Still and Know, Joy to the World in the Morning, A Christmas Rose, Gloria, Reflections and many more. In all, Bowman has composed over sixty-five pieces for voice and orchestra.

Bowman’s idea to add a professional orchestra to the Chorale’s performances allowed the group to produce a powerful, more complex blend of sounds.

The conductor’s special arrangements and orchestrating enabled the Chorale to present concerts most small communities can only dream of.

One of Bowman’s signature works Sanctus, premiered by the Chorale and Orchestra in 2003, will be part of the April 30 and May 1 Chorale concerts.

Bowman’s decision to step down comes on the heels of new opportunities. He says he’ll miss two things about the Chorale most: “the camaraderie and making music together.”

Bowman plans to continue composing, arranging and recording original music. He will continue performing and conducting as well.

“Grants, commissions and expanded digital music distribution are all on the horizon,” he said. “I have several projects in various stages of development, including a new work for a solo vocalist accompanied by keyboard, strings, electric bass, horn section, guitar and drums.”  

The Chorale is recruiting a new director to pick up Maestro Bowman’s baton. The new director will begin conducting the Chorale in Fall 2016.

Theresa Duer represents the Santa Ynez Valley Master Chorale.


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