SA Mastersinger Profile: Italian Arias in the Lab

San Antonio Mastersingers, soloists and San Antonio Symphony rehearse Verdi's Il Trovatore

The San Antonio Symphony Mastersingers is the official chorus of the San Antonio Symphony and our beloved partners in music-making. The acclaimed, 120-voice chorus of dedicated volunteers, led by Dr. John Silantien, was established in 1944 by Max Reiter (founding Music Director of the San Antonio Symphony) to support opera productions presented by the Symphony. The Mastersingers feature in many of our performances, present their own independent concerts and premieres, and tour internationally.

The Mastersingers are intensely committed to thorough preparation, so they meet for three-hour rehearsals every Tuesday evening from late August through May. During weeks with us at the Tobin, they rehearse every night, including a piano rehearsal with the conductor of the week and two rehearsals with the orchestra, to prepare for the performances. Rehearsal attendance is taken very seriously, so the volunteer chorus adheres to a strict absence policy.

The Mastersingers enjoy a diverse and committed membership ranging from young singers at the beginning of their professional careers in many fields to veteran singers who have performed with choirs all over the world, unified by their love for music and choral singing.

One of the newest members of the chorus, Taylor Weary, sat down with us to share her musical experiences and how she came to be a Mastersinger.

What brought you to the Mastersingers? I just graduated from college last May and moved to San Antonio for work. Having spent four years singing in the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, it was really important to me to find a high-caliber chorus here. I knew I would miss music too much if I took even a small hiatus, so I researched opportunities to sing in San Antonio before I even moved. I had an audition for the Mastersingers lined up before I had a house!

What is your profession? I work at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute as a research assistant in the Virology & Immunology department. My lab studies viruses like Ebola in our high containment facility (the "spacesuit" lab).

Does your musical activity have impact in your professional work? I am absolutely okay with my singing and flute-playing having nothing to do with my work. Music means a lot to me and will always play some role in my life. It doesn't hurt that techniques I've learned to master performance and audition anxiety were really helpful when getting into the spacesuit for the first time. Also, when no one else is in the lab, it's prime time for singing Italian arias.

What do you love about choral singing? Being at once an important individual musical contributor as well as an insignificant part of the greater choral sound is a really meaningful way to grow as a person and an artist.

Favorite concert with SAS this year? Carmina Burana was my first ever concert with the Symphony, and it was definitely the most memorable. I'm almost positive there's still Mastersinger spittle stuck to the back wall of the theater from shouting all those German consonants.

Concert most anticipating next season? Mendelssohn's Elijah in the fall! I for one have always been a sucker for the drama of oratorios, especially since performing Bach's St. Matthew Passion in college. Does singing with the orchestra feel different than singing a cappella or with piano? There is something immensely satisfying about 120 chorus members shout-singing over the brass and timpani planted right in front of us. Some people have punching bags for catharsis. I have Mahler.

You can hear the Mastersingers this Sunday April 23, at 7:00pm performing Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle at their annual Musical Shower of Roses concert in the Basilica of of the National Shrine of the Little Flower. More information is available at their website: Many thanks to Cindy Marini for her invaluable assistance on this article!