Welcome to this very special season for Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble! First and foremost, we are celebrating an anniversary— 40 years of VAE’s dynamic choral art here in Cincinnati. We are both remembering and honoring all of the musical artists and leaders who have shaped VAE’s history. We are also celebrating the powerful inspiration of the extraordinary artists of VAE today and the extraordinary music we have the privilege to share with you.

World class choral musical excellence and inspiration is what VAE is all about. All of us who are a part of the VAE musical family desire to create performance experiences that will bring you joy, inspiration and meaningfulness—we really live for those moments in live performance when a real connection takes place between artists, composers, ideas and listeners.

Whether you are already one of our cherished listeners or a new friend, I invite you to come closer and enjoy the exceptional music and musicians that are a part of this year’s offerings. What will make this anniversary season particularly special is if YOU are a part of it. Your engagement with us and your listening presence are an essential part of these live concert events. We so look forward to singing for you.


Craig Hella Johnson

Conducting Change

For Rachmaninoff Vespers Performance.

VAE welcomes Elena Sharkova to conduct

CINCINNATI— Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble (VAE), the city’s premier professional choral ensemble, announces a conducting change for the upcoming performance of Rachmaninoff’s Vespers on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at Memorial Hall. The original conductor for this program, VAE Music Director, Craig Hella Johnson, is unable to conduct due to illness.

In his absence Johnson has called upon one of his colleagues, Elena Sharkova, to take his place as conductor for the performance. Currently, in her 17th year as Music Director of Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale, Ms. Sharkova is recognized nationally and internationally as an influential conductor, clinician, music educator, and lecturer. She is also a passionate proponent of Russian choral music and has lectured extensively on the subject, having conducted multiple premieres of Russian works across the United States.

Well-acquainted with the piece and history behind Vespers, she is an excellent addition to this evening performance, and we are looking forward to having her in Cincinnati leading the Vocal Arts Ensemble.


Artist Biography:

Elena Sharkova, conductor
Russian-American conductor Elena Sharkova is recognized nationally and internationally as an inspirational and versatile conductor, clinician, music educator, and lecturer. She has conducted professional, university, youth, and community choirs and orchestras in seventeen countries across North America, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, and has served as jury member at national and international music festivals and competitions.
View her full bio here: http://www.mcp.us/elena-sharkova

Craig Hella Johnson wins Grammy for Best Choral Performance

Cincinnati’s Vocal Arts Ensemble Music Director Craig Hella Johnson wins Grammy for Best Choral Performance for his work with Austin’s premier vocal ensemble Conspirare titled The Sacred Spirit of Russia. Johnson is Conspirare’s Artistic Director and received the golden gramophone in February, 2015.

Press Release from Conspirare:

Austin’s own Conspirare took home its first Grammy award today at the 57th annual Grammy awards. The professional vocal ensemble conducted by artistic director Craig Hella Johnson won in the category of Best Choral Performance for its CD The Sacred Spirit of Russia on the Harmonia Mundi label. The award for Best Choral Performance is given to the conductor. This is Craig Hella Johnson’s first Grammy award as well.

This was Conspirare’s sixth Grammy nomination. Previous nominations were in 2006 for Requiem (Best Choral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical), 2008 for Threshold of Night (Best Choral Performance and Best Classical Album), and 2009 for Company of Voices: Conspirare in Concert (Best Classical Crossover Album). More Detail

Under Johnson’s direction, Conspirare also performed The Sacred Spirit of Russia in live concert in January of 2013, when the recording was made in Austin at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church, a space noted for its cathedral-like acoustics. Of that concert, Paul Robinson wrote for La Scena Musicale: “[Conspirare sings] with total command of both the language and the style of the music … a jaw-dropping introduction to a rich tradition of inspiring and uplifting music … unusual and deeply satisfying musical nourishment.”

Vladimir Morosan, a leading expert in Russian liturgical music and consultant to Conspirare for the performances and recording, wrote in Orthodox Arts Journal: “Although many Russian composers … wrote more or less complete settings of the Divine Liturgy, on a typical Sunday in parishes of the Russian tradition one is not likely to hear the works of just one composer. The practice, rather, is to sing an eclectic mix of settings by various composers. This was the approach used to build the program [recorded] by Conspirare … Several works on this program are North American (and perhaps world-wide) premieres, brought to life some hundred years after their composition … The result [is] a stellar lineup of extraordinarily rich and beautiful sacred choral music.”