Los Alamos Choral Society Reaches End Of Era As Director Mary Badarak Retires

Los Alamos Choral Society Director Mary Badarak. Courtesy photo
Los Alamos Choral Society

Los Alamos Choral Society will reach the end of an era on Memorial Day Weekend: Mary Badarak, director of Choral Society for more than a decade, is retiring.

Her last concert with Choral Society, “Popular Favorites from Broadway to Beatles to Badarak and Beyond,” is 4 p.m. Sunday, May 28, at the United Church, 2525 Canyon Road, in Los Alamos.

Tickets to the Los Alamos concert, available at the door, are $15 for adults. Students may attend for free.

There will be a reception and refreshments honoring Badarak immediately after the concert. All those attending the concert and all musicians who have performed in Badarak’s many Choral Society concerts through the years are invited to attend.

The concert will be repeated at Cochiti Lake, in the park next to the Irene S. Sweetkind Public Library at 1 p.m. Memorial Day, Monday, May 29.

Badarak plans to continue her work as library director in Cochiti Lake and also will continue to serve as the artistic director of Santa Fe Music Works—but, with regret, the Los Alamos Choral Society Board of Directors is already starting talks with persons interested in serving as their new director.

Asked, in a recent interview, why she is leaving Choral Society, Badarak, 70, said, “I thought it was time to pass the baton.” She noted that she has been traveling 130 miles— from Cochiti Lake to Los Alamos and back—every Tuesday for rehearsals (and more days for concerts and extra practices)—for many years. “Three hours of driving for every two hours of rehearsal,” she observed—and she also noted that in winter (and even in spring), the drive to Los Alamos can be a real challenge.

Asked how she feels about her time at Choral Society, she said, “I love it. It’s just been a joy,” but, “It’s time to pass it on.”

Los Alamos Choral Society was founded in the 1940s by Manhattan Project people. It has had many directors. They have presented a long series of classical and light concerts, establishing a solid reputation for the Choral Society, which, in recent years, has ranged in size from about 45 to about 65 singers. The society usually presents a classical concert (with the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra) in January, and a performance of lighter works (with accompaniment by noted local pianist Cindy Little) in May.

Badarak brought a wealth of experience and a strong academic background to Choral Society. For 15 years, she was a professor of music theory and composition at the University of California-Santa Cruz. She founded the Santa Cruz Chorale, which she led for about 12 years. She was a professor at Georgia State University for eight years.

When she talks about Robert Shaw and Alice Parker, she is speaking from first-hand experience.

She is a composer and arranger as well as a director. Choral Society will be performing 14 short pieces of music on Memorial Day Weekend, and Badarak either wrote or arranged nine of them. Los Alamos concert-goers will recognize many of the pieces as crowd favorites from past years.

Asked her favorite memory of Choral Society performances she has directed, she laughed and said, “What we’re doing right now…”. She added, after some thought, that, “The Brahms Requiem was wonderful”. It’s hard to choose, she said, because she has so many cherished memories. “I think about something,” she said, “and there I am, back on stage,” with 50 to 70 voices, and many instrumentalists. Some of these songs and concerts in Los Alamos were “life-changing experiences,” she said.

Her musical future in Santa Fe will continue to be very busy. Santa Fe Music Works is a tax-exempt corporation with a mission “to provide media and resources for the instruction of and creative expression by musicians in all phases of the art: composers, scholars, teachers, students, performers, and audience”. The organization seeks to accomplish its mission through “collaborative and individual performance projects, festivals, workshops, residences, symposia, online publishing and education, and general administrative assistance”.

Santa Fe Music Works currently serves as sponsor or fiscal agent for Masterworks Chorale, Turquoise Trail Baroque, and the Chamber Choir Cantat. It sponsors master classes and coaching. It provides training in music theory and musicianship. It also presents seminars in composition.

The list of Santa Fe Music Works accomplishments is long. Here are just a few:

It has sponsored the Masterworks Chorale on three tours to perform in Carnegie Hall in New York City, where the Chorale joined with other choruses to perform the Mozart Requiem in 2004, the Brahms Deutsche Requiem in 2005, and the Verdi Requiem in 2013 under the direction of the internationally famous composer and conductor John Rutter.

Santa Fe Music Works also sponsored the Masterworks Chorale on a trip to Vienna in 2009 as part of the International Haydn Festival. (Many Los Alamos Choral Society singers were among the performers on this trip.)

In 2010, Cantat recorded an album of Christmas music composed by Badarak.

The organization’s planned projects march right on into the future. For example, a master class for singers, led by Eric Mills, the English diction coach for the Santa Fe Opera, is coming up in August.

And in the fall, Badarak will present a class on “Music Theory without Tears”.