Welcome, Ellen!

As we prepare to announce Clerestory’s twelfth season in the coming weeks, we wanted to let you know another bit of news first. Clerestory has hired its first ever administrative assistant, Ellen Leslie. Ellen is a wonderful soprano at the start of what we hope will be a busy career. She is a recent masters recipient and continues to work at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. You can read more about Ellen below and visit her website to hear her sing. 

Clerestory audience members, patrons, and followers on social media will hear a lot from Ellen over the coming season, and we hope many of you will get to meet her in person at an upcoming concert. Welcome, Ellen!


Winner of the 2016 Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions in the San Francisco District, Ellen Leslie is quickly becoming a sought-after singer both in the United States and abroad. Critics have lauded her “absolutely beautiful” (Opus Colorado), “bright, clear” (The Berkeley Daily Planet) and “radiant…lovely trilling soprano” (San Jose Mercury News), and her “sweet, strong tone and earnest demeanor” (San Francisco Classical Voice). 

This summer, Ellen made her German stage debut as Pamina (Die Zauberflöte) in Schloss Merode, and as Rosane (Vivaldi La verità in cimento) in Leipzig. Recent engagements in the Bay Area include Micaëla (Carmen) and Lady Billows (Albert Herring) at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Damigella and Amore (L’Incoronazione di Poppea) with the SFCM Baroque Ensemble, covering the role of Elisabetta (Roberto Devereux) with Pocket Opera, an evening of Vivaldi and Handel cantatas, a horn collaboration featuring Schubert’s Auf dem Strom, and two full solo recitals. A skilled interpreter of the lyric soprano roles in the Gilbert & Sullivan canon, Ellen has most recently sung Josephine (HMS Pinafore) and the title role in Patience with San Francisco’s acclaimed Lamplighters Music Theatre.

A lover of new music in all forms, Ellen sang in the 2015 and 2016 workshops for Santa Fe Opera’s 2017 production of The (r)Evolution of Steve Jobs, with music by acclaimed composer Mason Bates and conducted by Michael Christie. She has also premiered songs and opera roles by several emerging Bay Area composers, and received a grant to commission a full song cycle, “Charmes,” by Bay Area composer Eric Choate, which premiered in 2015.

Having made her oratorio debut at age 19 as the soprano solo in Carmina Burana with the Lamont Symphony Orchestra, Ellen is also an accomplished choral and orchestral soloist. Since the 2012-2013 season, she has had the annual privilege of singing with the Colorado Ballet in their production of The Nutcracker. Recent engagements also have included Porgy and Bess in Concert (2012) and a Fourth of July extravaganza (2014) with the Dallas Symphony, and The Planets (2013) with the New York Philharmonic, all at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival. She also sang backup for Josh Groban in his 2013 performance with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks Ampitheatre.

Ellen grew up on an Irwin 37 sailboat in the San Francisco Bay and spent her childhood sailing around the world with her family. She earned concurrent undergraduate degrees from the University of Denver–a BM in Voice Performance and a BA in French, both summa cum laude. She returned to California to for her MM at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under acclaimed soprano Sylvia Anderson.

In 2016, Ellen split her time between San Francisco and Leipzig, Germany, where she completed her studies with soprano Caroline Stein on full scholarship at the Hochschule für Musik “Feliz Mendelssohn Bartholdy,” earning a Postgraduate Diploma in Voice in conjunction with SFCM. She has also lived in Strasbourg, France, where she researched a thesis on the sociopolitical climate surrounding Bizet’s Carmen; there, she was invited to sing Michael Tippett’s A Child of our Time with conductor Carlo Rizzi and the Orchèstre Philharmonique de Strasbourg.

Ellen lives in San Francisco and will marry her fiancé, composer/conductor Eric Choate, in September.

Here we go with Season 10!

Clerestory Opens 2015-16 Tenth Anniversary Season with Brightest Lights

Wide-ranging a cappella song program, selected in part by Clerestory’s audience; Performances September 26 in Berkeley and September 27 in San Francisco.

Clerestory, the Bay Area’s acclaimed nine-man vocal ensemble, launches its tenth anniversary season with Brightest Lights, a collection of highlights from its first decade of concerts. The ensemble will perform songs from the Renaissance, contemporary composers, folk styles, and Americana. To celebrate the ensemble’s 10th year, the program was selected with input from Clerestory’s audience: a survey emailed to past audience members asked which pieces they would most like to hear again in various categories. Brightest Lights includes works by Palestrina, Monteverdi, Poulenc, Samuel Barber and Eric Whitacre, among others.

Brightest Lights will be performed Saturday, September 26, 8pm at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Berkeley and Sunday, September 27, 4pm at San Francisco Conservatory of Music. (See calendar listing below for full season details.)

Clerestory kicks off the holiday season with Holiday Lights, a program of favorite carols and contemporary songs from Britain. Traditional British Christmas songs by Vaughan Williams, Britten, Walton, and Howells are featured, as well as new works by Jonathan Dove and James MacMillan. (See calendar listing  below for details.)

Continuing its tradition of championing new choral pieces, Clerestory’s tenth season closes with New Lights, a program of contemporary music. The ensemble will perform works by Eric Whitacre, Jake Heggie, and Aaron Jay Kernis along with new songs written especially for Clerestory’s anniversary by composer friends of the ensemble.

Tickets for Clerestory’s Bay Area concerts can be purchased online or at clerestory.org; prices are $25; $15 for students and seniors.

About Clerestory

Clerestory’s singers, from countertenor to bass, are veterans of San Francisco’s finest vocal groups, including Chanticleer, Philharmonia Baroque, American Bach Soloists and others. Since its founding in 2006, Clerestory has performed across the Bay Area, including regular concerts in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Palo Alto, along with appearances in Sonoma, Santa Cruz and Lodi. The ensemble has been featured on National Public Radio and on San Francisco’s KDFC. Recordings from Clerestory’s concerts are available for free listening at clerestory.org/free-concert-archive.

The ensemble’s 2010 debut studio-recorded release, Night Draws Near, explores life, death, and mysticism in music inspired by the temporally and thematically close celebrations of Halloween, All Soul’s Day, and El Día de los Muertos. Writing about the CD, critic Jason Serinus noted the “exceptional sincerity and beauty of the singing.”

Clerestory is named for cathedral windows that let in daylight; the group tells the “clear story” of music through sophisticated performances grounded in decades of experience singing together. Clerestory is a tax-exempt non-profit organization with a mission of providing high quality performances to local audiences at affordable prices.

For more information, visit clerestory.org  |  Download Photos

Press contact: Justin Montigne, 415.420.1189, justin@clerestory.org

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Season Calendar Listing
Tickets for Clerestory’s Bay Area concerts can be purchased online or at clerestory.org; prices are $25; $15 for students and seniors.


brightest lights artBrightest Lights

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
2300 Bancroft Way
Saturday, September 26, 8:00pm

San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Sunday, September 27, 4:00pm

Tickets and more info


holiday lights artHoliday Lights 

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
1111 O’Farrell St.
Saturday, November 28, 8:00pm

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
2300 Bancroft Way
Sunday, November 29, 8:00pm

Center for Spiritual Living
2075 Occidental Rd.
Tuesday, December 8, 8:00pm

Tickets and more info


new lights artNew Lights 

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
1111 O’Farrell St.
Saturday, March 5, 8:00pm

David Brower Center
2150 Allston Way
Sunday, March 6, 4:00pm

Tickets and more info

Songbook Poster

Here’s the poster for this month’s Songbook concerts. We’re excited to sing classic tunes from Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Stephen Foster, Hoagy Carmichael, Meredith Willson, and many more.

Of course, spreading the word is essential—there’s no Songbook without your ears to hear it. Please consider printing the poster and displaying it at your place of work, a favorite haunt, or perhaps emailing it to your friends and family. All are welcome, and we think newcomers to Clerestory concerts especially will enjoy these gorgeous and accessible American songs. Thank you for the help, and we’ll see you at the shows!

songbook poster
Click to download the full sized poster