Susan McMane, who founded Young Women’s Choral Projects of San Francisco (YWCP) in 2012, a year after leaving the SF Girls Chorus following an 11-year-long acclaimed service there, announced her retirement as artistic director and conductor at the end of the 2021–2022 season.
She will conduct her final concerts with YWCP in San Francisco on Wednesday, June 23, 2022, and in Paris on July 3. Since McMane founded the chorus, it grew to some 100 girls and young women, ages 4 to 18.
“Through my 50 years working in choral music, I have had the pleasure of conducting adults and children in church choirs, young voices in elementary schools, men and women in university choirs, and community ensembles,” says McMane, “but nothing compares to my time at YWCP, where young women of diverse backgrounds evolve as artists through high-quality music education and choral performance.”
The board of directors will appoint an interim director for YWCP’s 2022–2023 season, when it will launch an international search for the next artistic director. “Susan encourages the girls to seek excellence and she teaches them so much more than just singing,” says Frederica von Stade. “She assures these kids the most wonderful confidence and other values that will go on forever in their lives. Additionally, some of the repertoire they sing is extremely complex. The fact that they are able to learn this, perform it so brilliantly and accurately, and with such natural ebullience, leaves me amazed at how accomplished they are.”
The chorus gave premieres and it commissioned works, including Aleksandra Vrebalov’s full length opera, Abraham in Flames at Z Space in 2019. Among YWCP’s awards: the 2020 Margaret Hillis Award for Choral Excellence from Chorus America, the Adventurous Programming Award from ASCAP/Chorus America (2017), and the American Prize in Choral Performance (2014).
McMane has led the Young Women’s Chorus through annual tours, including international tours in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia, South Africa, and regional tours in the Pacific Northwest and the East Coast. YWCP has also shared the stage with the SF Symphony and Opera, Philharmonia Orchestra of London, and the Kronos Quartet.
Highlights of the 10th season include the annual Carols by Candlelight concert; an immersive performance with San Francisco Ballet Training Ensemble at Grace Cathedral; and the world premiere of “We’re More Alike than Unalike” by Rollo Dilworth on words by Maya Angelou. A gala concert and annual fundraiser, “April in Paris,” will be held in Calvary Presbyterian Church on April 30; McMane’s final San Francisco performance will be “Au Revoir,” on June 23, and her final concert is in Paris on the tour on July 3.
McMane says of the season: “We will perform music from all ages — including chant and contemporary compositions, mini-masterworks and a cappella motets — all centered around the wisdom of the feminine spirit and the empowerment of young women.”