Gretchen Franz is founder and director of Seraphic Singers, a new, 12-voice, women’s professional ensemble. She has been organist and choir director at Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church for 34 years.
What was your inspiration for the Seraphic Singers?
I’ve dreamed of conducting a professional ensemble of singers for more than 30 years. Plan A in the 1980s was to keep my position as organist/choir director while making lots of money as a financial planner, enough to fund an ensemble and buy sports cars. I found that I am a better musician than a financial person, so no ensemble and no sports car. Last June I attended a workshop focusing on women’s choirs. I was excited to hear about the wonderful music being composed for women’s ensembles, and the light bulb went off. All I needed was the singers and my dream would become a reality.
How do you start an ensemble from scratch?
Perhaps I should have asked a colleague about the work involved, but inspiration does not bother with details. Inviting the singers was easy. Most of my group are or were members of the Mendelssohn and Bach choirs, Voce Solis and OvreArts. Most are soloists in local churches and also sing in other classical, jazz and sacred venues. Coming up with a name took about two months because so many names were already in use locally or nationally. Everything we sing involves licenses so that composers and publishers are compensated, a process which took me 10 months. Publicity also took 10 months.
What kind of music can we expect?
I believe in variety. Our music ranges from simple and elegant to innovative and sophisticated. Our first concert we concluded with a Lead Belly tune. There’s a clever monologue by a cat trying to entice a handsome tomcat into her garden, The Alley Cat Song by Paul Carey. For sheer beauty we have several pieces by Gustav Holst with harp accompaniment. The first half ended with a thrilling piece by Gwyneth Walker, I Thank You God. My dream has blossomed seraphically.
Photo by Martha Rial