Bigger and Better: Scott Youngs brings excitement to Arizona Masterworks Chorale
By Bridgette M. Redman
After decades of teaching and conducting sacred chorale music, Scott Youngs is eager to be part of the Arizona Masterworks Chorale.
There, he can explore the options available for a large community chorale.
Youngs has taken the helm of the 42-year-old Arizona Masterworks Chorale as artistic director. This comes on the heels of a long career with All-Saint’s Episcopal Cathedral in Phoenix, where he served as music director for 30 years and founded the Boy and Girl Chorister programs.
Youngs left All-Saint’s three years ago and has been looking for something new. He found it with Arizona Masterworks Chorale, which, over the years, performed at the cathedral.
“After a career in church music for my entire life, breaking out of that mode is interesting,” Youngs says.
“It’s a fun challenge. There is so much gorgeous chorale music. It’s absolutely endless. I thought, why not? A new challenge is what I need. I don’t want to become complacent.”
Focusing on American music
Youngs is launching his first season with “American Beauty,” four concerts that focus on the most melodic and beautiful of American music.
The first concerts — Saturday, November 6, and Sunday, November 7 — will be music from the heartland, including “The Road Home” by Stephen Paulus, “Frostiana” by Randall Thompson, and “She Walks in Beauty” by David Foltz.
The second concert will be in December and is dubbed “New England Christmas.” Even after decades in Arizona, he says it still seems odd to have Christmas with 80-degree weather. He chose this theme because he misses the snow.
Valentine’s Day weekend hosts the third concert, with the theme of “Love from Sea to Sea.”
Arizona Masterworks Chorale will finish the year in May with a “Made in America,” featuring tunes for choir and percussion.
Better and bigger
The chorale has two goals: being better and bigger.
Founded as a 60-voice choir, Arizona Masterworks Chorale has only 36 members. It had to cut back from its usual repertoire to do chamber-size music.
“They would like to go back to their 55- to 60-voice size and do larger things,” Youngs says.
“Their repertoire has stayed large in size and scope. That’s where they really like being, so to me that’s exciting. I spent so much time with English cathedral music and chamber music choirs. … It is one more uncharted territory for me, a new challenge.”
Youngs has spent his career teaching from fourth graders to graduate students. He’s fully prepared to answer the chorale’s questions.
“If you’re going to stand in front of a choir and ask for something in particular, you’d better be able to explain how they can produce what you are asking for,” Youngs says.
He notes the chorale is a community choir and not a professional act. Youngs says the singers love to perform and have had voice lessons. He still doesn’t expect them to walk in as readymade professionals. It’s why he plans to bring in vocal coaches and hold workshops.
“They are there to be molded and shaped and educated,” Youngs says. “They are there to be brought to as much of their potential as possible. That’s the fun. You get to teach and watch them grow up.”
Youngs also wears the hat of music director and founder of the Arizona Bach Festival, which was born at All-Saints, where there was a seven-year series of Bach cantatas.
The rector retired, and this was Youngs’ promise to the community that good music would continue.
It continued for seven years and then, in 2008, as planned, it broke off into its own nonprofit with its own board of directors.
“It grew up and moved out on its own,” Youngs says.
“The Arizona Bach Festival is going strong. I can’t be parted from that project. That is my heart and soul left over from many years.”
The festival brings top classical artists from all around the world to perform in Phoenix each January.
Return to togetherness
Youngs is excited to direct the chorale. He says they have endless potential.
“They’re open to great programming,” Youngs says. “They’re looking for new members and are willing to do workshops and vocal coaching. It is such a great fit.”
Getting together as a group is important after the pandemic pause from live music.
“No one has been performing or playing,” Youngs says. “That’s an amazing thing that now we can do that again. There is so much excitement. You’re going to see an explosion of chorale music. People have missed it, and they have missed that community.”
Arizona Masterworks Chorale:
“From the Heartland”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 6
WHERE: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church,
6533 N. 39th Avenue, Phoenix
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, November 7
WHERE: Ascension Lutheran Church,
7100 N. Mockingbird Lane, Paradise Valley
COST: $15 to $20
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