Sacramento Master Singers

The mission of the Sacramento Master Singers is:
- To provide audiences in the greater Sacramento area with world-class concerts that engage and inspire
- To perform a diverse repertoire of music drawing on the best choral literature from early chant to avant-garde
- To offer an opportunity to accomplished choral Singers for musical growth, personal fulfillment and fellowship
- To ensure the advancement of the choral arts through outreach activities for area youth

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Address: P.O. Box 417997
Sacramento, CA 95841
County or Parish: Sacramento
Primary NTEE: Arts,Culture & Humanities 
Sub NTEE: Music 
Executive Director: Ralph Hughes
Contact Email:
Primary Phone: 916-788-7464
Sacramento Master Singers is in its 32nd year of presenting dynamic and diverse choral concerts under the direction of Dr. Ralph Hughes. The 50-member ensemble has grown considerably in size and reputation since Hughes took up the baton from director Ken Winter in 1986 (shortly after the original small chamber choir had changed its name from Camellia Concert Chorale). Thanks to Hughes' steadfast leadership and the singers' commitment to achieving artistic excellence in a myriad of musical styles, SMS is renowned for performing an ever-expanding repertoire that includes works by upwards of 350 composers. The audition-only chorus includes music teachers, choral directors, music students and a wide array of Sacramento-area professionals, homemakers, laborers and retirees. Bound by their love of choral singing, our members volunteer countless hours in service to the Master Singers motto: "Advancing the art, lifting the soul."

SMS invites its audiences on ever-changing musical journeys that span continents and a thousand years of choral artistry: Depending on the season and concert theme, a program might include soaring a cappella motets, Medieval or African chants, American spirituals, pleas for world peace, odes to love, Scandinavian jazz, Celtic folk tunes, newly commissioned songs, or beloved master works re-imagined for Sacramento audiences. Local premieres have included Benjamin Britten's A.M.D.G.; Alfred Schnittke's Requiem, and compositions by more than a dozen contemporary composers including Eric Whitacre, David O, Jake Runestad, Ken Medema and Sir James MacMillan. Our most recent attempts to encourage the appreciation of choral music in young audience members have been particularly successful in our performances of popular songs by the delightful Grammy-winning a capella group Pentatonix.

SMS has hosted numerous internationally acclaimed guest conductors and artists including: Venezuelan choral conductor Maria Guinand, Argentine composer Oscar Escalada; Vance George, of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus; Joseph Jennings, of Chanticleer; Alice Parker; Moses Hogan, and Grammy-winning Native American flutist Mary Youngblood. The choir proudly collaborates with local performers including Men of Worth, Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, Sacramento Children's Chorus, Folsom Symphony, ARC Jazz Bands, Capital Jazz Project, R.S.V.P., Celebration Arts, and the Sacramento Youth Symphony. We perform joint concerts with college and high school choirs, and encourage young vocalists through our annual Asya Pleskach Scholarship for Young Choral Singers, which has awarded more than $24,000 in music scholarships and countless hours of mentoring to area youth in multiple age groups.

The Master Singers marked Dr. Hughes' 30th anniversary season with the release of the choir's ninth CD, "Sing a New Song." Recorded live and during gala concerts in May of 2016, the CD includes multiple premieres of compositions keyed to life in Sacramento, with music by Ken Medema and lyrics by many of our region's celebrated poets. The 2016 CD concludes with Ola Gjeilo's "Sunrise Mass," a shimmering work with string orchestra that inspired SMS fans to leap to their feet with applause.

Another recent CD, our two-disc audience favorite "Celtic Memories," showcases our multiple collaborations through the years with Scottish/Irish duo Men of Worth. With the generous support and encouragement of Master Singers fans who sold out our Celtic concerts, SMS went straight to the source in June of 2015---not only performing concerts on a tour of Scotland, but working with and learning from the noted Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan in Glasgow. Our tour history also includes concert performances in the Carolinas, Hawaii, South America and, most recently, the Pacific Northwest: In the summer of 2017, SMS toured and performed joint concerts with the Cascadian Chorale in Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Our ongoing commitment to high quality choral singing and creative programming has earned the loyalty of thousands of local fans. We strive to sing with passion and to express the full range of human emotion. We treasure our connection with our audiences. Our tradition of surrounding the audience during a portion of most concerts, of having singers so close that you can hear them breathe as they tune themselves to the chords of the human heart, is as dear to us as it is to many concertgoers.
1) One mission of the Sacramento Master Singers is to present world class concerts that engage and inspire, performance of diverse repertoire and providing opportunities for singer growth. Newly commissioned literature is a significant feature of top-notch choirs internationally including Chanticleer, Conspirare and Voces8, and would satisfy each element of our mission mentioned above. A commission fee is based on multiple attributes: the length of the work, number of performers, the budget of the commissioning party, and, most notably, the composer's reputation. Commission fees for a 5-minute, a cappella choral piece by a composer of Eric Whitacre's stature would cost in the region of $12,000-15,000. A piece by a noted composer would garner great attention, excitement, and media attention within our region.

2) Combining outreach to area youth with the desire to present engaging and inspiring concerts via choral music is possible if the lyrics or poetry for a commissioned piece utilizes the word of teenage authors and poets such as the writers of 916 Ink, a hugely successful nonprofit in Sacramento, CA. Commission fees for a 10+ multi-movement piece would cost in the region of $10,000-25,000. The addition of instrumentalists, guest youth choirs, and special guest soloists would increase the price by $5,000-10,000. 916 Ink has already been approached and is interested in this project if funded.

3) Hiring recording, rehearsal and performance venues would greatly benefit the quality of performances we can offer. Rehearsal and performance venues vary a great deal, but costs for 3 rehearsals, 1-2 recording sessions, and 2 performances in a venue such as Harris Center for the Arts in Folsom would cost in the range of $5-10,000. An orchestra of 24 string players, if hired for 3 rehearsals and 2 performances, costs between $12-18,000. A smaller ensemble, such as a brass quartet or string quartet, would require funding of $4-5,000. A guest vocal or instrumental soloist may cost between $500-$2,000.

4) Simultaneously piquing the interest audiences by presenting fresh takes on choral pieces as well as challenging singers could be accomplished by the hire of a guest conductor. Five rehearsals and two performances, air fares, hotels and meals for a guest director from outside of California would cost in the range of $10-15,000. Outreach to youth, by inviting youth choruses to be members of the performing ensemble, would allow this idea serve multiple points of our mission.

5) Our efforts to draw in audiences to hear exceptional music would be greatly enhanced by assistance by marketing experts and professional photographer(s). Marketing professional(s) to plan and execute a marketing campaign would charge $2500-6,000. A photographer could be hired for $1-3,000 to provide a CD of hi-res photos for use in programs, ads and online publicity campaigns.
Our top needs:
  1. Funding: Program - New music commissions, including those that assist us in our youth outreach efforts.
  2. Technology - New CRM and ticket management and sales platform that enables us to improve our organizational efficiency as well as the customer experience.
  3. Funding: Unrestricted - Recording space, rehearsal & performance venue hire, hiring instrumentalists & other guest soloists.
  4. Funding: Other - Guest conductor/clinician & outreach to youth.
  5. Funding: Other - Personnel to create & execute a media campaign via various media (photographer, marketing personnel).
The Sacramento Master Singers occupies a unique niche in the local arts scene by presenting professional-caliber performances of chamber choral music. In fulfillment of our mission, we endeavor to provide an experience that is educationally and musically fulfilling to our audiences as well as our membership, and to reach out to collaborate with artists and communities from the rich variety found within our region. that enrich the diverse Sacramento area. Our music director continues to seek out opportunities to enrich our concerts with new works by important contemporary composers and pair it with great music from the past that is not often performed today by other choral groups. This combination of the best of old and new ensures entertaining, yet educational programs. The Sacramento Master Singers presents three to seven unique programs of choral music each year. These programs cover a broad spectrum of themes, styles, and genres of choral music. Frequently our seasons begin with a collaborative concert in November and continue with holiday and children's concerts in December. In the spring, we present two or more contrasting programs and include outreach programs to area high schools and communities beyond Sacramento (Harris Center, Folsom concerts; Auburn outreach concerts; Seattle/Vancouver tour, etc.).

After premieres of specially commissioned pieces in recent years, our programming this year has gone another direction. SMS's latest promotional video How Can I Keep From Singing? includes drone video and conventional video recorded atop Telescope Peak in the Sierra Mountains near Soda Springs, CA. It received over 15,000 views on YouTube in its first month online. In December 2017, we transitioned to two new venues to provide better acoustics and sight lines for our patrons. In 2018-2020 seasons, our goals are to work with a major guest conductor such as Ola Gjeilo or Eric Whitacre, to entertain audiences with enticing themes such as SMS Goes to the Movies and SMS Rocky Horror Picture Show Sing-Along, to create spectacle in unusual venues that will attract new listeners, and to collaborate with other ensembles and non-arts groups in our region. Stay tuned as we continue to offer concerts and experiences that advance the art and lift the soul.

- Dr. Ralph E. Hughes, Executive & Artistic Director