Chair Conducting & Ensembles; University Singers, Collegium Singers
Richard Sparks, Chair of Conducting & Ensembles, joins the faculty at UNT with both a distinguished academic and professional career.
He was a faculty member at Mount Holyoke College and Pacific Lutheran University, where he was Director of Choral Activities from 1983-2001. At PLU he led the Choir of the West, one of the top undergraduate choirs in the country, on regular tours and also made eight recordings with that ensemble. Sparks’ D.M.A. is from the University of Cincinnati and his dissertation (Swedish A Cappella Music Since 1945) won the ACDA’s Julius Herford Award in 1997 and later published as The Swedish Choral Miracle.
Sparks has been active in the professional world as well; guest conducting the Anchorage Music Festival (his first year substituting for an ailing Robert Shaw conducting Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem), Portland Symphonic Choir, Portland Baroque Orchestra, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, Exultate Chamber Singers in Toronto, and the Swedish Radio Choir. He first worked with the Swedish Radio Choir in 2002, and again in 2007 and 2008, the first American in more than 30 years to work with that ensemble. With the Radio Choir he prepared them for a performance of the Brahms Requiem with Valery Gergiev, which has been released on DVD on the BIS label. He was also the first non-Canadian conductor to direct the Canadian National Youth Choir and in 2008 he was Music Director/Conductor for a production of Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Edmonton with period instruments.
He founded Seattle Pro Musica and conducted three ensembles from 1973-80, conducted the Seattle Symphony Chorale from 1990-94 (preparing the choir for nine recordings on the Delos label), founded and conducted Choral Arts from 1993-2006 (with whom he made three recordings on the Gothic label), and Pro Coro Canada (Edmonton, AB) from 1999 to 2011. A professional chamber choir, Pro Coro toured regularly across Canada and broadcast on CBC Radio.
Since coming to UNT he has led the Collegium Singers to the Boston Early Music Festival twice and also the Berkeley Early Music Festival. The Collegium Singers/Baroque Orchestra performance of Vivaldi's Gloria, led by Sparks, has over 365,000 hits on YouTube. This year Collegium Singers will do a major performance of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 in a new edition edited by Hendrik Schulze of our faculty, along with 10 UNT grad students, published by Bärenreiter.