Octarium is an exceptionally talented ensemble with stunning voices, synergy and stage presence to spare
Lee Hartman - KC Metropolis
The vocal octet Octarium, based in Kansas City, has gained a national reputation for performances suffused with what composer Morton Lauridsen called, “stunning artistry combined with an absolutely beautiful blending of voices.” Composer Stephen Hatfield raves, “Octarium’s ability to change the nuance of their tone and timbre without disrupting the flow of the music enables them to pack their performances with riches without ever over-reaching for their effects.” At each presentation, Octarium offers the polished choral sonority and embodiment of the philosophy, “Eight Singers, One Voice” for which the ensemble has become well-known and respected. The Riverfront Times writes that the “eight members of Octarium go beyond raising their voices together in song; their voices warp and weave together, coalescing as a single instrument of tremendous power and depth. Octarium wields this might gracefully, never overpowering, opting instead to revel in the pliancy of the human voice.”
In addition to a Kansas City-area subscription concert series, Octarium offers two touring programs, Saints and Angels and Should Have Been Choral. Saints and Angels is a presentation of sacred choral music lauding and magnifying saints and angels, includes the music of Victoria, Vaughan Williams, Durufle, Britten, Byrd and Schubert. Should Have Been Choral is a collection of a cappella arrangements of secular songs originally composed as orchestral symphonies, operatic overtures, music from Broadway shows and pop songs.
Beginning in 2006, Octarium expanded its audience by releasing a series of finely-crafted recordings. Produced by Octarium’s own label, Octarium has released four CDs; the self-titled debut release in 2006, Hodie in 2007, Essentials in 2008 and Modern Masters in November 2009. Digital distribution through online purveyors such as iTunes has allowed Octarium to reach a new generation of choral music lovers; the developing choral singer. Essentials, was developed with this next generation in mind; a collection of a cappella music all lovers of the choral art should know, Essentials is designed for students who are learning to love the art as well as former students who want to be reminded how beautiful choral music can be. Modern Masters, music of living composers, chosen for Octarium by the composers themselves, was designed to highlight overlooked choral works and help them find their way into the choral music lexicon; find their way into history.
As the recordings demonstrate, education is the center of Octarium’s mission. Octarium has developed several engaging strategies to light the fire of love and appreciation of choral music in young people with an engaging outreach program, including concert presentations, master classes, workshops and lecture demonstrations for students from elementary school to college.
Octarium was founded in 2003 by Krista Lang Blackwood, the current artistic director. As the director of choirs at a large Kansas City church, Blackwood hired eight section leaders to support her choral program in 2001. As the program developed, the section leaders formed an octet to provide music at special liturgies. As the octet rehearsed and performed together, a remarkable thing began to happen: musical synergy. The singers began to read each other’s minds; taking unplanned breaths together, phrasing identically and beautifully without discussing it first and creating impromptu choral dynamics in rehearsal and performance. This kind of artistry inspired Blackwood to expand beyond the walls of the church. Since its first season, Octarium has expanded its scope but never changed its vision and mission;
Octarium is Latin for “Eight as One,” and the name defines our mission: Eight Singers, One Choral Voice.
Octarium is committed to fostering and promoting the development and appreciation of the art of choral music through innovative and engaging programming, seeking to inspire, enlighten and educate.
As with all arts organizations, Octarium, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is dependent on the generous support of patrons. Financial contributions provide opportunities to enhance community spirit and promote the arts at the local level. Octarium has also received grants from the Missouri Arts Council, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, the Muriel McBrien Kaufmann Foundation, ArtsKC and the Martha Lee Cain Tranby Fund for Music Enrichment.