Arts & Culture

William Baker Festival Singers’ season closer at Nelson-Atkins celebrates diversity

The William Baker Festival Singers will conclude its season at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
The William Baker Festival Singers will conclude its season at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. William Baker Festival Singers

The William Baker Festival Singers opened its current season with a performance in the iconic Washington National Cathedral. It will now close its season with a concert at Kansas City’s monumental Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The concert, which will celebrate America’s immigrant heritage, will take place June 14 at Kirkwood Hall in the museum.

“We’ll be singing between the lions,” said William Baker, founder and conductor of the Festival Singers.

“Visiting the Nelson-Atkins was one of my first things I did when I came to Kansas City 22 years ago, and I immediately became a member of the museum. I think it’s one of the nation’s great treasures, and I love it so much that whenever a new visitor comes to Kansas City, that’s one of the first places I take them.”

Baker says he has chosen music from 11 different cultural traditions to reflect the diversity of American culture, a culture made possible by a nation of immigrants.

“Robert Shaw used to call his chorus ‘a melting pot that sings,’ and I’ve always loved that image,” Baker said. “And I hope our concert will reflect that ideal.”

William Baker.jpeg
William Baker Laura Rene Baker

Among the works on the program are pieces from Norway and Spain, as well as a work by the Festival Singers’ composer-in-residence, Ed Frazier Davis, the son of renowned British conductor Andrew Davis.

“Ed is a dual citizen of the United States and the United Kingdom, and we’re doing his piece ‘My Beloved Spoke,’” Baker said. “Unlike many composers of today, he does not write in patterns. Every composition of his, whether for voices or instruments, is created with new ideas. Every piece is completely newly conceived, and I think that’s the core of his genius.”

7 p.m June 14. Kirkwood Hall, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Free. Donations accepted to benefit the Nelson-Atkins museum. For more information, visit

William Baker Festival Singers 2019-20 season

The group has also announced its 2019-20 season “Fire and Light.”

“We chewed on a lot of things and decided to call it ‘Fire and Light,’ which is related to this past season, which we called ‘The Sacred Fire,’” Baker said. “The illuminating quality of great music gives us a connection with other people where our differences don’t become something that separates us but something to celebrate.”

Several of next season’s concerts are at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church downtown, where the William Baker Festival Singers is the chorus-in-residence.

“We really love hosting the Festival Singers’ concerts,” said Charles Everson, priest in charge at St. Mary’s. “We are also fortunate to have them sing evensong several times a year. Their members sing at other services, as well. It’s been wonderful.”

The Festival Singers’ annual Christmas concert, “Candlelight, Carols and Cathedral” will be given two performances, one in the Episcopal Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral and the other in the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Making this year’s Christmas concerts even more special will be special guest Victoria Botero, whose warm persona and gorgeous soprano voice have garnered her a large local following.

Another highlight is a concert March 6 at Helzberg Hall devoted to the music of Ed Frazier Davis, with his father, Andrew, conducting the orchestra.

“Performing an entire concert of a brilliant young composer, especially a brilliant composer who lives in Kansas City, is an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Baker. “That we will do it in partnership with one of the greatest and most beloved conductors in the world is really hard to describe. I look forward to it being one of the greatest musical blessings of my lifetime.”

Nov. 3: Celebrating All Saints with Bach, Schutz, Nystedt, Monteverdi & More (St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 1307 Holmes St.)

Dec. 15 and 20: Candlelight, Carols and Cathedral with special guest Victoria Botero. (The Dec. 15 performance is at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. and the Dec. 20 performance is at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 416 W. 12th St.)

Feb. 23, 2020: Convocation 2020, a gala concert celebrating 35 years of the William Baker Choral Foundation. With the Kansas City Bronze, Cora Festival KC, Zimria Festivale Atlanta and New South Festival Singers. (St. Mary’s Episcopal Church)

March 6: The Music of Ed Frazier Davis with special guests Andrew Davis and soprano Sarah Tannehill Anderson. (Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts)

May 3: Fire and Light. Works by Daniel Elder, Eriks Esenvalds, Jake Runestad, American Folk Hymns and the Festival Singers’ signature spirituals and gospel selections. (St. Mary’s Episcopal Church)

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