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Photo by Dante Fontana
A musical sensation was formed 18 years ago in El Dorado County, bringing together a diversified group of talented musicians with one passion: the love of the arts.
Bill Pearson and David Smythe started Cantare Chorale so that the community could enjoy quality choral music.
The select ensemble is composed of 20 talented musicians – all from the foothills area– with varying musical and personal backgrounds. The members complement each other harmoniously and take their lead from their director, Dr. Jeff Nelson. Nelson has been with the group for almost four years. He also performs regularly with other groups in El Dorado County, including Sunday services at Church of the Foothills and conducting orchestras for Imagination Theater. As if that was not enough, Nelson maintains a private dental practice in Cameron Park as well.
Nelson says although many may think dentistry and directing music are really different, the two are more alike than most people may imagine. “A dentist usually has a lot of elements that combine together,” Nelson says. “It takes a lot of coordinating and different elements to make wonderful results. I have both the right and left brain going at the same time.”
Nelson started studying music at age five. He did a three-year European Tour with the Seventh Army Soldier’s Chorus in which he traveled around the world singing. He studied choral and orchestral conducting and brass performance at Portland State University, and then worked as a studio musician in the Los Angeles area for a decade. He says he was always interested in dentistry too, so he went to night school to finish the required education. “I am lucky to be doing two things [that] I really enjoy,” he says. Nelson finalizes all the repertoires, conducts all the rehearsals and does research on each piece performed.
Cantare performs sacred music, madrigals, spirituals, folk songs, traditional American, patriotic standards, Christmas music, Broadway favorites, original compositions, and jazz. The group is dedicated to attaining the highest caliber of choral singing, using a variety of musical styles and content. While each season is different, the group consistently holds four big performances per season.
If you’re looking for a great experience for the family and a new tradition to start, during Christmas, Cantare Chorale performs seven or eight times including their annual performance at the Capitol in the rotunda. The last several years it performed with the Church of the Foothills Choir as well as with various high school choirs in a “Christmas Chorale Celebration.” According to Nelson, it is a must-see for all ages, and even people who do not appreciate music will be in awe of the beautiful sound of this performance.
“With all the groups combined, there are 120 singers in the area performing during this event,” Nelson says. “I don’t know of any event like this in the area. We try to involve younger chorale students in order to help them and be a mentor. Cantare Chorale is a very special group of people.”
Visit cantarechorale.com for more information.