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Stunning vocal range, flexibility, drama, and power are among the hallmarks of the 39-year-old San Francisco Girls Chorus, recognized as one of the world’s most widely known and respected vocal ensembles for youth.
Under the direction of Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa and Music Director & Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe®, SFGC has achieved an incomparable sound that underscores the unique clarity and force of impeccably trained treble voices fused with expressiveness and drama. As a result, the Chorus vibrantly performs 1,000 years of choral masterworks from plainchant to the most challenging and nuanced contemporary works created expressly for them in programs that are as intelligently designed as they are enjoyable and revelatory to experience.
This season, SFGC will present a three-concert subscription series in San Francisco at Herbst Theatre, Davies Symphony Hall, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. In February, the Chorus makes its Carnegie Hall debut with Philip Glass and the Philip Glass Ensemble for a remounting of the composer’s seminal 1971 work, Music With Changing Parts. The Chorus will also collaborate with the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, and Kronos Quartet.
Highlights from the 2016-2017 Season included SFGC’s debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with The Knights for the acclaimed SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras. The Chorus also performed with the Kronos Quartet for the ensemble’s festival at SFJAZZ and appeared on stage with the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, and the San Francisco Film Festival.
Other recent performance highlights include the inauguration for President Barack Obama; Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony with Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra; and the New York Philharmonic’s 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL festival at Lincoln Center. Recent touring activities have taken the Chorus to Cuba, Germany, the Nordic countries, New York, Washington, D.C., and Oregon, for appearances at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, and Britt Music Festival.
SFGC has been the recipient of some of the music industry’s highest honors including five GRAMMY Awards and three ASCAP/Chorus America Awards for Adventurous Programming.
Lisa Bielawa, SFGC Artistic Director and Producer, is a composer-vocalist and 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition and the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1997, Bielawa co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers. She began touring as the vocalist with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, has also toured, and recorded with the renowned early music groups Pomerium and TENET, performed with Paul McCartney at Carnegie Hall, toured with Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed, and appeared on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Bielawa was the choirmaster for the touring production of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach from 2012 to 2015 and assisted Paul Simon with the development of his Broadway musical Capeman. Bielawa’s music is frequently performed throughout the United States and Europe in venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Her music can be found outside the concert hall, as well; Airfield Broadcasts was premiered on the tarmac of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin and performed at Crissy Field in San Francisco. In 2017, she completed her unprecedented made-for-TV-and online opera, Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, released by KCET-TV in Los Angeles for free, on-demand streaming.
Valérie Sainte-Agathe, SFGC Music Director and Principal Conductor, has prepared and conducted the San Francisco Girls Chorus since 2013—for performances with renowned artists such as Jon Nakamatsu, Deborah Voigt, Gustavo Dudamel, the New Century Chamber Orchestra, Kronos Quartet, Philip Glass, and Aaron Jay Kernis. In June 2016, she conducted the chorus alongside the Knights Orchestra and Brooklyn Youth Chorus for the NY PHIL BIENNIAL at Lincoln Center. She collaborated with The Knights for the SHIFT Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in April 2017. Sainte-Agathe served as Music Director for the Young Singers program of the Montpellier National Symphony and Opera in France from 1998 to 2011. In this capacity, she trained young singers for opera and symphony concerts and productions. She participated in eight recordings with the Montpellier National Orchestra and the Radio France Festival. She is a recipient of a Victoires de la Musique award (the equivalent of a French GRAMMY Award). She is a two-time recipient of the Orphée d’Or award—for Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher and d’Indy’s L’Étranger. Valérie Sainte-Agathe studied Piano Performance at the Montpellier Conservatory. She received her bachelor’s degree in conducting and a Master’s in Management from Université Paul-Valéry in Montpellier.