From the Director’s Corner: Spring, 2022

Every year, in early April, there are two or three days that fill me with absolute wonder. Up until this point, the trees are bare and the world is brown and seemingly dead. Then one day, without warning, everywhere I look is color. The trees are in bloom, flowers cover the ground and everything has come back to life. It never ceases to amaze me how this happens in an instant, possibly even between my drive to and from work. Our concert season is somewhat like the emergence of spring. We begin rehearsals in the cold, dark months of winter; performances seem so far out of reach, just like the promise of spring, but suddenly they are right in front of us. 

Often my programs are inspired by a theme or idea, but this program blossomed from a song. Sarah Quartel’s, “Sing, my Child” captured my awe and joy that accompanies each emergence of spring. She writes, 

Sing for the promise in each new morning. Sing for the hope in a new day dawning. All around is beauty bright! Wake in the morning and sing, my child.” 

From there, the program bloomed into two complementary themes: the celebration of nature and the celebration of women, mothers, daughters, and children. Jonathan Rodgers’ arrangement of “Shenandoah” captures the beauty of nature not only through voice but the stunning piano solo. Our pianist, Mathew Lane, is featured in this song as he transports us to the banks of the rolling Shenandoah. Part Uusberg’s reflective song, “Muusika” entwines both themes with the bonding thread of harmony by setting Juhan Lilv’s poem to music. Lilv pens, 

“Somewhere the original harmony must exist… 

in a little flower, in the song of a forest, 

In the music of a mother’s voice… 

How else could it have formed 

In human hearts – 


Through the words of Rabbi Ruth Sohn, we sing with Miriam as she stands between the sea and the dessert. William Shakespeare reminds us to, “Sigh No

More, Ladies,” because “men were deceivers ever.” Rather, “be blithe and bonny, converting your sounds of woe into, Hey nonny, nonny.” Through madrigals and songs, from Thomas Morley to Billy Joel, we will travel the path of childhood, love, loss, laughter, and motherhood. We hope that you will join us on this musical road! 

I look forward to seeing you soon, 

Wendy Wickham

The Canticle Singers of Baltimore Annual Emerging Composers Competition:

May 7, 2023

The Canticle Singers of Baltimore Emerging Composers Competition: The Canticle Singers of Baltimore is pleased to announce the Second Annual Emerging Composers Competition, sponsored by Canticle Singers member Sharon McKinley. The winner of the competition will receive a $750 cash award and their composition will be featured at the in-person and live-streamed Canticle Singers Winter Concert on December 1, 2023. They will receive a professionally mastered audio and visual recording of the performance.

We feel it is important to lift up the voices of the next generation of composers, and we recognize that people may begin composing at any age. For the purposes of this contest, “emerging composers” may include those who have not received a major composition commission or award (e.g., awards or commissions in the multiple thousands of dollars, or of national or international repute, or have received publication contracts with major music publishers or record labels). If you are concerned about whether you qualify as an emerging composer, we encourage you or your teacher to reach out to with any inquiries.

Criteria for Selection:

  • All entries will be reviewed by a jury consisting of 3 – 5 composers and conductors. 
  • The scores should be anonymous. The entry form will NOT be seen by the judges. Please do not put your name anywhere on the composition.
  • Submissions must be: 
    • original compositions (not arrangements of pre-existing tunes or carols)
    • scored for Women’s Choir (SSA, SSAA, and SSAA divisi).
    • 2-5 minutes in duration
    • either a cappella or piano and/or approved solo instrument (see the list here)
  • The work may utilize any style, genre, or text that would be appropriate for a winter concert. Composers using copyrighted texts must have permission from the relevant author/publisher.
  • Though the submitted works may be previously performed, they should not have previously received an award or monetary commission.
  • Submissions are limited to one entry per composer.

Submission Process:

  • Applicants should complete this form by 11:59 p.m., Saturday, July 15, 2023.
  • Submitted with this form should be a PDF file of an anonymous score. The applicant’s name should not appear on the score.

Additionally, applicants should submit a brief, one-page resume with their musical experience.

Important Dates:

  • July 15, 2023, 11:59 pm – submissions due
  • September 8, 2023 – the winning score and composer will be announced. Please note: the organization reserves the right not to award a winner. 

December 1, 2023 – the winning composition will be premiered as part of the Canticle Singers winter concert on the Music at St. David’s concert series.

The winning composer will receive $750, an audio/video recording of the work, and free tickets to the performance. Please note: Additional travel and housing costs are not covered by the award.

Please send all inquiries to To learn more about us, please visit our website at

Sarah Quartel – Featured Composer

Sarah Quartel was born and raised in Great Britain in a family of musicians.  A typical day would feature mom singing arias in the kitchen while cooking dinner, and dad, a church choir director,  practicing his harpsichord in the basement.  Sarah recalls “I think I was eight years old before I realized that having a harpsichord in your basement was a bit of a unique thing.” 

In spite of her rich musical background, Quartel says that singing in choirs was her most profound influence as a composer, due to the unique marriage of text, melody, harmony, and careful pedagogy among her choral directors.  In her compositions, she emulates this care, while allowing us a glimpse of the heartfelt connections that she made by singing in a choral group.

“Choral music has this incredible way of bringing people together,” says Quartel.

Sarah started her songwriting in high school, singing her original works in cafes and coffee houses. She found that her harmonies and textures were well suited for choral music.  In university, she began composing in earnest for the choral genre, and she had her first commissioned work, Snow Angel, published in 2017 while in her second year of college.  Since then, she has successfully published close to 30 choral pieces for a variety of voicings. 

For Sara Quartel, composing is “not only a job… it’s also something I feel very emotionally connected to.”

Sing, My Child was commissioned in 2016 for the International Choral Kathaumixw (, a 5-day international choral festival in British Columbia that featured 700 singers. Text and music are written by the composer; she evokes the joys and beauty of everyday life. The harmonies are tight and colorful in ⅞ meter, while the simplicity of the refrain calls for reflection and perseverance throughout challenging times.  In our first year back on the stage together, with the struggles of COVID and world crises, Sing, My Child is a reminder that there is always hope.


An Interview with Composer Sarah Quartel by Tom Sabatino on August 13, 2019 – JW Pepper Cued in Newsletter Series
2021 Sarah Quartel (website)
Oxford University Press 2022

Susan LaBarr – Featured Composer

Susan LaBarr is a highly successful composer who, in her composing career of less than a decade, has completed commissions from all over the world. Having grown up with piano lessons and children’s choirs, she attended college as a piano major, and while she was successful, she soon realized that even though she loved music, a career in performance was not for her.  She was encouraged to continue in music, and she went on to major in theory in graduate school. After graduating with a Masters in Theory and no interest in teaching or accompanying, job opportunities were limited for her, but she was hired as a  receptionist in the Choristers Guild.  Eventually, she began editing music, and this ignited a spark within her that opened her path to composing.  It was her high school choral teacher who offered her first commission to write the school Alma Mater – two years after graduate school.  This was a success, and it awakened a love of composing. What followed was studying with Alice Parker, who became her mentor and close friend. Today, Susan continues to compose and edit full-time for Walton Music.  She lives in Springfield, Missouri, with her husband, Cameron, who is head of Choral Activities at Missouri State University, and their son, Elliot.

Susan’s compositions start with the text. Inspired by Alice Parker, she lives with the text for several weeks before adding rhythm, meter, or notation.   “I am so guided by the text which gives me the mode, key meter, and rise and fall of the melody.”  Her use of counterpart is also inspired by Alice Parker’s description as “the answering voice” which creates musical counterpoint as a conversation between voice parts.  This allows the composer to create a musical line that is meaningful for each part.

With a love for folk music, R&B, gospel, new broadway (for example, Jason Robert Brown), and Sarah Bareilles as one of her favorite writers, Susan’s structure is often like a standard pop ballad.  She is further influenced by the crisp choral writing of composers from Estonia and Scandinavia in the juxtaposition of joy wrapped in a cloak of sadness. 

Grace Before Sleep is a poem of gratitude by Sarah Teasdale that reflects this balance of joy and sorrow.  The piece opens in unison and culminates with richly-textured harmonies before a simple, introspective closure.  It mirrors a life journey, wherein we are often surrounded by beauty in times of our deepest pain and challenge.


Susan LaBarr, Santa Barbara Publishing, Inc. 2022
YOU TUBE Series – The Chorus Meets the Composer: Susan LaBarr; October 12, 2020 Alpharetta Community Chorus
Missouri State Bear Bulletin: Susan LaBarr finds her life-long passion at Missouri State; © 2013 Board of Governors, Missouri State University

Elaine Hagenberg – Featured Composer

Song of Miriam

Elaine Hagenberg is an accomplished pianist and singer. After earning her degree in music, she began raising her family of four children and composing while at home. Within the last decade, she has become a household word among choral artists, and she composes for a wide range of skill levels. Canticle Singers will be

performing her Song of Miriam in this Spring 2022 season as we venture out of our COVID isolation and re-explore our world together. This is significant because it is a piece about journeys, and within Elaine’s journey, it was the first piece from Elaine Hagenberg’s publications, from a poem by a woman, Rabbi Ruth Sohn, about the biblical character, Miriam, who is on an unknown journey of faith.

I happened upon Elaine’s FB post when she first published it:

“​​For my first official self-published piece, I took a risk and printed 4,000 copies of Song of Miriam.

Like Miriam, I feel like I’m often taking risks by stepping into the unknown. It takes courage to create and share my music…Then today I heard from the warehouse/shipping manager that this piece already needs to go to REPRINT and I couldn’t be more excited!

This reprint means 4,000+ young women are singing about being brave, overcoming their fears, and finding their unique voice in the world.

Let’s keep encouraging more singers, artists, teachers, conductors, and writers to be like Miriam. Step out in faith, ladies! You have something valuable to say and we WANT to hear you!”


2020, Elaine Hagenberg (website)
Facebook Elaine Hagenberg, Composer – June 27, 2019
University of St. Francis, Community Contributor: Posted Fri, May 1, 2020, (1:24 pm CT)

What Does Canticle Mean to You?

In this time of COVID, we are re-examining our lives, regarding what is really important. Just as a child grows, so does an institution, and often adolescents and young adults tweak their names in part or fully change them to embrace aspects of their identities (marriage, shedding of nick-names, adopting new names for professional reasons, branding, etc…) The Canticle Singers has been so named for over 25 years now. In that time, we have seen tremendous changes in the world, and while the name is just a title, it reflects the inner core of our beliefs as singers, our overall mission, and our vision. Since the onset COVID, we have come to appreciate the necessity of creating communities, and the joy of in-person singing that simply cannot be experienced any other way.

As we gathered again, I posed the question – “What does Canticle Mean to you?” While the query was first posed to our singers, we would love to hear from our extended family of supporters. Let us know your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you!