Choral Career-- Attorney sings bass with Cantata group

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Ann Arbor attorney Don Kenney is a second-generation lawyer, walking in the footsteps of his father who practiced law in Detroit.

And from his mother, Kenney inherited his second "career."

"My mother was a piano teacher, so I didn't have much choice about being in music," he says. "It became the second love of my life."

Kenney parlayed his early training in classical piano to become a dance band leader in high school and through his college years in Ann Arbor, where he earned his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.

"I played lots and lots of proms, weddings and special dances," he says. "We used to play at the Michigan Union for the regular Saturday Night dances--ballroom dancing where students came alone or with a date, paid an admission and danced in the ballroom to sweet and low dance music."

Now Kenney has found yet another outlet for his musical talent, singing bass with the Ann Arbor Cantata Singers, a premier choral group of about 30 singers.

"I've had many beautiful musical experiences with the prestigious Ann Arbor Cantata Singers, and it's led to wonderful musical experiences all over Europe and North America," he says.

"Singing with them is always a thrill, building musical memories with so many different people from different walks of life and experiences."

His next performance with the Cantata Singers will be the Sunday before Thanksgiving, when the ensemble will perform "American Sampler: A Concert of Music by American Composers from the 18th century to the present day," 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22, at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 306 N. Division Street in Ann Arbor.

The concert will include music by William Billings, Stephen Foster, Amy Beach, Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Stephen Paulus, and more, representing a variety of styles from sacred to spirituals to popular music. It features the Michigan premiere of works by three young American composers, all written in the last 10 years.

The ensemble's new season includes Purcell's "Dido & Aeneas," in collaboration with the Arbor Opera Theater, January 30 and 31 in Ann Arbor; and in April, the ensemble will perform one of the great masterworks of choral tradition, Bach's St. John Passion, at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. The season will round out with a special fund-raising dinner May 4 at Zingerman's Roadhouse in Ann Arbor where the Cantata Singers will present a banquet of musical treats.

As a member of the Cantata Singers, Kenney takes the stage with amateurs, professionals and semi-professionals--those who have a musical job, like a section leader at a church, and another full-time, non-music career. The ensemble includes music educators, doctors, lawyers, professors, business people, retirees, and more, all volunteers who share a love of, and dedication to, great choral music, who come together Tuesday evenings to rehearse.

Kenney enjoys performing in Ann Arbor--his home base since his U-M years--and in late October was with the Cantata Singers at Dexter High School performing excerpts from Haydn's "The Creation" with the Dexter Community Orchestra. He also enjoys singing in different countries, including an exciting Canadian tour of Montreal and Quebec City.

"My all-time favorite was touring for an International Music Festival in Austria, performing in historic stages where Haydn and Beethoven and Mozart performed," he says.

"We sang in Haydn's home church in Eisenstadt and in always-lovely Vienna, where we sang at St Michael's, the church where Mozart was married, and at the great cathedral of St Stephan's.

"The highlight for me was in Vienna where my daughter Laura, a professional cellist, played in the orchestra while I sang in the chorus."

Kenney also enjoys bringing music to the younger generation, in joint concerts with high school choruses in Dexter, Chelsea, Saline and Ypsilanti. The highlight, he says, was handing out scholarships funded by the Cantata Singers, for students from the various high schools to attend the Interlochen Center for the Arts near Traverse City.

"Recently the Cantata Singers have branched out into opera, under the stimulating direction of our new music director, Warren Puffer Jones, who interestingly enough comes to us from Yale where he actually conducted the Whiffenpoofs . . . yes, they in fact do exist," Kenney says.

"Singing with this group is always something fresh and new, to bring the beauty of music to our community."

Published: Fri, Nov 20, 2009


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