The Pro Arte Singers will begin its 40th anniversary season on Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m., under the director of Maestro Arthur Sjögren.

The professional organization offers performances of a challenging choral repertoire to Fairfield County audiences. For the past decade, Pro Arte has made New Canaan its home base, and this season will perform all of its concerts in the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church, 178 Oenoke Ridge.

For the anniversary season, Sjögren, who is the artistic director, has put together three concert programs of familiar classics and new works.

On opening night of the new season, the Pro Arte Singers will perform Schubert's Mass in B flat. Charis Chamber Voices, the Westchester chorus, will join Pro Arte as it did last season.

On Saturday, Dec. 15, at 7:30 p.m. Britten's holiday classic "A Ceremony of Carols" will highlight Pro Arte's traditional candlelight Christmas concert.

On Sunday, April 21, at 4 p.m. Brahms' "Gypsy Songs" and works by Verdi and Rheinberger close out the season.

In 1973, Sjögren and a small group of professional singers who shared his dream of performing the world's finest choral music formed the Pro Arte Singers.

Each year since, they have grown in artistic achievement and critical acclaim through the annual concert series, professional recordings, appearances around the state and the regular commission of new works by rising American and international composers. Pro Arte recordings have been played on nationally broadcast NPR programs, and a documentary featuring Pro Arte appeared on public television.

In 1994, the Pro Arte Singers made a major commitment to an ever-expanding repertoire with the formation of the 24-voice Pro Arte Festival Chorus, a group of experienced volunteers who complement the singers to perform some of the larger choral works.

Sjögren recently retired from New Canaan High School after serving as choral conductor and teacher for 34 years. While at the school, his Madrigal Ensemble went on 17 international tours and sang for such notables as Indira Ghandi. Today, he is a guest lecturer at choral conducting workshops around the world. His recordings with Pro Arte of repertoire by Josef Rheinberger resulted in a special audience with the Crown Prince of Liechtenstein.

The professional singers of Pro Arte have active solo and choral careers in Connecticut and New York and appear regularly at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Some are in the chorus of the Metropolitan Opera and others have toured in Broadway shows, such as "Phantom of the Opera." One is on tour in Philip Glass' landmark production of "Einstein on the Beach."

Others sing in such ensembles as the Waverly Consort, Western Wind, Voices of Ascension, the New York Virtuoso Singers and Musica Sacra.

Tickets are $25 and $20 for students and seniors. Subscriptions are $75 and $60 for seniors and students.

For subscriptions or information, call 203-322-5970 or visit www.proartesingers.org.

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