The choir has been blessed over the years with wonderful accompanists! Lew Schwenk sang baritone and played for SMS concerts and rehearsals in the early 1980s. In 1988, Diana Ridenour Tudsbury became the accompanist for the choir; she can be heard on our earliest CDs. Next, we were blessed with Linda Dawson as both our accompanist and frequent arranger in the 1990s. We were the first choir to create a ‘sing along’ Christmas recording for Piano Disc.
Linda’s lush arrangements and dexterity on the keyboard have made this Christmas recording one of Piano Disc’s most popular ever for player pianos.
Talented Clifford Shockney became SMS’ accompanist about 2000 for roughly a decade. Many have enjoyed his fabulous piano skills as the choir’s accompanist and while the group performed one of his original compositions or arrangements. Also, he partnered with Richard Glazier for a Gershwin/Arlen concert by the Sacramento Master Singers. Cliff penned If Music Be the Food of Love for our 2007 – 2008 season and set the poem Incarnation by former member Joe Ossmann, to great effect, for our holiday concerts in 2009.
Heidi Van Regenmorter is the current accompanist of the choir (and longest serving). Heidi is a fabulous pianist and is particularly adept at assisting in rehearsals, with her ability to read conductors’ minds. On numerous occasions we have had the pleasure of being accompanied on organ as well! We are “the luckiest” to have had such a succession of accompanists throughout our history as a choir!
Other FIRSTS and HIGHLIGHTS? For starters, the ensemble was the first choir in Sacramento to have a website. The late John Crowell, a former bass and choral librarian, anticipated this need. He snagged the domain name mastersingers.org for SMS. The choir’s first compact disc How Still He Rests was released in 1994, and was subsequently named as one of KXPR’s ‘Top 10 Holiday CD’s.’ SMS is proud to offer nine compact discs in its catalog now.
In 1990, Hughes and his choir switched venues from the suburbs to downtown Sacramento locations. Audience size blossomed. Today, the choir is thrilled to perform in some of the loveliest churches and concert halls in the city. SMS is grateful to the congregations of St. Francis Church, Saint Mary’s Church, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Fremont Presbyterian Church, Westminster Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist Church and other area churches for graciously allowing the choir to sing in their sanctuaries. SMS has also performed in the Library Galleria, the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, and Crest Theater to capacity crowds. Since 2010, a concert or two each year in Harris Center on the campus of Folsom Lake College has been added to the season, but the majority of concerts are performed in the heart of downtown Sacramento.
In addition to gaining the respect of a growing audience base, Sacramento Master Singers has frequently received rave reviews from area critics and support by local foundations — the choir is appreciative of the support of the arts provided by KXPR/KXJZ Public Radio, Sacramento Magazine, Sacramento News and Review, area news stations, Sacramento Valley Choral Coalition, and the Sacramento Bee. SMS deeply appreciates the support of its patrons—without them programming would be less adventurous and impact on area youth and schools lessened. The support of arts foundations such as the National Endowment for the Arts, Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, Sacramento Regional Community Foundation, California Arts Council, Sacramento Bee, Raley’s, and others have allowed for stable operations and supported the choir’s mission. It’s a source of pride that the ensemble has remained fiscally responsible while also contributing to the well-being of the arts community. It is the practice of SMS to hire local instrumentalists, dancers, and guest artists.