Hitting the rights notes

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By Carol A. Clark

As a core member of the Austin-based Conspirare, Nicole Lamartine has just received two Grammy Award nominations for the professional chorale ensemble’s recent CD, “Threshold of Night.” The nominations are for Best Classical Album and Best Choral Performance.

“I was so excited,” said Lamartine during a telephone interview from Wyoming. “We are such a tight knit group and the second it came out I got an e-mail. It’s such an honor.”

Conspirare, which means with breath or breathing, is an organization of people who love chorale music and are very supportive of each other’s accomplishments, she said. Lamartine, a Los Alamos High School graduate, has performed in venues across the world.

“We recorded the CD nominated for the Grammys at Troy Music Hall in Troy, New York because of its rich history and it’s known to have some of the best acoustics in the world,” she said.

Lamartine praised Conspirare founder, artistic director and conductor Craig Hella Johnson, describing him as a kind-hearted fellow who the ensemble from throughout the country is “enamored with.”

Johnson is renowned as one of the most influential voices in choral conducting in the United States for the depth of knowledge, artistic sensitivity and imagination he brings to his programs. He has assembled some of the finest singers in the country to create a world class, award-winning ensemble. His performances have been praised for their superb artistry.

Lamartine’s parents, Bruce and Winnie Lamartine, live in Los Alamos and are active in local theater and dance productions. They were delighted with the Grammy news. “It’s exciting and Nicole is so deserving,” Bruce said. “Of all the family, which has varying degrees of musical talent, she is the most musical, so to that extent, I would expect this for her.”

Her mother Winnie also was excited with the news. “I’m absolutely thrilled and proud ... and not to sound like I’m boasting ... but I’m not surprised,” Winnie said. “Her voice has always been special. People here still remember when she was Cinderella - and she graduated in from LAHS 1993.”

Lamartine, 33, began taking singing lessons when she was 13-years-old from Los Alamos voice teacher Candace Magner.

“I want to say how proud I am of Nicole,” Magner said. “She was always one of those students who knew what she wanted - she wanted to sing ... she sang chorale music all the way through school. So how do you get to the Grammys? Practice, practice, practice.”

Lamartine expressed an interest in touring New Mexico and Colorado. “I know Los Alamos has such great high school talent that we could recruit from,” she said.

Lamartine began singing with Conspirare in 2006, which received two Grammy nominations that year.

Conspirare is set apart as one of a handful of professional choruses around the country bringing world-class performances to its listeners. The ensemble has garnered rave reviews, awards and national recognition for its refined artistry, virtuosity, and expressive singing.

Now in its 15th performance season, Conspirare combines professional vocal artistry with innovative programming to create a unique and dynamic choral art. Conspirare is comprised of three performing ensembles: a professional chamber choir of singers from around the country that is presented in an annual concert series in Austin and other central Texas cities and tours internationally; a symphonic choir of both professional and volunteer singers that presents at least one large choral/orchestral work annually; and the Conspirare Youth Choir, a training program for young singers, ages 9-16.

In 2004, Conspirare produced its first professional, commercial recording, “through the green fuse.” A second CD, “Requiem,” was released in 2006 and received two Grammy nominations for Best Choral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical.

Conspirare has performed at New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and continues to receive rave reviews and national acclaim. In 2005, the organization received the “Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence,” presented by Chorus America.

In 2007, as one of only seven choruses in the country to receive a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for an “American Masterpieces Festival,” Conspirare presented “Crossing the Divide: Exploring Influence and Finding Our Voice.” The four-day festival featured a distinguished gathering of composers and conductors, performances of three world premieres, and a gala closing concert with a choir of 600 singers.

This year, Conspirare performed at the “Eighth World Symposium on Choral Music” - the only choir from the United States to be invited to join choral ensembles from around the world for the eight-day festival in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Lamartine holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from New Mexico State University and a Master’s Degree in Music from the University of Arizona in vocal performance. She holds a Doctorate of Music Arts in Choral Conducting from the University of Arizona and is the director of Choral Activities and assistant professor of music for the University of Wyoming.

She also conducts the Collegiate Chorale, Singing Statesmen, and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble.

Lamartine served as assistant professor of Choral Conducting at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

She also spent two years living and working in both London and Birmingham, UK, where she sang with the choruses of the BBC and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras.