Gunterman passes baton on chorale


Last updated 9/5/2023 at 9:49am

Photo by Bill Bartlett

Irene Liden is back in action with High Desert Chorale.

High Desert Chorale conductor Connie Gunterman has retired and moved to Portland for reasons of family health.

Gunterman took the reins of the Sisters singing group in 2016. Gunterman's first directing experience began early. As a junior in high school she was student conductor for both the school chorus and pep band.

She sang in the Kentucky All-State Chorus during her junior and senior years and fell in love with big chorus sound.

After high school, she attended the University of Kentucky, majoring in music. During her junior year, she was selected student conductor for the University Chorus, where she had the opportunity to conduct a group of over 100 voices.

The group, originally formed as Sisters Community Choir in 2007, was rebranded in 2014 by founding director Irene Liden, whose career included 40 years teaching music theory, music ensembles, classes, and private voice; and as a professional opera singer in Santa Fe, New Mexico, performing with the Shreveport Opera Company in Louisiana and Chautauqua Opera Company in New York.

Liden is returning, agreeing to serve as the Chorale's interim conductor for the fall season.

"I hope we are able to recruit a strong, permanent leader for the spring and going forward, one who is younger and can serve for many years," Liden told The Nugget.

Liden, in her 80s, is fit, and brings a high degree of energy to the group despite her years. She describes herself as a taskmaster and hopes to challenge the singers to perform beyond the printed page.

"I want them to know what the composer meant, and why the piece was written," she said.

She hopes to "blend the group's voices and sound" saying that the "size of the group isn't as important as their quality."

Rehearsals, held at the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Sisters, begin September 11. They take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. weekly. The annual holiday concert performed at Sisters Community Church is typically held in early December but Liden hopes to move it closer to Christmas.

There are no formal auditions per se and interested singers are urged to come to the first rehearsal to see if they are a match for the group. Liden is particularly hopeful of attracting more male voices.

She is looking for a mix of mature and younger voices. Some 25 choristers are expected to return for the season. She intends to introduce more languages to the program as well.


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