Shawn Kirchner is a composer/arranger/songwriter, singer, and pianist based in Los Angeles whose choral works are performed throughout the world. A member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale since 2001, Kirchner has enjoyed an enduring creative relationship with music director Grant Gershon, culminating in his tenure as the LAMC’s Swan Family Composer-in-Residence from 2012-2015. Kirchner has also collaborated with such leading ensembles as Conspirare, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Lorelei Ensemble, San Diego Master Chorale, Los Robles Master Chorale, Coro Allegro, Atlanta Master Chorale, and Tonality.
Kirchner’s creativity is driven by his passion for songwriting, folk/carol traditions, and poetry – but fused with the improvisatory virtuosity of Baroque and bluegrass instrumental traditions. Best-known for his setting of the Kenyan song Wana Baraka and for Heavenly Home: Three American Songs – praised by the LA Times as “arranged with mastery” – Kirchner has also composed deeply expressive cycles on the poetry of Neruda, Plath, Hopkins, Blake, and the Psalms (Songs of Ascent). His original songwriting ranges in style from jazz and gospel to folk and bluegrass, the latter featured on his CD Meet Me on the Mountain. Kirchner’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes, Oxford, Santa Barbara, and his own company at ShawnKirchner.com.
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As a singer with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Kirchner has sung with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in numerous performances with the world’s leading conductors, composers, and soloists. Kirchner has sung on LAMC’s recordings of Adams, Reich, Glass, Lang, Gorecki, and Muhly, and has been featured as a soloist on works of Perotin, Pärt, Ramirez, and Meredith Monk. He also sings countertenor in the touring ensemble for LAMC’s ground-breaking, fully-staged Lagrime di San Pietro, directed by Peter Sellars. As a session singer, Kirchner has sung on dozens of feature film soundtracks including Avatar, La La Land, and Frozen.
Raised with his triplet brother and sister in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Kirchner’s musicianship was shaped through intensive piano study with Joan Smalley and George Katz. His principal creative mentor is the banjo-playing poet Steve Kinzie, with much inspiration from American choral matriarch Alice Parker. Kirchner earned a BA in Peace Studies (Manchester University) and an MA in Choral Conducting (University of Iowa) where his teachers included William Hatcher, Richard Bloesch, and Donald Jenni. Kirchner’s outside interests include organic gardening, languages, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Enneagram.