A Waupaca High School graduate is part of a group that recently won a Grammy.
Tenor Eric Neuville, whose singing career has taken him to the Seattle Opera, is also a member of Conspirare, a vocal ensemble based out of Austin, Texas.
Conspirare’s CD, “The Sacred Spirit of Russia,” won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.
The CD was recorded in 2013 and features Christmas liturgical music from the Russian Orthodox Church. Basso profundo Glenn Miller was a soloist and Craig Hella Johnson conducted.
This is the first time the ensemble has won the Grammy after six nominations.
“I’ve had the pleasure of singing with them for the past nine years,” Neuville said. “I became acquainted with the group through a colleague at St. Olaf College where I did my undergraduate study in voice. Upon leaving for graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, I was advised by Dr. Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, to sing for a man by the name of Craig Hella Johnson.”
Neuville sang for Johnson and was asked to join the ranks of Conspirare within a year of moving to Austin.
“At the time, I was the youngest member of the ensemble,” Neuville said. “I can’t begin to tell you how out of my league I was in those early days working with the group. Conspirare is comprised of well-established, professional vocalists from all over the world, most of whom serve as faculty members at some of the country’s top music programs. Over the years, the skills of these individuals have pushed me well beyond my own, and I now find myself in their shoes.”
Neuville said the music on “The Sacred Spirit of Russia” was challenging, both in terms of the language and the vocal execution.
“The dynamic range alone in these works range from hushed whispers to full-throttled, paint-peeling sound,” Neuville said. “There were only about 30-40 singers to put out all that sound, and we went well into the night recording these works day after day.”
Neuville was already familiar with several of the songs on the recording, because he had sung them while at Waupaca High School.
“Dan Wolfgram and Kristen Sporakowski had us singing this extremely challenging repertoire in national competitions before we all knew how difficult it really was,” Neuville said.
When asked which pieces on the recording he found most interesting, Neuville recommended listening to Miller’s solo performance of Chesnokov’s “Do not reject me in my old age.”
“It is a work for solo bass, a tuba solo if you will, accompanied by the Conspirare vocalists,” Neuville said. “It has an alternate ending which Glenn opted to record late one evening and was included on the CD. It requires him to descend to a contra G, a note so close to the bottom of the piano, you likely wouldn’t even believe a human can produce such a sound.”
Neuville will be featured as soloist on the next Conspirare album, which is scheduled for release in the fall of 2015.
He will be making his debut with the Madison Opera next February in their production of Adamo’s “Little Women,” in the role of Laurie.