Our mission is to perform choral chamber music throughout Vermont’s communities and beyond. Equally important is our commitment to engage with students and high school choruses while their ears are open and their minds ready for new possibilities.
Our diverse repertory includes folk songs from around the world, African-American spirituals, sacred music of many traditions, seasonal specialties, and works by classical and contemporary composers. We perform everywhere: in schools, churches, town halls, concert halls, on our own, with small instrumental ensembles, and with symphonic orchestras.
Counterpoint reflects what many seem to be longing for: cooperation, harmony, listening to others, and responding openly, with some history and humor thrown in.
Singers should be paid as professional musicians.
That is the basic tenet with which Counterpoint began. As Choral Director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Robert De Cormier (1922-2017) was adamant that singers who have studied and worked as musicians all their lives should be treated just as professionally as the instrumentalists onstage. When the VSO declined to designate a core group of singers among its volunteer chorus, Robert decided to fulfill his dream on his own: to recreate the success of his work leading and touring with the Harry Belafonte Singers, and later the De Cormier Singers, by founding a chamber chorus of Vermont singers drawn from the VSO chorus’ ranks.
With his background in labor choruses and advocacy for civil and human rights, Robert founded Counterpoint as a democratic group. The work of administering was shared by all, and with equal pay for all. While Robert recognized that the pay was not going to allow the members to quit their day jobs, Counterpoint would keep its singers busy enough to provide a healthy supplement for the work of their art. And it was work. The singers come from all over the state, some driving over two hours each way to get to weekly evening rehearsal in central Vermont.
In late 1999, rehearsals began in Barre with a group of nine singers. Integral to Counterpoint’s founding was the generous support of the Mad River Chorale, which served as an umbrella organization and backed the ambitious projects of the first two years. These included the recording of two videos and albums, A Counterpoint Christmas and A Choral Excursion (both 2002) at the Stowe Community Church, and a major concert with Peter, Paul and Mary. Robert’s recording engineer of choice was John McClure who with his longtime partner Susan Presson recorded and mastered nine of the eleven Counterpoint recordings, from 2000 to 2008.
Robert’s longtime association with Peter, Paul and Mary prompted that group to offer a concert at Manchester’s Riley Rink in the summer of 2002, in recognition of Robert’s 80th birthday. Counterpoint served as the backup singers, a role it would repeat a few more times over the years in concerts with Peter Yarrow.
In 2003 Counterpoint reorganized as an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, with a board of trustees and an executive director. In that year the group began a tradition of commissioning music from Vermont composers, with a suite of playful pieces by Louis Moyse which appears on the album Counterpoint Premieres (2008), released by Albany records. That summer, the chance attendance of Yoine and Elaine Goldstein at a Hinesburg concert which featured Robert’s haunting arrangements of songs from the Jewish resistance began a long and fruitful relationship which resulted in two recordings: When the Rabbi Danced: Songs of Jewish Life from the Shtetl to the Resistance (2004), and Shalom: Songs and Dances of a New Nation (2006).
In 2004 Counterpoint went national, with a full feature of Christmas music hosted by Noah Adams on NPR. This began a traditional Counterpoint Christmas with VPR’s host Walter Parker and recording engineer Sam Sanders that broadcast Counterpoint’s December concert on Christmas Day for almost a decade. In 2005, Counterpoint and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet combined forces to perform a series of hugely popular holiday concerts in smaller Vermont venues, a series that continues to this day.
2005 also brought a successful New York audition for national representation. The Joanne Rile Agency took Counterpoint onto its roster, leading to regional bookings and two tours in 2008 and 2009 which brought the ensemble before audiences in six Midwestern states.
Never one to rest while the world is not, Robert initiated the “Vermont Sings for Peace” concerts in 2008. Each year in September, Counterpoint invites a different set of Vermont choruses to participate in a concert whose free-will offerings are donated to an organization that work to advance peace and justice. These highly anticipated concerts draw large crowds.
Robert’s last concert cycle as Counterpoint’s Artistic Director was in 2011, with performances and a recording of Legacy, a concert of his original works and delightful folk-song arrangements featuring another of his longtime friends, banjo player Eric Weissberg. Assistant Artistic Director and singer Nathaniel Lew then took the mantle, guiding Counterpoint to explore new musical directions, including an entire concert of new music by Vermont composers in 2013.
The passing in 2014 of Robert’s friend Pete Seeger drew Robert out of retirement. He added fresh arrangements of Seeger’s songs to ones he had performed with the De Cormier Singers in the sixties, and Counterpoint raised money through a Kickstarter campaign to record All Mixed Up: Counterpoint Sings the Music of Pete Seeger in 2015.
The founding members of Counterpoint were Piero Bonamico, Eric Brooks, Colleen Flynn Campbell, Melissa Chesnut-Tangerman, Louise De Cormier, Roger Grow, Claire Hungerford, Brett Murphy, and Linda Radtke. In the next few years, the addition of Miranda Bergmeier, Carolyn Dickinson, Stephen Falbel, Amy Frostman, David Horn, Nathaniel Lew, Marybeth McCaffrey, and Matthew Zavod formed the roster for the years 2002-2010. Since 2011, Counterpoint maintains a solid core membership with a rotating roster of singers drawn, as ever, from every corner of the state of Vermont. The constant through Counterpoint’s years is the dedication of its singers to making the best choral music possible.