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Vox Pacifica thrives under artistic leadership by Wendy Bloom

Women's choir highlights inclusion and diversity

Artistic Director Wendy Bloom smiles enthusiastically as she directs singers with the Vox Pacifica choir during practice on Nov. 16 in Bellingham. The choir will perform its seasonal offering
Artistic Director Wendy Bloom smiles enthusiastically as she directs singers with the Vox Pacifica choir during practice on Nov. 16 in Bellingham. The choir will perform its seasonal offering (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Margaret Bikman CDN Contributor

About five years ago, a group of singers — May May Gong, Charlene Day and Ahwren Ayers — were talking with conductor and singer Wendy Bloom at Cafe Adagio about a new women’s choir in town.  

“May May asked me to meet them to give them some ideas about how to start a new choir,” Bloom said. “We talked for quite a while before I asked, ‘Who is going to conduct your new choir?’ May May hesitated  ‘… um …you.’”

When they asked Bloom to take on the job as artistic director, Day said, she quickly agreed. Since then, she has committed to the task and the choir now has 35 singers. 

Named Vox Pacifica for its double meaning of the location near the Salish Sea, and its reference to peace, the women’s choir had only performed about five programs before the COVID pandemic hit. 

It was a blow, Bloom said, but after it was suggested by the board that she give group classes on Zoom, many of the singers took advantage of the opportunity. When they reconvened in person almost two years later, the difference in their sound was “amazing.”

The ensemble’s repertoire is mostly contemporary, as in music by living composers, and Bloom works at finding women composers and composers of color.

“For decades,” Bloom explained, “most women’s choral music was quite flowery and romantic, about nature and lovers. The new material is so much more thought-provoking; highlighting social issues, justice, activism and women’s issues.”   

The choir was recently selected to sing for the regional American Choral Directors Association conference in Spokane in January 2024. The theme of the conference is diversity and inclusion, a theme the choir has been honoring since its inception.  

Bloom grew up in a small town in central Illinois where there was not a violin or an orchestra for miles. She played clarinet in marching band, piano in the jazz band, and sang in two choirs. 

“Music was my only real hobby,” she said, “and my lifeline to get me out of the house often.”

She went to Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, to be a choir director in a high school.

“That was about the highest possible music career I had ever heard of in my small town,” Bloom said.

photo  Alto Carole Hammond, center, sings with other members of the Vox Pacifica choir during practice. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

The head of the voice department from the University of Iowa was at her senior voice recital because his wife was on the Cornell faculty. He invited her to audition for a master’s degree in performance — something Bloom said she hadn’t even known existed.

She met her husband, Brad, at college, and they settled in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he went on to be a “conducting guru,” she said. She taught high school and church choirs and conducted musicals at the high school, the college and in the community. 

In 2016, when Brad was dying, they moved to Bellingham to be closer to their children, Billie and Cassidy. Bellingham’s Threshold Singers sang to him during hospice. Bloom later joined the group.

“The greatest part of my professional career was actually spent as a singer,” Bloom said. She sang for 16 years with a quartet called SATB and traveled around the country.

She’s also soloed in oratorios, requiems, symphonic concerts and pop concerts with various symphonies, and conducted works by Johannes Brahms, Benjamin Britten, Gabriel Faure, Requiem and Franz Schubert. 

A few weeks ago, Bloom was appointed as choirmistress for the Bellingham Festival of Music in the summer of 2024.  

“This was a position that I held in Michigan with the Flint Symphony Orchestra for eight years,” she said. “I was fortunate that the festival’s new artistic director, Maestro Marcelo Lehninger, was open to having someone else work with the choir before he steps in.” 

Kevin Allen-Schmid is a friend of Bloom’s and a fellow choir director. His Choir of the Salish Sea and Vox Pacifica shared a concert last December called “Sea and Stars.” 

Allen-Schmid said Bloom “draws upon a full career of professional-level voice coaching and choral directing experience, and thus provides expert modeling and gives achievable vocal challenges with instruction tailored specifically to each singer’s level of technique — as well as holding high standards.”

photo  Lindsey Smith, an alto singer with the Vox Pacifica choir, watches Artistic Director Wendy Bloom. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Vox Pacifica founder Charlene Day agrees. As a singer, she said, Bloom is gifted with a large range from alto to soprano, confident and rich in sound, Day said. 

As a choral director, “she demonstrates perfect leadership, so organized at each rehearsal to maximize our time together, so inspired by beautiful and meaningful compositions and brilliantly able to bring our sounds together for the audiences to enjoy our blends,” Day said.

Soprano Kay Marsh said that in rehearsals, “Wendy always works on purity of tone and perfection of musical notation. She blends hard work with warmth and a sense of humor.”

Likewise, Gong says Wendy “is uncannily skilled at zeroing in on the smallest nuance of a song that can change the colors completely.”

She went on to say that because Bloom is such a strong singer, she is also able to demonstrate to the ensemble how to approach a challenging passage or a very high note and “make it look easy.” 

“Wendy’s deep joy is irresistible but never flippant,” Bloom’s friend Sylvia Tag said. “Like an Emily Dickinson poem, with a witty turn of phrase and an undercurrent of grief just below the surface. Present but never overwhelming; a slant of light that illuminates everything and everyone around her.”

Vox Pacifica presents WinterSong performances at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8 and 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9 at the First Congregational Church of Bellingham, 2401 Cornwall Ave. Tickets are $10–$20. Info:

photo  Artistic Director Wendy Bloom conducts the Vox Pacifica choir. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

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