Breaking News: Erick Lichte's New Live Reference
On September 27, 2012, Stereophile Contributing Editor and choral conductor Erick Lichte was appointed Artistic Director of Vancouver's Chor Leoni Men's Choir, effective September 2013. Lichte previously served as the ensemble's Associate Conductor under founder and current Artistic Director, Diane Loomer, C.M. In that capacity, Lichte conducted the choir's close to 60 members to Europe this past summer, where they won 12 major awards at the 51st Seghizzi Concorso Internationale Di Canto Corale in Gorizia Italy.
Lichte's appointment follows a string of prestigious conducting positions that include Artistic Directorship of Cantus, one of only two full-time vocal ensembles in the United States (20002009). Lichte's work with Cantus, beautifully captured on several oft-breathtaking CDs engineered by Stereophile editor John Atkinson, earned him the 2009 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence, the highest honor granted by the professional choral organization Chorus America.
"I initially knew of Chor Leoni by reputation," Lichte told Stereophile shortly before his appointment became public. "They're respected as one of the best if not the best male choirs in North America. I initially got to know them when they sang with Cantus at a summer festival in 2002 and then at an international choir festival in Minnesota."
Once the appointment takes effect, Lichte will rehearse the choir for three hours every week, and lead them in a host of performances in Vancouver and beyond. He will also conduct their frequent appearances on the CBC Radio Canada network.
"People who are into male choral music are definitely aware of this group," says Lichte. "I'm hoping to extend their reach and reputation even further. One of my top priorities is championing some real larger-scale masterpieces for male choir that don't get performed much."
After leaving Cantus, Lichte spent two years in Minneapolis, conducting college choirs, community groups, and Music of the Baroque. In 2011, he and his wife moved to Portland, OR, where he became Associate Conductor of the Oregon Repertory Singers, a "fantastic church choir," and choirs at Portland State University. Lichte relocated in order to help Dr. Ethan Sperry lead a new, fully auditioned men's choir at the university. That choir is now off and running, and, according to Lichte, "creating a new tradition of choral music in the Northwest."
Together with Sperry, Lichte also created the Male Choir Commissioning Consortium. This association of 13 male choirs from North America commissioned a sizable number of new works from distinguished living composers, including Lee Hoiby's "Last Letter Home," featured on Cantus's eponymous 2007 album.
When asked why he devotes so much of his energy to male choirs, Lichte replied, "There is something absolutely magical to me about the sound of a male choir. When you think about how the overtone series works, when a male choir sings, you not only can have all of the bass and that wonderful rich midrange, but also the overtones. To me, the pairing of the rich bottom with what happens in the overtones is such a complete sound. When a male choir locks a chord, it's absolutely stunning."
As he assumes leadership of Chor Leoni, Lichte will step away from his work with the Oregon Repertory Singers and Choirs at Portland State. The decision will allow him to continue to review equipment for Stereophile.
"I'm so excited to be working with a group of this caliber and reputation, and happy to share their music with Stereophile readers," he declares. "Lest anyone think I don't know what live unamplified music sounds like..."