A native of west suburban St. Charles, bass Evan Bravos joined the Chicago Symphony Chorus in 2013. He received master of music degree from Northwestern University and a bachelor of music from Lawrence University Conservatory,
What work(s) this season are you are most looking forward to performing, and why?
I am particularly excited for the Poulenc Gloria. The piece, one of Poulenc’s most memorable works, resembles no other great work of sacred music. Its balance of lighthearted jauntiness and ethereal devotion offers a unique, stylized voice to the Gloria most audiences often expect. The piece carries particular sentimental value for me, as it was one of the very first works I had the pleasure of studying and performing while at Lawrence Conservatory under music educator/choral legend Rick Bjella. It is also a piece that somehow truly captures the essence of the man who first inspired within me the love of choral singing. Buoyant and energetic and yet profound, it’s always exploring and searching for deeper meaning and expression.
Offstage, I like to:
Garden, run on the Lake Michigan path and sing on other stages around the country.
Currently I’m reading/watching/listening to:
Willa Cather’s Song of the Lark; rewatching “Chef’s Table” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” studying Don Giovanni (a recording with Thomas Allen in the title role) for a turn as Masetto with Opera on the James in Lynchburg, Va.
One of my favorite quotes is:
“In the republic of mediocrity, genius is dangerous.” — Robert G. Ingersoll
Tell us about some of your favorite non-classical musicians, music, pieces of music or songs:
To be honest, I don’t really listen to music unless I’m studying or preparing it. I’ve always found myself an outlier when it comes to keeping up with popular music. But I suppose if I had to list a few artists I really respect, among them would be Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Any folk ballads written in the last century generally get me, along with the sentimentality of the early musical theater classics. I grew up singing and playing many of those at the piano with my grandfather.
Who is/are your favorite composer(s), and why?
Mozart, Schubert, Puccini, Verdi. It’s simple: the voice. They knew how to write for the voice. Not only did they know how to construct a memorable melody, but they made it singable — which isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sacred music: Howells, please! Of today’s composers, I love the work of Ricky Ian Gordon, particularly his songs, but also his operas. Same with Jake Heggie. Oh, and Bach … because, well … Bach.
Was there a specific moment or experience during which you first connected with choral singing?
I first sang in choir as a sixth grader. I was very shy as a child, and though I was embarrassed at first to join choir, I remember coming home after school after the first few weeks of classes and complaining to my parents that the other kids weren’t taking it seriously enough, and said, “They don’t treat it like a class.” It was very frustrating for me at the time. But there were choral highlights along the way; high school choir was my life.
What is your most memorable Chicago Symphony Chorus performance or experience?
Performing Verdi’s Falstaff with Muti. Really, any performance with Muti. He so loves the Chicago Symphony Chorus and makes no apologies about it. He not only lets us really sing, but he gets us to really bring the music to life through text, interpretation, and our own natural musical instincts. Not every conductor knows how to trust a chorus in such a way, but when one has a chorus comprised of such solo-level talents, a smart conductor will.
I’ll never forget our trip to New York to sing at Carnegie Hall to sing Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky a few years ago. It was such a noble and thrilling piece musically to perform, and of course,
singing at Carnegie Hall was the icing on the cake.
After the performance, when the choir was supposed to fly out back to Chicago, we were snowed in and were forced to stay another night at our hotel, Hilton New York (naturally, the CSO travels in style). While this was a bummer for some who had obligations back in Chicago, it was really a pleasant surprise for most of us. Spending time with the members of the chorus outside our normal rehearsal setting was refreshing, and I actually ended up making new friends I likely wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise.
The most impressive thing about it all was Carolyn Stoner, the Chorus’ manager, who was unflappable in her handling of the rebooking of the flights, coordination and all other correspondence. She is truly a professional, and the CSO is so lucky to have her.
Do you play another instrument or perform in non-classical vocal style or setting?
I remember as a child wanting to quit the piano, and my mother not letting me. I’m glad she forced me to, because as a singer, it is an invaluable skill to be able to play, both in your own musical preparation and in supplemental teaching. The only times I generally sing non-classically, it is for a wedding, funeral, birthday party or other such occasions. Mostly, both in order to preserve the voice — and my husband’s sanity. I don’t sing unless I absolutely must.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to learn more about classical music?
There is so much music in this town. Of course the tried-and-true mainstays of classical music, the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera of Chicago, but there are also smaller companies doing great work. Chicago Opera Theater, Chicago Fringe Opera, Haymarket Opera, Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago are all wonderful organizations dedicated to keeping classical music, opera and art song alive and well in this city. I’d encourage people to take a look at their calendars and explore which of these other organizations they might be able to support through attending performances or financial contributions.
For the music-loving amateur: YouTube is also a fantastic resource these days. When I encounter a new piece on a recital or concert, I often will listen to a variety of recordings on YouTube just to get a better understanding of it and to hear multiple interpretations. I encourage people to fall down the YouTube “rabbit hole,” as it were. You’ll be surprised by how many truly exceptional recordings you will stumble across. I would then also encourage people to buy albums of said artists in support.
What makes the Chicago Symphony Chorus special?
The CSC is more than just a chorus. It is my Chicago musical “home.” As an aspiring young opera singer, I travel around the country making music with various companies. Professionally speaking, I am, for all intents and purposes, a contractor. The CSC affords me the opportunity to make world-class music in the concert hall of my own city while providing a vital livable wage, which, among other various musical sources of income, helps sustains my art and ability to make music.
As you probably know, the individuals I have the pleasure and privilege of singing with are among the finest in the industry. However, what you might not know is that they offer something that is just as special, which is unique to the Midwest: they care about one another’s lives and well-being in a way that doesn’t always happen in the business. In so doing, this world-class organization has formed and sustained a one-of-a-kind artistic community built founded on the camaraderie and collegial moral support of its choristers, and fostered by its administration.In a business that can often be lonely and cold, performing with the CSC reminds me why I make music, and why I love making music.