By Scott MacClelland
If Cheryl Anderson could go quantum, she probably would. That way she could switch from particle to wave, or wave to particle and, voila!, be in two places at the same time. She’s pretty close to that already. For the long-time Director of Choral Activities at Cabrillo College—23 years and counting—this is only one of her busy seasons, but she admits it’s “extremely busy.” On Nov. 22, she led the Cabrillo Chorale in their winter concert. On Nov. 23, likewise the Cabrillo Youth Chorus.
Next, she conducts the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus in three performances at Holy Cross in Santa Cruz of their annual “Music for the Feast of Christmas,” Dec. 5 through 7 (featuring Morten Lauridsen’s acclaimed Lux Aeterna.) On Dec. 13, her Cantiamo! sings their “Concert for a Winter’s Eve” at Carmel Mission Basilica and, on Dec. 14, at Holy Cross. Did I mention that also on Dec. 14 her Youth Chorus will appear in Henry Mollicone’s A Rat’s Tale, in Gilroy, with Anthony Quartuccio’s South Valley Symphony?
On Dec. 16, her Cabrillo Chorus joins Ensemble Monterey for a Messiah Sing-Along at Peace United in Santa Cruz, where she also directs the chancel choir. And on Dec 15, Anderson is back at Cabrillo College to conduct students of her Cabrillo Voice Master Class in solos, duets and small ensembles.
Having abandoned choral music, the Monterey Symphony needed a choir for its production a year ago of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Anderson’s Il dolce suono, a student-led chorus for music majors, came to the rescue. Next May, Cantiamo! joins Ensemble Monterey in a local revival of Handel’s oratorio Israel in Egypt, the first since the Carmel Bach Festival’s production in 2006. And the Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus teams up with the Santa Cruz Symphony in late May for their annual collaboration, this time in one of the Symphony’s most popular productions, Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Anderson comes from a large Pennsylvania family. Singing came to her naturally and soon she was seen and heard performing in Pittsburgh. She received her AB from West Liberty State College, her MME from the University of Northern Colorado, and her doctoral work was done at the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, specializing in conducting and voice performance. For seven years, she was the Choral Director at the Breckenridge Music Institute in Colorado. She has served on the music faculties of the University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University, Transylvania University, Cumberland College, and UC Santa Cruz. She was a Conducting Fellow at the Oregon Bach Festival with Helmuth Rilling, and performed numerous times with the Robert Shaw Institute in Carnegie Hall.
Anderson came to Cabrillo College to take over Cantiamo!, a part-time position, but quickly found herself warmly embraced by her collegues. “If I could think it up they would support it,” she says. While her career at Cabrillo started small, it grew rapidly. She found opportunities in Renaissance music, opera, children’s choral music. For the latter, she and her teaching assistants work “up to our elbows” with youngsters from age 8 to 18. “I’m teaching people how to do it, collaboratively. I love it,” she says.
She completed everything required for a PhD except a dissertation, about which she is philosophical. “I have the best job anyway.” Moreover, “I think I would have taken a different path, and probably wouldn’t be here. I taught at a number of universities, and I think Cabrillo has afforded me amazing opportunities.” Unsurprisingly, she and her husband John, who teaches at Monterey Peninsula College and serves as music director of Ensemble Monterey, also decided they wanted to live together in the same place.
As busy as she is, with countless offers to teach, educate and adjudicate all over the country, she easily reflects on the “amazing mixture of people here who are involved in the lives of young people, many of whom would function optimally at universities and conservatories.”
Anderson has conducted many major performances with her choirs, including Bach’s Mass in B Minor and St. Matthew Passion, Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah and Lou Harrison’s La Koro Sutro, and has enjoyed multiple honors for her work here and elsewhere. She has led Cantiamo! and the Symphonic Chorus on tours to Eastern Europe, Italy, Spain, Germany and Russia. Her choirs have performed at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music and she has conducted the Santa Cruz Symphony. The Cabrillo Symphonic Chorus traveled to the East Coast in Summer 2007 to sing the New York premiere of The Peace of Wild Things, composed by Imant Raminsh and commissioned for the Cabrillo Choral Program and Ensemble Monterey. The work, for adult choir, children’s choir and orchestra features the poetry of Morton Marcus, e. e. cummings and Wendell Berry.
Anderson numbers among her many gratitudes the example of the legendary Robert Shaw, the “marvelous” Charlene Archibeque, who recently retired after 35 years as Anderson’s counterpart at San Jose State University, and her longtime friendship with Morten Lauridsen, who has heard several Cabrillo performances of his works and is expected to attend the upcoming “Feast of Christmas” concerts.