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Local Soprano, Debra Cook Will Perform At Carnegie Hall

Utah Conservatory

A Park City local will perform a debut solo in Carnegie Hall this month. She’s been teaching, conducting and performing for many years in Utah and she’s bringing a group of Wasatch Back choristers to sing back up.

A local performance of the Carnegie concert is Saturday in Park City.

John Rutter’s Requiem will be performed in New York on February 16th at the Stern Auditorium in Carnegie Hall. Debra Cook is the Co-founder and Managing Director of Utah Conservatory and Park City Music. She has taught generations of students the art of performance and has worked with people of every age to sing, act and play piano. She’s performed at Lincoln Center, but the Requiem solo is her debut for the iconic and world renowned, Carnegie Hall.

“This is actually Utah Choral Society’s 3rd project in Carnegie Hall with the Distinguished Concerts International New York I've performed over at Avery Fisher which is now called Geffen Hall but never done Carnegie before, so I'm excited.”

Seventy choristers from the Wasatch Back will accompany Cook on stage in New York City. The group will be part of more than 200 voices and 40 symphony musicians performing the Requiem. The Distinguished Concerts International performances frequently sell out and Cook says the choruses are most often not professionals.

“No, that’s the dirty little secret about having choruses is that there are very few choruses in the world that are professionals and so it takes a lot of training, it takes a lot of effort it takes a lot of commitment.”

Jonathan Griffiths will conduct the local performance on Saturday as well as the Carnegie Hall concert. The choir has many hours of intense rehearsal prior to the concert. The Park City choristers have been practicing independently for weeks.

“The attempt is to squeeze, you know, maybe 8 weeks-worth of rehearsals into two days and for the most part it's very successful. Singers come with an excitement and a desire to learn. They want to improve themselves they want to be capable of what I call Carnegie Hall performance. New York audiences are fairly sophisticated.  They have a certain expectation of people performing on the stage of Carnegie Hall.”

As part of an interfaith project, the local chorus sang the Requiem last year and sent a sample to Carnegie Hall organizers. The invitation was extended based on that performance. The singers are from a handful of choirs as well as conservatory students.

“The majority of our people have already done this before with orchestra, some of them are Park City singers that wanted to continue their season. We have some younger singers that have sung with Utah Conservatory Choral Society in former projects that we have done with orchestra, so we've got some pretty well experience singers here and then a few that we've gathered from the Conservatory.”

Cook’s granddaughter will perform at both the Park City and New York shows. There’s a handful of under 16 performers in the choir who are all expected to have the entire part memorized.

“The youngest one is eight and she's done the Requiem by memory before with orchestra and she's had a lot of orchestral experience so she's gonna be right there.”

A requiem is a musical composition often part of a funeral Mass. It’s intended to be a remembrance of lost love ones. Cook says the Rutter work is transportive.

“The Requiem itself by John Rutter really is quite a draw because of the beauty of this piece and how it just seems to permeate this love that we have for people through this existence and the next.”

The local performance is Saturday at 7 PM at the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Silver Springs Drive by the Blue Roof market. A donation to help cover the costs of the local performance is appreciated.  

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.
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