Announcing House Music 2018

S&P Presents NOSE NONSENSE - Annual House Music Concert 2018

"Nothing is capable of being well set to music that is not nonsense." - Joseph Addison

Sacred and Profane knows (nose) nonsense! Our Annual House Music Concert and Fundraiser returns this August. Join us for a relaxed salon-style concert and reception to kick off our 2018-2019 season. We'll be performing in solos and small groups of all different styles and instrumentations, from classical to popular to contemporary, and bringing our friends and family along for the fun. During the regular season S&P sings sacred and secular choral repertoire, but rarely do we get to share our silly sides! Enjoy a lighthearted afternoon with us in a beautiful private residence in Berkeley.  Admission by donation: $25-$40 suggested. Generosity is welcomed, though no one turned away for lack of funds.

Nose Nonsense - House Music 2018
Sunday, August 26 2018, 2:00 PM
2747 Forest Ave, Berkeley (see map)

We'll also be revealing our 2018-19 season, as well as special offers for pre-sale tickets such as discounts and reserved seating to House Music attendees only! You won't want to miss them! 

"Mingle a little folly with your wisdom; a little nonsense now and then is pleasant." - Horace, Carmina



Show your support online and be entered to win free tickets!

If you aren't able to join us in person, you can still support Sacred & Profane in our 41st season fundraising goals. Any donation of $40 or more made now through August 31st will enter you in a drawing to win a pair of tickets to a concert of your choice in our 2018-2019 season! Each increment of $40 earns you another entry. Last year your generous support helped us produce one of our most challenging and successful seasons to date. Help us exceed our goals for our ambitious 2018-2019! Thank you, as always, for being a part of our community, and for your support of Sacred and Profane.

Deutschland Drama

Dear Friend of Sacred & Profane,
In my last letter, I wrote about the works in the first half of Sacred and Profane’s upcoming program of sacred music by German and Austrian master composers – Bach’s motet Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren, BWV 231 and Brahms’ motet Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Müseligen, Op. 74, No. 1. In this installment, I’ll let you into how I came to choose the other works that we’ll perform.

Hugo Distler

Hugo Distler

I keep a running list of pieces that Sacred and Profane’s singers suggest for us to perform down the line. Several years ago, our baritone (and at one point, alto!) Gabe Fuson asked if we could sing  Hugo Distler’spassion play Totentanz for choir and speakers. This dramatic work alternates aphorisms, sung by mixed choir, with dialogues between Death (spoken in our concert by ACT actor Paul Finocchiaro), and his many victims, who beg for mercy as they go to their fates. This beautiful piece (with wonderfully interesting music for the choir!) is entertaining, but also deeply dark.

When I was a teenager, I worked at art house movie theaters in Palo Alto – maybe some of you remember the New Varsity Theater, the famed theater/restaurant/café and launching place of many of Windham Hill’s jazz and new age recording artists? I worked there! In 1988, we showed the Belgian film The Music Teacher. Although I’d grown up in a house with instrumental chamber music and some vocal music, I’d never really heard anything like this, and I bought and devoured the CD of the music in the film. The piece that moved me the most, and that I credit for igniting my passion for music, was Mahler’s orchestral lied Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, masterfully sung by the Belgian baritone José van Dam. I listened to that CD, mostly that piece, until it was a skipping mess. I’ve never been the same. A few years ago, I heard a German chamber choir perform Clytus Gottwald’s arrangement of Ich bin der Welt for 16-part a cappella choir, and was awe-struck. I couldn’t believe that this rich, complex, and deeply moving piece could be reworked so perfectly for singers. As S&P has become more eager to tackle challenging works of the professional choral repertoire, I knew this piece had to be part of this concert, and part of this exciting season. I hope you are as moved by it as I am, and I hope to be able toconduct it through my sure-to-be tearing-up eyes!

Rebecca Petra Naomi Seeman; Artistic Director, Conductor

Rebecca Petra Naomi Seeman; Artistic Director, Conductor

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy this remarkable music with us! I’m looking forward to seeing you at one of our concerts!




Hear Director Seeman's recent interview with Jeffrey Freeman about these fabulous pieces on KDFC's State of the Arts!



Music of the Soul: Motets

Dear Friend of Sacred & Profane,
Sacred and Profane is hard at work preparing the second concert of our season celebrating 40 years of bringing beautiful choral music to Bay Area audiences. I wanted this season to focus on our title and our mission – celebrating the sacred and the profane. So while our December concert featured secular music of the winter night sky, our upcoming concert delves into sacred works by the German and Austrian masters Bach, Brahms, and Distler, plus an a cappella arrangement of a semi-sacred work for solo voice and orchestra by Mahler.


Choral conferences are treasure troves of repertoire discovery for me, but it’s pretty rare that a conference will reveal a new work by J.S. Bach! However, a small California conductors’ gathering at a retreat outside of Yosemite in the summer of 2016 did just that. I was introduced to Bach’s motet Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren, BWV 231, which had been sandwiched inside a larger work by Telemann for hundreds of years, and therefore assumed to also be by Telemann. When it was determined to be by Bach himself in the early 1980s, the world was given a new, beautiful motet for mixed choir. I can’t wait to bring you this exciting work that may be as unfamiliar to some of you as it was to me, with cellist Gretchen Claassen playing the continuo.


Brahms was a great lover of the music of the Renaissance and the Baroque, particularly the music of J.S. Bach. As a young man, he was known to spend many hours in the extensive music library of his mentors and friends Robert and Clara Schumann, poring over the complete works of Bach. Later, he kept a treasure trove of music by earlier masters in his own library in Vienna.. The influence of Bach’s music can be heard no place more clearly than in Brahms’ motet Warum ist das Licht gegeben dem Müseligen, Op. 74, No. 1. It is structured just like many Bach cantatas and motets, containing four sections, polyphonic passages, and changes in texture and style, and closing with a homophonic harmonization of a hymn by Luther. I first heard this masterpiece in my graduate studies at the University of Iowa, and fell head-over-heels in love with the work. I brought it into a Sacred and Profane concert in 2012, and I’m excited to share it with you again.
In my next letter to you, I’ll tell you about my relationship to Mahler’s Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen and Hugo Distler’s Totentanz. I hope to see you at our concerts!

Rebecca Petra Naomi Seeman; Artistic Director, Conductor

Rebecca Petra Naomi Seeman; Artistic Director, Conductor





Songs of Stars & Northern Lights

Dear Friend of Sacred & Profane,
What a wonderful experience to sing our secular wintertime concert of music about the evening, darkness, the night sky, and the northern lights last Saturday in Alameda! We can’t wait to present the concert this weekend – Saturday night in Berkeley and Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.


In my last letter, I talked about the first half of our program, and the focus on evening and solitude. The second half of our concert delves into the starry night and the Northern Lights: the magical Aurora Borealis.

Composer Eriks Ešenvalds

Composer Eriks Ešenvalds

I’ve never had the opportunity to see this phenomenon, but it’s always been a dream of mine. Stars have always been an inspiration for composers, as can be heard in our performance of Monteverdi’s brilliant madrigal, Sfogava con le Stelle. Lately, a number of composers have been inspired by the night sky and the Northern Lights. I actually had to eliminate several lovely settings of Sara Teasdale’s poems – their frequent reference to being alone in nature at night, gazing at the stars, and finding solace in solitude has spurred many recent beautiful choral works. I settled on two for these performances – Winter Stars by the recently departed Steven Stucky, an important composer of mostly instrumental music from Ithica, New York; and Stars by the Young Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds. I first heard Stars at the American Choral Director’s Association 2015 convention in Salt Lake City. I loved the piece for it’s emotional immediacy and it’s beautiful use of water-tuned wineglasses (many of you know that I play a wineglass instrument that I made). Since then, Ešenvalds’ music has become a mainstay of concert programming across the United States. I chose two other works by Ešenvalds’ for our concert – Northern Lights and Rivers of Light, two pieces that both incorporate folksong references to the aurora borealis as well as historic accounts written by early arctic explorers. I’ve been excited by a new trend to set non-poetic texts such as historical documents and speeches in vocal music and this is among the first times that Sacred and Profane has delved into this expressive form.

I hope you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy this remarkable music with us!


A Winter's Night: Songs of Evening

Dear Friend of Sacred & Profane,
I’ve always tried to represent diverse experiences in our holiday concerts. At times, we’ve performed music from multiple religious persuasions, or presented concerts that unify the pieces through elements such as light or a certain composer. In this season celebrating Sacred and Profane’s 40th year of bringing beautiful choral music to Bay Area audiences, I wanted to craft a season focused on our title and our mission – Sacred and Profane. So this concert focuses on the profane – not necessarily the bawdy side of profane, but the secular and non-religious. I’ve always felt that the wintertime is a time to nestle in, to contemplate life’s depths. Sure, it’s a time for celebration, but it’s also a time for solitude, quite reflection, spiritual depth. Ours is a secular concert about the evening and the night, about the starry sky and the Northern Lights.

Sketch of Alfvén by Peder Severin Krøyer, 1903

The first half of our concert will begin with music of the evening – two pieces titled Abendständchen (Evening Serenade), but musical settings of different poems by two German masters – Brahms and Mendelssohn. Several of the singers have told me that the Brahms is one of their go-to pieces in all of choral repertoire. We’ll also sing one of my favorite pieces by the mid-20th century Swedish folk-style lyricist Hugo AlfvénAftonen, with it’s dreamy humming after each verse. Saint-Saëns’ Calmes des nuit illustrates our theme perfectly, with the composer and poet (both Saint-Saëns) denouncing those who love the city life as shallow, preferring the solitude of nature as the light is waning.
I was fortunate to be present for Karin Rehnqvist’s rehearsal of Sånger ur jorden (Songs of the Earth) with Adolf Fredrik’s Girls Chorus just before they toured with that work in China in 1998. I’ve programmed it several times since, and I love how the work, like much of her music, gives singers an emotional experience and message they are rarely allowed. In this piece, the young women are encouraged not to hide from the darkness and difficulties life brings.

composer Ola Gjielo

composer Ola Gjielo

I was happy to find Wintertide, a brand-new work by the popular Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo with a text by Anthony Silvestri (the same poet of Eric Whitacre’s Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine, which we sang in May 2016). This work, an arrangement of a popular Norwegian Christmas tune, perfectly completes the first half of our concert about the spiritual depth and personal contemplation found in the winter evening.

In my next letter, I’ll talk about music of the stars, the Northern Lights, and the music of the Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds.

Rebecca Petra Naomi Seeman; Artistic Director, Conductor

Rebecca Petra Naomi Seeman; Artistic Director, Conductor






2017-2018 Season Announcement

2017-2018 Season: Forty Years of Sacred and Profane

 Marking our Monumental Milestone with Music & Merriment!

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything" - PLATO


Sacred & Profane Chamber Chorus is excited to announce the 2017-2018 season, which marks our 40th Anniversary season! Founded in 1977, Sacred and Profane has been bringing diverse and high quality choral music to the Bay Area for forty years! We've planned an amazing season of concerts that reflect the mission in our name, programming music from all eras and traditions: from the Middle Ages to world premieres, composers from all over the globe, and both the sacred and profane. You won't want to miss out what we have in store for you: we'll be joined by actors and composers, reviving some classics, and premiering contemporary commissions. Peruse the website for more details, and stay tuned for some exclusive behind-the-scenes and archival extras. We hope you'll join us in musical celebration of this occasion!



House Music 2017

What's Your Forte?

House Music 2017

House Music FB copy.jpg


Sacred & Profane's annual fundraiser returned this August with What's Your Forte? The House Music concerts are intimate salon-style concerts featuring the many talents of Sacred and Profane members & friends-- from solos to small ensembles in a wonderful variety of styles and instrumentations! Thanks to those who came out and made our fundraiser a smashing success!


Visit our Instagram to see more photos from House Music!

Post-Season Performances

Choral Collaborations & Concerts 

Concluding our 39th season with a few more cooperative performances


La Koro Sutro with Other Minds


Can't get enough Lou Harrison? Neither can we! Members of S&P will be singing in another centenary concert in collaboration with Other Minds. In addition to several other signature works by Harrison, the concert will feature a performance of La Koro Sutro, the Esperanto rendition of the 4th century Buddhist text The Heart Sutra, featuring singers from several Bay Area choirs and the William Winant Percussion Group conducted by Nicole Paiement, who has recorded a generous selection of Harrison's music.

Saturday, May 20 | 7:30 PM
Mission Dolores Basilica, San Francisco


Shotgun Players : THE EVENTS


Featuring Sacred and Profane
Friday, May 26 | 8pm
The Ashby Stage - Berkeley 

After a horrific event, we always ask "why?" In the aftermath of a tragedy, one survivor searches herself and the world for unfathomable rationales. With a delicate balance of humor, pathos and the power of a live choir, The Events explores the strength of our humanity when confronted by cruelty. 

Local theatre company Shotgun Players present a powerful and moving production of The Events, written by David Greig and directed by Susannah Martin. The play is partly inspired by the 2011 attack by a lone terrorist on a summer camp on the Norwegian island of Utoya. 


The Events features a different choir every night. 

Harrison Centenary

"A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language." - W.H. Auden

Join Sacred and Profane Chamber Chorus THIS WEEKEND for the final installment of Waxing Poetic: A Celebration of Poetry. We'll be exploring more settings of poetry and celebrating the 100th birthday of iconoclastic composer Lou Harrison. We're excited to be collaborating with Thingamajigs to present the world premiere of a brand-new work by Edward Schocker in conjunction with their Harrison 100/Thingamajigs 20celebration. In Love with Language also features works by Jan Sandström, Rudi Tas, and our very own Will Raymer! This program is not to be missed!

Dear Friend of Sacred and Profane,
In the mid-1990s the University of California, Santa Cruz music department, where I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, was dedicated to the music of our beloved neighbor, Lou Harrison, who lived just down the road in Aptos. As the celebrated composer in our midst, Lou shared more than just proximity with UCSC. He shared his vision of what it means to be a musician and a human being with the faculty, and thus with the students, who eagerly absorbed his all-embracing approach to musical identity. Lou was a scholar of several East Asian music traditions, including Indonesian gamelan, and also studied medieval chant, polyrhythmic music, pure intonation systems, Buddhist philosophy, the Esperanto language, and many other ideas with relish. (Most of my UCSC professors similarly had multiple areas of specialty – several had published research in Western classical music, in ethnomusicology, and had produced well-reviewed recordings. It was a heady place to study.) Two of my professors, Leta Miller and Fredric Lieberman, published a book about Lou shortly after I left UCSC, in which they referred to him not as “Mr. Harrison,” but “Lou,” in honor of his informal, caring nature. My conducting mentor, Nicole Paiement, also edited a number of Lou’s scores for publication and produced several recordings.


Lou was a kind man who resembled Santa Claus, and it was always a thrill to see him at concerts and to hear his music. During my studies at the University of Iowa, I enrolled in a course on “music since 1945.” Our end-of-semester project was to write a paper on a work by a living composer with whom we could arrange an interview. Most of my classmates  wrote papers on peer-composers whom they knew from their master’s programs, but I thought I might be able to write a paper on Lou’s great work, La Koro SutroLa Koro Sutro is a setting of an Esperanto translation of the Mahayana Buddhist text, the “Heart Sutra,” for choir and American Gamelan, a gamelan-like percussion ensemble that Lou and his long-time partner Bill Colvig built. I contacted Lou’s assistant, who was a friend of a close friend, to see if an interview might be arranged. Lou asked to see my questions before agreeing to speak to me, and after he received them graciously offered an interview. I asked him questions about his Buddhist practice and commitment to social justice and about his musical proclivities and influences. When I returned to teach at UCSC in 2000 as a teacher, I discovered that the conductor I was replacing had coincidentally reserved the American Gamelan for a performance of La Koro Sutro in the spring of 2001. So, after extensive study of the work and my interview with Lou, I was able to conduct a performance of the work with the UCSC Concert Choir. Lou was still alive at the time, but due to poor health was unable to attend the performances. I still recall the moment that I learned of his sudden death in 2003, and my deep sadness at his loss.

In May 2012, Sacred and Profane collaborated in two performances of La Koro Sutro with the University of San Francisco University Choir, the UC Berkeley Chamber Singers, and the William Winant Percussion Group. Several of our singers will sing the work again this coming May 20th under the direction of Nicole Paiement with Other Minds.
Meanwhile, last year, I was contacted by Edward Schocker, a local composer, improvisational musician, and director of Thingamajigs, a music collective that explores instrument building and holds music camps for kids. Edward and I had worked together several years ago when he sang with the St Ignatius Church Choir in San Francisco and we remained in touch through the East Bay avant garde music community. He explained that Thingamajigs was looking to create several works to partner with Lou’s compositions in celebration of Lou’s centenary on May 14, 2014, and wondered if Sacred and Profane might be interested in participating. Lou had been a close mentor of Edward’s at Mills College, where he received his masters in composition, and had encouraged him to create Thingamajigs. I agreed to the collaboration and chose Lou’s Mass for St Cecilia’s Day, a work of similar musical language to La Koro Sutro written for unison choir, harp, hand percussion, and unspecified drone instruments. Edward has composed a setting of Lou’s romantic poem for his partner Bill, titled On Bill's Return, for the same instrumental requirements as the Mass. The drone for both pieces will be played on my wineglass organ, an instrument that is making its way into Sacred and Profane’s concerts with increased regularity (expect to see it again in December 2017). I’m very happy that we’ll be presenting both of these wonderful works on Lou’s 100th birthday, a fitting way to celebrate the life and work of a truly delightful man and an important contributor to the musical fabric of the 20th century.
You can hear both of these works, plus our performances of beautiful settings of 19th and 20thcentury poets, at our upcoming concerts on May 13th in Berkeley and May 14th in San Francisco! I look forward to seeing you there!