Shawn Kirchner is a composer, arranger, and songwriter based in Los Angeles whose choral works are performed throughout the world. His long creative relationship with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and Artistic Director Grant Gershon culminated in his tenure as the ensemble’s Swan Family Composer in Residence from 2012-2015. Equally active as a performer, Kirchner has sung twenty seasons as a tenor with the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in concerts featuring the world’s leading conductors, composers, and soloists. As a pianist, Kirchner appears throughout the country in performances of his music with collaborating choirs and is celebrated for his wide stylistic range, improvisation, and musicianship.
Kirchner’s composing commissions have included numerous premieres with the Los Angeles Master Chorale at LA’s Disney Hall, as well as writing for Conspirare, San Antonio Chamber Choir, Atlanta Master Chorale, Fort Worth Chorale, Lorelei Ensemble, Tonality, Princeton Chapel Choir, Rockefeller Chapel Choir, Golden Bridge, Choral Arts Northwest, and WomenSing. His work has been performed by such acclaimed international choirs as Ansan City Choir (Rep. of Korea), Elektra Women’s Choir, the Vancouver Youth Choir, Montreal’s Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul for the CBC’s Christmas Sing-In broadcast, and by the Nairobi Chamber Choir for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee Pageant events at Windsor Castle. Kirchner’s music can be heard on recordings by the LA Master Chorale, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Tonality, Oasis Chorale, Wartburg Choir, and Sacra/Profana, and his publishers are Boosey & Hawkes, Oxford University Press, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and Shawn Kirchner Publishing.
Kirchner’s music finds a middle ground between classical choral and instrumental traditions and the inheritance of the folk, carol, and hymn traditions. He is best-known worldwide for his lively, contrapuntal setting of the Kenyan song Wana Baraka, which went flashmob viral on YouTube, and for Heavenly Home: Three American Songs, praised by the LA Times as “arranged with mastery.” He has also written imaginative choral cycles on the poetry of Pablo Neruda (Sonetos de Amor), Sylvia Plath (Plath Songs), Gerard Manley Hopkins (Inscapes), William Blake (Songs of Innocence), and the Psalms (Songs of Ascent.) Kirchner’s most recent concert-length work is the Solstice oratorio The Light of Hope Returning, featuring the texts of British-American novelist Susan Cooper, known for her award-winning Dark is Rising sequence. His original songwriting ranges in style from jazz and gospel to folk and bluegrass, the latter featured on his CD Meet Me on the Mountain.
As a singer since 2001 with the LA Master Chorale under Grant Gershon, Kirchner has sung the full span of the Western choral tradition, featured as a soloist on Sederunt principes of Pérotin (c. 1199) as well as in contemporary works of Meredith Monk and Arvo Pärt. He has sung in hundreds of performances with the Music Directors of the LA Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Zubin Mehta. Career highlights include a post-encore choral/piano chamber music concert with András Schiff, and touring John Adams’ Gospel According to the Other Mary with the LA Phil. Kirchner has sung on LA Master Chorale’s recordings of the music of Steve Reich, Philip Glass, David Lang, Henryk Górecki, and Nico Muhly, and currently sings countertenor in LAMC’s touring production of Orlando di Lasso’s Lagrime di San Pietro. This ground-breaking, fully staged version of the Renaissance masterpiece directed by Peter Sellars has been featured at the Salzburg Festival and around the world in Melbourne, Auckland, London, Mexico City, and at Cité de la Musique in Paris. As a session singer, Kirchner has sung on four dozen feature film soundtracks including Avatar, La La Land, The Lorax, and Frozen.
Raised with his triplet brother and sister in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Kirchner’s musicianship was shaped through intensive piano study with Joan Smalley and George Katz, as well as at church where he accompanied the choir and played organ. He has continued to be a church musician alongside his other musical pursuits, providing local and national music leadership for the Church of the Brethren (a historic peace church.) Kirchner’s principal creative mentor is the banjo-playing poet Steve Kinzie, with much owed as well to the trail blazed by American choral matriarch Alice Parker. Kirchner earned a BA in Peace Studies (Manchester University) and an MA in Choral Conducting (University of Iowa) where his teachers included William Hatcher, Richard Bloesch, and Donald Jenni. Kirchner’s outside interests include organic gardening, foreign languages, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Enneagram. He also works with Dr. Lucy Jones in the Tempo: Music for Climate Action leadership group, and serves on the board of Tonality, an innovative and dynamic choir committed to presenting concerts that reflect current struggles for social justice and environmental care, founded by Alexander Lloyd Blake.
“Everything he touches turns to musical gold.” – Grant Gershon (press release published in
Broadway World, 2/17/15, archived at don411.com)
Subscribe to my newsletter!
Stay up-to-date on new music, events, and more exciting news.