Berkshire Choral International


Recap: BCI’s Week in Asheville, North Carolina

June 19, 2017

Cynthia Crose wasn’t even finished with her first week at BCI before she signed up for another session next summer.

Our 2017 season kicked off in Asheville, North Carolina last week, with choristers from across the country joining us for vocal instruction, sightseeing, and connecting with new and old friends alike. For Crose, a first-timer, it was eye-opening.

“When I came home, I described the experience to my friends as an amazing whole week voice lesson,” said the Oregon native.

We welcomed many first-timers as well as seasoned BCI performers to this charming southern city. Cathie Runyon and Muriel Henault attended this year with two other friends from Peterborough, NH. The group of four enjoys BCI sessions together year after year, with many of them having attended for more than 15 years. The women sing together in their local choir and come to BCI to perfect their art at sessions across the world.

From left: Cheri Fry, Muriel Henault, Joyce Gregg, and Cathie Runyon enjoying lunch during a 2014 BCI session in Winter Park, FL 


“I learn more in a week at BCI than I learn in a year at most of my choral rehearsals,” said Runyon, a 19-year BCI attendee. “From warmups, to techniques, to perfecting my notes; I take in all the knowledge the staff can impart.”

Conducting apprentice Suzanna Matthews practicing her skills with the full BCI chorus


BCI faculty, instructors, and apprentices shared that knowledge during over 28 hours of rehearsals and classes, while staying on the campus of the University of North Carolina Asheville just minutes from downtown. Our staff of career singers and musicians not only imparted their wisdom, they performed for choristers during the Faculty/Apprentice Recital.

BCI staff performing for choristers during the Faculty/Apprentice Recital in Asheville


“Every year the staff and the apprentices perform for us. It is just delightful, and is one of the highlights of my week,” said Henault, a 9-year BCI attendee.

While we certainly keep our choristers busy with rehearsals and workshops, we also make sure there is time to explore the local arts scene, mountain views, cuisine, and charm of Asheville, North Carolina.

“They allow free time in the afternoon to enjoy the venue as well as participating in the experience. Asheville was wonderful and we did some sightseeing, some shopping and even some hiking,” said Crose.

The choir closed out the week singing Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor and opera choruses in the regal First Baptist Church of Asheville with the accompaniment of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra. Designed by architect Douglas D. Ellington, the church was completed in 1927 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The First Baptist Church of Asheville before the final concert


“Singing in the First Baptist Church was a wonderful experience. The music just comes alive there,” said Henault.

The music came alive with the instruction of Erin Freeman, director of the Richmond Symphony Chorus and artistic director of Wintergreen Performing Arts. Freeman brought choristers together and conducted the choir to a standing ovation and three curtain calls.

“Working with Erin is a highlight for anybody. She has the ability to bring out the best in the chorus. Erin makes us realize that perfection is not the goal, the goal is to make beautiful music to spread to the world and that’s what we did,” said Runyon.

While we were all sad to see the week end, we are grateful for the experience and to all who attended. We shared a passion for music with a wonderful group of choristers who are now part of the BCI family, and who we hope to see again next year!

“Berkshire Choral is like a home. It’s a family to us,” said Runyon. 

How to Manage Your Voice This Summer

May 11, 2017

The harsh winter is over but that doesn’t mean our vocal chords are any less susceptible to disaster as the weather heats up and summer comes a knocking. We know it can be difficult to focus on vocal health amidst all the summer fun, so we’ve made it easy for you with a quick list of “Do’s and Don’ts” to ensure you can hit those high notes this spring and summer.

Do stay hydrated. Though the air isn’t as dry in the summer, the heat can still cause dehydration and a loss of fluids, especially with an increase of physical activity. Make sure to replenish your body’s water supply and keep your vocal chords hydrated by drinking lots of water. The recommended amount is about 6-8 glasses of water per day- more if your day is packed with physical activity.

Don’t drink a lot of caffeine and alcohol. Both alcohol and caffeine dehydrate your body and dry out your vocal folds and larynx. Additionally, alcohol irritates the mucous membrane lining your throat. So if you’re having a rough morning, opt for an herbal tea or decaffeinated coffee, and if you’re having a night out – well, just don’t overdo it.

Do maintain a healthy diet. Eating lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains not only makes you feel good and nourishes your body, but these types of healthy foods contain important nutrients such as vitamins A, E and C which help maintain the mucous membrane in your throat. Healthy food means healthy vocal chords!

Don’t eat spicy foods. We know the spicy barbeque sauce and buffalo chicken can be tempting, but spicy foods can cause heartburn by causing stomach acid to travel up into the throat and esophagus. Stomach acid can irritate and damage the tissue in your throat, which can take a toll on your singing. Opt for lighter food options with less sauce; your voice will thank you later.

Do avoid smoke. This includes both smoking cigarettes and breathing in smoke from grills and bonfires. Smoke can cause coughing, wheezing and mucous buildup which irritates the vocal chords; not to mention, the act of smoking is the biggest cause of cancer of the vocal folds. When it comes to smoke, try to sit upwind of the fire or grill.

Don’t strain your voice. With summer comes loud events and activities including graduations, weddings, concerts and amusement parks. As tempting as it is, try not to yell and strain your voice too much, or you’ll wake up with a sore throat and a raspy voice. Screaming and yelling causes your vocal chords to repeatedly slam together at high speeds which, as you can imagine, is pretty damaging to vocal health. If you do strain yourself, make sure to rest your voice for a few days until it heals completely.

Managing your voice in the summer may seem tedious, but such care goes a long way in maintaining the overall health of not only your voice, but your body as well. If you still want a dose of concerts this summer, join us at one of our beautiful locations! Visit here for more information.

Come to BCI and Sing Away the Stress

March 9, 2017

The American Psychological Association found 57% of Americans say they are experiencing “significant stress” in their daily lives because of the current state of the world. When more than half the country is stressed to the max that’s not healthy, and it means people are desperately looking for a healthy outlet to recharge, recoup and recover.

One of the most underrated aspects of a week at Berkshire Choral International, an education nonprofit devoted to giving accomplished amateur singers a chance to perform with renowned conductors and symphonies, is the gift of focusing on music in a stress-free environment. Think about it – when was the last time you spent a solid week focused exclusively on something you truly enjoy without any interruptions? You probably can’t remember because your cell phone just went off with a reminder about the meeting you have tonight and you still haven’t been to the grocery store and you forgot to pick up the dry cleaning and…

You get the point. But once you arrive at BCI, you have one week of uninterrupted choral bliss. One week of being in a beautiful location where your lodging is taken care of. One week of not worrying about cooking or grocery shopping because all of your meals are provided. One week of practice and singing with fellow choristers and professional conductors there to support and nourish your love of singing.

Mindfulness and living in the moment sounds like simple concepts, but are actually very difficult to attain. We invite you to join us not only for music, learning, and camaraderie, but also to enjoy a unique opportunity to let the noisy discourse of the world be replaced with joyous song and space to focus and recharge.

Being able to sing in a breathtaking setting among friends both new and old is at the very heart of why BCI is still thriving three decades after its founding. We invite you discover what it’s like to spend one week focused exclusively on something you love, and go back out into the world with a song in your heart and a spirit renewed.

To find out more information and keep up with the latest BCI news, click here.

And the winner is…

January 11, 2017

Berkshire Choral International is an educational nonprofit. Megan Brown Helm is a music teacher. Some things are simply meant to be. 

Megan, a resident of Thetford, Vermont, is the winner of our nationwide singing contest held last fall, and will receive a free week at BCI this summer. The alto describes herself as a “compulsive chorister” who sings in multiple choruses and goes wherever she is needed. She was chosen for her outstanding performance singing Swing Low, which stood out among the other wonderful pieces that were submitted. 

“Megan’s performance was wonderful and it’s clear she takes a lot of pride in her singing,” said Debi Kennedy, president of Berkshire Choral International. “We’re so happy to invite her to join us and we know she’ll be a great addition to our singing community.” 

While Megan sings in several choirs, she most often finds herself in a music classroom at Crossroads Academy, where she instills a love of music in students from kindergarten to third-grade. 

But when she’s not in the classroom, Megan can be found singing in area choirs such as Full Circle and at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Hanover, NH. , as well as with any other local groups that need help. But this summer, she will come to Sheffield and add BCI to her list when she tackles Mahler. 

“We don’t get to sing Mahler very often in our world and if you have an orchestra that can do it then that’s kind of special,” Megan said. 

Speaking of special, Megan spent 25 years teaching music in Kansas City and singing with Simon Carrington, director of Choral Studies at the University of Kansas, where her husband worked. Her work with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus under the direction of Charles Bruffy was a highpoint, and Megan hopes to possibly reconnect with a few former members in Sheffield this summer. From a cappella groups to performing at Renaissance fairs, Megan fostered her love of singing at every turn. 

That continued with her involvement in Voices 21c, a diverse project choir dedicated to positive interactions, social change, and global understanding. Megan helps bring choral music to prison inmates, advocates for social justice through song, and even attended a choral festival in Briancon, France as artists-in-residence last summer, where she performed a program called “Pain and Promise” to talk about war, peace, and coping. The group has also been invited to Israel and Palestine this August to spread peace through song.

“I believe in the importance of music and harmony and voices to basically restore peace and sanity,” Megan said. 

That peace, harmony, and love of music spurred Megan to enter our nationwide singing contest on social media, after discovering BCI through the advertising efforts of our new public relations agency. Her family used to camp in the Berkshires so she’s looking forward to returning to the area, continuing her love of singing, and making more new friends than she can count. 

“Singers aren’t just musicians, they’re writers and scholars and doctors and homemakers – people with rich pasts and interesting presents,” Megan said. “I’m really intrigued by the people but also the programming and extracurriculars on music history and education. It’s going to be fun!”

If you’d like to join Megan as a chorister in 2017, you can click here for more information about the application process. Check out Megan's submission video below!

BCI in Vienna

January 4, 2017

In August 2016, our choristers traveled to Vienna and studied under conductor, Jane Glover. Hear their breathtaking performance of Schubert’s Mass in E-flat Major and Haydn’s Theresienmesse.

BCI is for non-singers too!

December 14, 2016

You don’t have to sing to be part of the magic. Linda Tuel, an 11-year attendee of Berkshire Choral, shares her experiences as a non-singing member of the BCI family.  

BCI in One Word:

October 6, 2016

 “Community,” “joyous,”  “adventure,” “Brigadoon,” … these are just a few of the ways our choristers describe the BCI experience. Watch the video to hear more from our singers on what BCI means to them. 

Social Media Competition for Berkshire Choral International

August 15, 2016

Additional Submission Details:

Interested in parties should submit a video directly to the Berkshire Choral International’s Facebook page and tag Berkshire Choral International. Videos should include a brief introduction with a description of the contestant’s name, performance piece and voice type. Videos may be no longer than three (3) minutes in length.

Eligibility and Official Rules and Regulations:        




1. ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS: The Berkshire Choral International (BCI) Singing Competition (the “Competition”) is open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States (except Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry. Singers, apprentices and any individuals who have attended a previous session with BCI are not eligible to participate. BCI reserves the right to disqualify any entry, for whatever reason, including, but not limited to, a perceived or actual conflict of interest.

2. Agreement to these Rules, Terms and Conditions (“Terms”). By participating in this Promotion, each entrant (“Entrant”) fully and unconditionally agrees to and accepts these Terms and the decisions of the Sponsor, which are final and binding in all matters related to the Promotion. Whether an Entrant receives a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein. Sponsor may at any time revise these Terms, and Entrants shall be bound by any such revisions.


4. COMPETITION ENTRY PERIOD: The entry period for this Competition begins

9:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (“EST”) on September 1. 2016 and ends 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2016 (the “Entry Period”). BCI’s designated computer is the official time clock for the Competition. The Competition is composed of a single selection process that will not occur until all submissions have been reviewed. All eligible entries received during the entry period will be eligible to win, as applicable and in accordance with these Official Rules. The Day on which a particular submission is received will not impact the chances of being selected as the winner of the Competition.

5. SELECTION OF WINNERS: One winner will be selected following review by BCI’s designated judges. Upon filling out all required form fields and submitting a video, entrants will be entered into the Competition (each, an “Entry”) and be eligible to win a free week with BCI in Asheville, North Carolina. BCI reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to disqualify any Entry that, or entrant who, does not comply with these Official Rules. No cash equivalent or substitution of the additional entry will be offered. A winner will be selected and notified on or before the first of the year, 2017.

BCI will make reasonable efforts to notify the applicable winners via Facebook messenger. The winner may be required to sign and return BCI’s Affidavit or Declaration of Eligibility and Liability and Publicity Release (the “Release”), within seven (7) calendar days of prize notification. If the winner cannot be contacted within three (6) calendar days of first notification attempt, if the winner rejects his/her prize or in the event of noncompliance with these Competition rules and requirements, such prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner will be selected from all remaining eligible entries. Upon prize forfeiture, no compensation will be given.

Except where prohibited by law, the winner further grants to the Competition the right to use the prize winner’s name, photograph, voice, submission video and city of residence for purposes of advertising or promoting and publicizing the efforts and activities of the BCI and the Competition without further consideration and to release his or her name to persons requesting the names of the winners of the Competition.

6. GENERAL CONDITIONS: No cash equivalent or substitution of the prize is offered. The prize is non-transferable and non-refundable and has no cash value. By participating in this Competition, entrants agree to these Official Rules which are final and binding in all respects. If for any reason the Competition is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures, or any other causes which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of the Competition, or if this Competition is not capable of being conducted as described in these Official Rules, BCI reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who is responsible or who tampers with the entry process, and to cancel, modify, suspend or terminate the Competition, and to conduct a random drawing to select the winner from all non-suspect entries received prior to such action, or as otherwise deemed fair and appropriate by BCI.

7. LIMITATIONS OF LIABILITY AND RELEASE: No liability or responsibility is assumed by BCI or Competition parties resulting from entrant’s participation in or attempt to participate in the Competition or download of any information in connection with participating in the Competition. No liability or responsibility is assumed by BCI or Competition parties for technical problems or technical malfunction which may affect the operation of the Competition, including but not limited to any of the following occurrences: hardware or software errors; faulty computer, telephone, cable, satellite, network, electronic, wireless or internet connectivity or other online communication problems; errors or limitations of any Internet service providers, servers, hosts or providers; garbled, jumbled or faulty data transmissions; failure of any e-mail transmissions to be sent to or received; lost, late, delayed or intercepted e-mail transmissions; inaccessibility of any website associated with the Competition, in whole or in part for any reason; traffic congestions on the Internet or any website associated with the Competition; unauthorized human or non-human intervention of the operation of the Competition, including without limitation, unauthorized tampering, hacking, theft, virus, bugs, worms; or destruction of any aspect of the Competition, or loss, miscount, misdirection, inaccessibility or unavailability of an account used in connection with the Competition. BCI is not responsible for any typographical errors in the announcement of prizes or these Official Rules, or any inaccurate or incorrect data contained on any Website associated with the Competition. Use of any Website associated with the Competition is at entrant’s own risk. Released parties (defined below) are not responsible for any personal injury or property damage or losses of any kind which may be sustained to entrant’s or any other person's computer equipment resulting from participation in the Competition, use of the website or the download of any information from the website. By participating in the Competition, the entrant agrees to resolve any dispute individually, without resort to any class action. Except if winner is a resident of TN, or where prohibited by law, by accepting prize, Winner grants permission for BCI and those acting under its authority to use his/her name, photograph, voice and/or likeness, for advertising and/or publicity purposes, in any and all media now known or hereinafter invented without territorial or time limitations and without additional compensation.

By participating in the competition, entrants and winners agree to release and hold harmless BCI, the competition parties and Facebook Inc., their advertising and promotions agencies, and each of their respective parent companies, subsidiaries, affiliates, partners, representatives, agents, successors, assigns, employees, officers and directors (collectively, the “released parties”), from any and all liability, for loss, harm, damage, injury, cost or expense whatsoever including without limitation, property damage, personal injury and/or death which may occur in connection with, preparation for, travel to, or participation in competition, or possession, acceptance and/or use or misuse of prize or participation in any competition-related activity and for any claims based on publicity rights, defamation, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, trademark infringement or any other intellectual property-related cause of action.   Each entrant further agrees that in any cause of action, the released parties’ liability will be limited to the cost of participating in the competition, and in no event shall the released parties be liable for attorneys’ fees, punitive, consequential, direct or indirect damages and each entrant waives the right to claim any damages whatsoever.

8. WINNER LIST/RULES REQUEST: The Winner of the Competition will be disclosed on BCI’s social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as on their official website. No announcement will be made until the selected winner accepts their prize.

9. Void Where Prohibited. The Promotion is subject to all applicable federal, state, provincial, municipal and local laws and regulations. Void in the state of Rhode Island and where prohibited or limited by law.

SPONSOR: Berkshire Choral International, Inc. 245 North Undermountain Road Sheffield, MA 01257