SMWC Choral History
Singing at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods has a history that dates back to its founding in 1840. In its earliest days, students and/or Sisters of Providence would have surely joined together to create a choir for supporting Mass, and there are many student songs that date from the early twentieth century. Eventually the music area of the college created a Chorale available to all students, and in 1958 faculty member Sister Marie Brendan Harvey gathered the most advanced students from that ensemble to create the Madrigals. It was then that the choirs of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods began to garner regional, national and international recognition through various recordings, collaborations and tours under the direction of Sister Harvey, followed by Dr. Susan Pietrus, SP, for over two decades. Under the direction of Mr. Michael Boswell, more recently the SMWC choirs have made two recordings, toured to Ireland and France, commissioned and premiered several new choral works, been recognized as finalists for the American Prize and been named winners of the Mayo International Choral Festival Competition in 2019. Comprised of music and non-music majors, the choirs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College aspire to continue this legacy of excellence while maintaining a focus on a quality educational experience within a strong sense of community.
Founded in 1958, the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Madrigals is an auditioned chamber ensemble of treble voices interested in performing more challenging, often a cappella choral repertoire. While many members are music majors, it is not a requirement. Drawn from members of the larger Chorale, this ensemble serves as a highly visible ambassador of the music programs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. They frequently perform on campus, in the local community and on tours throughout the state, the region and internationally, having sung in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Canada, Germany, Austria, Italy, Ireland and France. Additionally, they have premiered several new choral works, including several pieces by SMWC faculty member Dr. John McIntyre. With a long history of excellence, here are just a few of their most recent and notable accomplishments:
- 2019 – Premier Winner of the Mayo International Choral Festival Competition in Ireland
- 2019 – US Premiere of I denna ljuva sommartid by composer Kim André Arnesen
- 2018 – 60th Anniversary Tour of Ireland
- 2018 – CD release of Lineage
- 2014 – East Coast Tour with a performance in Lincoln Center in New York
- 2013 – CD release of Echoes of France
- 2012 – World Premiere of La Providence by composer Sydney Guillaume
- 2012 – Performance tour of France with special performances in sites that are significant to Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, founder of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Chorale is a treble choir that traditionally has 30-35 members from various academic disciplines. Often combining with the Woods Vocal Ensemble, they frequently perform for campus choir concerts, school ceremonies, campus liturgies and sometimes for events in the local community. This non-auditioned ensemble performs repertoire from various genres and is open to any student who enjoys singing. While they tour less frequently than the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Madrigals, students in this ensemble are also eligible to participate in international tours.
Woods Vocal Ensemble
The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Woods Vocal Ensemble provides a quality experience for lower voices. Intentionally structured to be an adaptable ensemble based on personnel, it often combines with the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Chorale, but also performs works for lower voices only. They often perform for campus choir concerts, school ceremonies, campus liturgies and sometimes for events in the local community. Comprised of students from various academic disciplines, this non-auditioned ensemble performs repertoire from various genres and is open to any student who enjoys singing. While they tour less frequently than the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Madrigals, students in this ensemble are also eligible to participate in international tours.
College and Community Choral Workshop
In addition to being the Director of Choral Activities at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Associate Professor of Music Michael Boswell also has extensive experience as a professional chorister, singing with some of the leading professional choirs in the United States. Drawing on his relationships with professional choral colleagues, Boswell instituted the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Community Choral Workshop. The workshop brings professional singers, teachers and conductors to the campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College to work with SMWC students as well as other students in the local community. This residency allows students the opportunity to perform with and learn from leading choral professionals through clinics, lectures, masterclasses and various performances.
Meet the Director
Michael Boswell, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities, enjoys a career as a professional choral artist, educator and conductor. In all of these roles, he strives for a balance of musical excellence and deep human connection.
As a singer, he has performed with some of the nation’s leading professional choral ensembles over an extended period of time, appearing on numerous recordings with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale and having won a Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance with Conspirare on the CD The Sacred Spirit of Russia. As an educator, he has been awarded four faculty excellence awards at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College including two for Service (2012, 2018), one for Scholarship (2014) and one for Teaching (2020). In addition to his work with students of the college, he is also active locally and regionally with high school students both as a voice teacher and conductor, inspiring him to create the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and Community Choral workshop, which connects high school students, college students and professionals in performance and learning. As a conductor, Michael has led the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Choirs on many local, regional, national and international tours. He has produced two recordings with the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Madrigals, Echoes of France and Lineage and led them to win the Premier Competition at the Mayo International Choral Festival in Ireland in 2019, the first international competition in the ensemble’s history.