Richard Andrew Sparks (born August 29, 1950) is an American choral conductor. He is one of the leading figures in choral music in the Pacific Northwest and in Scandinavian, especially Swedish a cappella, choral music.
Early life and education
Sparks was raised in Seattle, Washington. He graduated from Shorecrest High School, and he received a bachelor of music in 1976 and a master of music in 1980, both from the University of Washington. While an undergraduate, Sparks founded Seattle Pro Musica, which he led until 1980. During this time, Seattle Pro Musica became known as a leader in the "authentic performance" of Baroque music, especially Johann Sebastian Bach's. Sparks conducted Seattle Pro Musica in Claudio Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610 at St. Mark's Cathedral and Handel's Messiah. In the early 1980s, Sparks grew interested in Swedish choral music and the work of conductor Eric Ericson. He received doctor of musical arts in choral conducting from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and his doctoral dissertation on postwar Swedish choral music was later published as The Swedish Choral Miracle.
In 1983, Sparks became conductor of the Choir of the West and director of choral activities at Pacific Lutheran University. He remained there until 2001, during which time he directed the choir in Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, Bach's Mass in B Minor and St. John Passion, Igor Stravinsky's Les Noces, Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vespers, Johannes Brahms's Liebeslieder Walzer, and Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem. During Sparks's tenure, the Choir of the West recorded five concert albums.
Sparks founded Choral Arts Northwest (later Choral Arts), a Seattle-based chamber choir ensemble, in 1993 and was its artistic director until 2006. Choral Arts is known for its repertoire of sacred music and a sound inspired by Swedish choirs. From 1999-2011, Sparks was artistic director of Pro Coro Canada in Edmonton, where his repertoire has included (again) Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers and Bach's B Minor Mass, as well as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Requiem and Gabriel Fauré's Requiem in D Minor. He received the Richard S. Eaton Award of Distinction from the Alberta Choral Federation. Sparks currently serves as the Chair for Conducting & Ensembles at the University of North Texas, and also leads the University Singers, and the Collegium Singers at the school. In the Fall of 2013, Sparks led the Collegium singers in yet another performance of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610.
Sparks is married to the former Kathryn Wold, an artist who formerly directed the gallery at Pacific Lutheran University. Richard Nance composed "Set Me as a Seal," based on the Song of Songs, for their 1996 wedding.
- Campbell, R. M. (2001-12-21). "Choral spark plug returns to Seattle". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- Seattle Pro Musica. "About the Choir: History". Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- Sparks, Richard (2008-10-26). "Det svenska körundrets dirigent". Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish). Stockholm. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- Sparks, Richard (2000). The Swedish Choral Miracle: Swedish A Capella Music Since 1945. Chapel Hill, NC: Walton Music. ISBN 978-0-9703134-0-9.
- Pacific Lutheran University. "Choir of the West: History". Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- Kiraly, Philippa (2006-03-28). "Sparks' finale is an eclectic display". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2009-05-04.
- Pro Coro Canada, "Staff: Richard Sparks," .
- Richard Nance (2000). Set Me As A Seal. Walton Music. p. About the Composer.