After a musical childhood centered on classical piano, improvisation, and choir, Shawn Kirchner pursued an alternate path in college, majoring in Peace Studies, with folk music and foreign languages capturing his passion. Circling back to music as a career path — by way of grad school in choral conducting — he was also inspired to gain fluency as a pianist in many styles, resulting in a wide-ranging creative output once he began arranging and composing in earnest. His long association with the Los Angeles Master Chorale, first as a singer, then as a pianist, and ultimately as composer-in-residence, served as the catalyst that introduced his music to the wider choral world. Whether it’s a complex concert work, a folk setting, a jazz ballad, or a bluegrass song, Kirchner’s signature approach can be identified in intricately detailed instrumental writing and intuitively melodic vocal lines that inspire singers’ artistry and humanity.
Shawn 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.
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.
You can learn more about Shawn and his music at https://www.shawnkirchner.com.