Local music director to lead University Chorus

Staff Writer

Mollie Stone was named the acting assistant conductor of the University of Chicago’s University Chorus. She will be directing the University Chorus Winter Concert, which will take place in March.

Stone received her bachelor’s degree from Amherst College in 2001, her master’s degree in conducting from Westminster Choir College in 2004 and is currently pursuing her doctorate in choral conducting at Northwestern University. While serving as the graduate associate for the Amherst College music department in 2001, she received a grant from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation to create a DVD on Black South African choral music. She has since received another grant to study how South Africans are using choral music in the struggle against HIV. Stone gives workshops on Black South African choral music across the country.

In addition to the university chorus, Stone is the director the Hyde Park Neighborhood Choir and the Chicago Children’s Choir Madrigals Ensemble, which she sung in as a child.

In her new position, Stone will organize the winter concert and start a women’s ensemble that will be a part of the University Chorus for the spring. Her position also involves assisting Director of Choral Activities James Kallembach with rehearsals throughout the year. Stone said it’s exciting to work with Kallembach because they balance each other.

“We share a number of passions in choral music, but also have different strengths and backgrounds,” Stone said. “I especially enjoy the way he looks at music from a composer’s standpoint.”

Last year Stone was the guest conductor for the winter concert where she lead singers through pieces in several languages including Church Slavonic, Xhosa (a South African language), and Georgian. They sang classical music spanning from Palestrina to Bach to Durufle all the way to Bobby McFerrin’s setting of Psalm 23.

“It was a whirlwind of repertoire – I had an incredible time working with the singers,” Stone said. “[They] approached all the music with open minds, open hearts and beautiful power and sensitivity in their voices.”

Stone said she would continue to conduct the Chicago Children’s Choir, leading both it and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Choir, as she has done for the past eight years, and also serving as director of World Music for the organization at large. She is currently organizing a World Music Festival with the Chicago Children’s Choir Concert Choir, and all eight neighborhood choirs at 4 p.m. March 3 at Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave.

“I love working with both Chicago Children’s Choir and the University Chorus simultaneously, mostly because it gives me the chance to work with such a wide range of ages,” Stone said.“ Each age group presents its own unique challenges and strengths and teaches me something about the other.”
She said she strives to teach each group as many styles of music as possible, challenging them to learn a variety of music genres in different ways including different languages and a variety of styles of notation and vocal tones.

“I help them to stretch and grow as ensembles, and individuals,” Stone said. “And mostly, I want them to fall in love with the music they sing.”
The University Chorus World Music Concert will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 2 at the Logan Center, 915 E. 60th St., The event is free to the public and the chosen theme for this year is travel.

Rehearsals for those who want to be a part of the University Chorus began on Jan. 7 and will continue each Monday evening through the end of the month from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Fulton Hall, 5845 S. Ellis Ave., 4th floor.