Colorado Symphony Chorus

Duain Wolfe, Founding Director and Conductor
Mary Louise Burke, Associate Conductor
Travis Branam, Assistant Conductor
Taylor Martin, Assistant Conductor
Eric Israelson, Chorus Manager
Barbara Porter, Associate Manager
Brian Dukeshier, Accompanist
Hsiao-Ling Lin, Accompanist
Danni Snyder, Accompanist

Duain Wolfe - Founding Director and Conductor

Recently awarded two Grammys® for Best Choral Performance and Best Classical Recording (Verdi Requiem), Duain Wolfe is founder and director of the Colorado Symphony Chorus and music director of the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Duain Wolfe was elected chairman of Chorus America in 2003. Chorus America serves professional, volunteer, children/youth and symphony/opera choruses throughout North America, and Wolfe is the first chair to have the distinction of directing choruses in each of these categories.

This year marks Wolfe’s 34th season heading the Colorado Symphony Chorus. The Chorus provides vital support for numerous performances and radio broadcasts with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra each season, and has been featured at the Aspen Music Festival for over two decades. Wolfe, who is in his 24th season with the Chicago Symphony Chorus America’s largest professional chorus, has collaborated with Daniel Barenboim, Bernard Haitink, Riccardo Muti, and the late Pierre Boulez and Sir George Solti on numerous recordings including Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, which won the 1998 Grammy® for Best Opera Recording. Wolfe’s extensive musical accomplishments have resulted in numerous awards, including an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the University of Denver, the Bonfils Stanton Award in the Arts and Humanities, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline and the Michael Korn Award for the Development of the Professional Choral Art. Wolfe is also founder of the Colorado Children’s Chorale, from which he retired in 1999 after 25 years; the Chorale is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. For 20 years, Wolfe also worked with the Central City Opera Festival as chorus director and conductor, founding and directing the company’s young artist residence program, as well as its education and outreach programs. Wolfe’s additional accomplishments include directing and preparing choruses for Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, the Bravo! Vail Festival, the Berkshire Choral Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Grand Teton Music Festival. He has worked with Pinchas Zuckerman as Chorus Director for the Canadian National Arts Centre Orchestra for the past 15 years.

Mary Louise Burke - Associate Conductor

Mary Louise Burke is in her 23rd season as Associate Chorus Director of the Colorado Symphony Chorus. In addition to assisting Chorus Director Duain Wolfe, she also prepares the chorus for various Colorado Symphony pops concerts and special chorus projects. Burke is also Associate Director of the Colorado Children’s Chorale, conducting the Concert Choir and acting as vocal coach for the Chorale. With an expertise in vocal technique, Burke frequently does seminars in vocal and choral techniques for area church and community choirs. She is the Vocal Advisor at Montview Presbyterian Church and has taught classes in “Find Your Authentic Voice” at the University of Denver. She has a Doctorate in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Colorado.‚Äč

About the Colorado Symphony Chorus

In the spring of 1984, word went out that a Denver chorus director, Duain Wolfe, was auditioning area singers to fill the ranks of the newly established Denver Symphony Orchestra Chorus. Of the 300 or so that auditioned that spring, about 140 were selected to begin rehearsing the Verdi Requiem. The debut performance was given on October 25, 1984, to rave reviews!

Little did Duain know that among the 140 or so chorus members that sang in those early years, some would still be singing with him 34 years later.  Each year, all returning chorus members sign a “Commitment Form," indicating their willingness to “re-up” for another season of singing. It sometimes seems that in our modern society the concept of “commitment” has lost some of its luster and true meaning. Not so with members of the CSO Chorus, many of whom have been singing for many years with Duain Wolfe.

As the chorus developed and grew, the schedule settled into about 50 rehearsals supporting 30 performances each season. Those 80 services a year, now at 34 years, total nearly 2,600. Carried one step further, at 3 hours per service, singers volunteer about 240 hours of time each year to the Colorado Symphony. High praise is due these dedicated singers for their steadfast adherence to their “commitment” and love of singing!

The Colorado Symphony's 2017/18 Season marks the 34th year of the Colorado Symphony Chorus. Founded in 1984 by Duain Wolfe at the request of Gaetano Delogu, then the Music Director of the Symphony, the chorus has grown, over the past three decades, into a nationally respected ensemble. This outstanding chorus of 180 volunteers joins the Colorado Symphony for numerous performances (more than 25 this year alone), and radio and television broadcasts, to repeat critical acclaim.

The Chorus has performed at noted music festivals in the Rocky Mountain region, including the Colorado Music Festival, the Grand Teton Music Festival and the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, where it has performed with the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Dallas Symphony. For over two decades, the Chorus has been featured at the world-renowned Aspen Music Festival, performing many great masterworks under the baton of notable conductors Lawrence Foster, James Levine, Murry Sidlin, Leonard Slatkin, Robert Spano and David Zinman.

Among the six recordings the CSO Chorus has made is a NAXOS release of Roy Harris’s Symphony No. 4. The Chorus is also featured on a Hyperion release of the Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem and Stephen Hough’s Missa Mirabilis.  Most recently, the Orchestra and Chorus has released a remarkable recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

In 2009, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the chorus, Duain Wolfe conducted the chorus on a 3-country, 2-week concert tour of Europe, presenting the Verdi Requiem in Budapest, Vienna, Litomysl and Prague, and in 2016 the chorus returned to Europe for concerts in Paris, Strasbourg and Munich.

From Evergreen to Brighton, and Boulder to Castle Rock, singers travel each week to rehearsals and performances in Denver totaling about 80 a year. The Colorado Symphony continues to be grateful for the excellence and dedication of this remarkable all-volunteer ensemble!  For an audition appointment, call 303.308.2483.

Audition Information

Thank you for your interest in singing in the Colorado Symphony Chorus. For an audition appointment, call 303.308.2483.

We hope that these notes below will answer most of your questions about the Chorus and its work with the Colorado Symphony:

How is the Chorus structured?
The CSO Chorus is a large symphonic chorus of approximately 180 volunteer singers who perform the great masterworks of the choral/orchestral repertoire with the Colorado Symphony. The Chorus also appears regularly with the Bravo! Vail Music Festival (singing with the New York Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony, and Philadelphia Orchestra) and with the Aspen Music Festival. The Chorus directors assign singers to sections that are appropriate to their vocal range.

What is the repertoire of the Chorus?
The Chorus sings principally the music of great masters, including oratorios, masses, requiems, operas, and symphonies in Latin, German, Russian, Italian, French, Hebrew, and English. The Chorus also performs world premieres, special commissions, and commercial recordings.

When and where are rehearsals?
Regular weekly rehearsals take place Tuesday evenings at Trinity Methodist Church in downtown Denver at 18th and Broadway. Free parking for the Chorus is available in adjacent lots after 6:00 pm.

Concert week rehearsals are generally Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday rehearsals with orchestra for Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday concerts. These are at Boettcher Concert Hall at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts at 13th and Curtis Streets. Free parking passes are provided for most rehearsals and concerts at Boettcher Concert Hall.

Occasional summer rehearsals are scheduled as needed for festival projects (mentioned above) and are generally on Monday or Tuesday evening.

What are the attendance expectations?
In order to maintain high artistic standards, singers are expected to be at all services (service = rehearsal or performance). Illness and family emergencies or obligations affect everyone from time-to-time, so some exceptions can be made with appropriate communication with the Chorus Manager. Commitment to the musical standards of the Chorus necessitates a strong commitment to the rehearsals and performances in spite of scheduling challenges. Experience has shown us that those singers with evening work schedules or college classes, out-of-town business travel, heavy family responsibilities, or non-understanding spouses have great difficulty fulfilling their chorus commitment. This is a significant commitment and we encourage all members to work carefully to fulfill their commitment.

Are there age restrictions?
A chorus member must be at least 21 years of age. We are concerned that the young voice is matured, trained, and experienced to the extent that singing our demanding symphonic repertoire will not cause vocal injury. We are equally concerned with the mature voice regarding a loss of control of vocal vibrato (wobble), and a diminishing level of vocal coloratura (flexibility), range, volume and physical stamina. All members are expected to maintain good vocal health for their tenure in the Chorus, some of whom have been singing with the chorus for over 30 years.

Are there opportunities to sing solos with the orchestra/chorus?
Like all orchestral associations, concert soloists are contracted by the artistic administration of the Symphony through artist agents. Chorus members occasionally sing small solos but not main stage solos.

Are there costs involved with Chorus membership?
There are no fees, dues, or tuition for Colorado Symphony Chorus members. Women purchase their uniform attire: $70 for the dress; $10 for the pearls. Men provide their own tuxedo. All members purchase their own black music folders. The Association, with options for members to purchase their scores, provides all music. For summer festival performances, housing is provided by the festival administrations.

Who are the Chorus conductors and managers?
Music Director and Conductor: Duain Wolfe, founder of this 33-year old Chorus (as well as founder of the Colorado Children’s Chorale, which he directed for 25 years). He also directs the Chicago Symphony Chorus and commutes weekly between the two cities for rehearsals and performances. He has exacting standards and conducts a fast-paced, professional rehearsal.

Associate Director and Conductor: Mary Louise Burke. She is also Associate Director of the Colorado Children’s Chorale.
Assistant Conductors: Travis Branam and Taylor Martin
Accompanists: Brian Dukeshier and Danni Snyder
Chorus Managers: Eric Israelson and Barbara Porter

Member Profile Successful and committed Colorado Symphony Chorus members have: 

  • a profound love for the wealth of choral/orchestral masterpieces

  • the ability to concentrate and work effectively in professional rehearsals

  • the scheduling flexibility to accommodate our schedule

  • the physical stamina to attend all rehearsals and performances on a regular basis

  • recent classical choral music experience

  • a reliably high level of vocal technique, range, volume, and vibrato control

The Audition Process:
We are currently auditioning to fill openings in all sections for our 33rd season, an outline for which is below.

  1. Have a prepared number: a song, art song, or aria (oratorio, opera) sung in any language (no pop songs, show tunes, hymns, or choral parts). Memorization is not required. A pianist is provided. Bring a second copy of the music for the pianist.

  2. A short sight singing exercise

  3. A brief exercise to demonstrate ability to follow a conductor

  4. Vocalizing to demonstrate vocal color and range

Regularly scheduled auditions are in early September and January.

The next auditions will be Monday, September 11, 2017, at Trinity United Methodist Church (18th & Broadway).
To schedule an audition between 7:00 and 9:30pm, please email with a message containing your name, voice part, phone number, and the name and composer of your audition selection.

Additional questions? 
We welcome all questions concerning the chorus, its schedule, or your audition. Please feel free to contact Eric Israelson or Barb Porter with any other inquiries you may have regarding your commitment to the Chorus at 303.308.2483. Thank you for your interest in the Colorado Symphony Chorus!