Paul Caldwell has taken the reins as the new Artistic Director of the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses. Caldwell is a nationally recognized choral leader with a great deal of experience in the field of LGBTQ choruses. His journey here wasn’t smooth or uneventful. After being chosen for the position he was seriously injured in a hit and run accident in Chicago. Being the professional that he is, he worked on the holiday concert while recovering in a nursing home. He took a few moment to speak with us about his new position, the holiday concert and the generosity of the Seattle choruses. Please welcome Mr. Caldwell to Seattle and join him in celebrating the holiday season with our beloved chorus.
Paul Caldwell is leading Seattle Men’s Chorus in performing their holiday concert “Silver & Soul” through December 22nd in Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. It will make you smile and maybe even dance in your chair a bit. It is one of Seattle’s favorite holiday events so get your tickets quick. Click here for more info.
Earle Dutton: How have you enjoyed Seattle so far?
Paul Caldwell: Seattle is one of this country’s great cities. There is no denying that at all. There is the drama of all of the natural beauty and urban environment all juxtaposed right up against each other. It is really amazing. Honestly, I am so new I am still trying to find my way to the Safeway and learn how to sort the garbage.
ED: As the incoming Artistic Director for the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses, what are your thoughts on Dennis Coleman’s legacy
PC: Dennis Coleman built an incredible organization and an amazing musical instrument that is really legendary. I am privileged to play the musical instrument that he left for me.
ED: What do you feel your biggest challenges are in creating one of the biggest concerts for the Seattle Men’s Chorus?
PC: I think just the scale. It is big. There is a lot of pageantry. There is a lot of theater. It is just sort of super-sized because it starts at Benaroya Hall.
ED: Have you had the time and chance to implement ideas and changes you planned for the show?
PC: I think the event definitely looks like an event that I built because it has my personality infused into it. I have a southern flare and am very familiar with the musical vocabularies that belong to the areas of Gospel and Blues. I don’t usually do anything musical without reaching into that bag at some point. I want the audience and the singers especially to recognize that I am not just rebuilding Dennis’ program. I am not trying to repeat things they did in the past. Some things will be familiar because it is Seattle’s favorite holiday extravaganza but peppered throughout it will be things that haven’t been done before. I think every conductor needs to bring his own personality to the table.
ED: What has been your favorite part of preparing for these concerts?
PC: Rehearsals, definitely! I just love the people. They are so eager. They are so kind to me. I mean, I can’t unpack and unload a moving truck. I have an arm and a leg that just don’t work since the accident. Chorus members showed up for three days and unpacked every box. They made sure all the silverware is in the correct drawer and just so many amazing things. They have come over every Thursday night and moved the garbage and recycling from the garage to the street because I can’t do it myself. I am completely overwhelmed by their kindness and love making music with them.
ED: What would you tell people that haven’t attended a Seattle Men’s Chorus holiday show before?
PC: It is gonna be sassy! (Laughter) Sassy and saucy!
ED: I know that currently your physical wellbeing is a huge factor in life. What other obstacles or challenges do you see in taking over the choruses?
PC: Sorting the garbage and recycle here in Seattle… (Laughter). It is just confusing. Honestly, I think that learning a new organizational culture is a big challenge. Also, learning Seattle’s culture will be as well. You have to read signals. You have to learn what is considered polite and what is considered pushy. It is different. This is just far away from anywhere I have lived before so I have to pay close attention to loads of interaction, I think.
ED: What have you most enjoyed working with the Seattle Women’s Chorus?
PC: Their openness to different kinds of repertoire and music that makes a statement about the human journey. That is something that fascinates me and they were very open to taking that journey with me.
ED: What can we do as a community to help you succeed?
PC: Just notice is something that matters. It is entertainment but it is more than just that. We are really trying to make a statement about the value of all people. We are really trying to honor all people. That is bigger than just gay boy in go-go shorts dancing around the stage. I mean, we do that too but we really are trying to do things that matter. We want the community to realize our goals and endeavors.
ED: Do you have a message for LGBTQ youth?
PC: Our chorus wants to be a voice for the voiceless. I think that LGBTQ youth feel like their voice is being silenced by the culture in which we live. I think they are frightened with good reason. We will try with all of our resources to be their voice.
The Seattle Men’s Chorus is performing their holiday concert “Silver & Soul” through December 22nd in Seattle, Tacoma and Everett. It will make you smile and maybe even dance in your chair a bit. It is one of Seattle’s favorite holiday events so get your tickets quick. Click here for more info.