Ulster County Executive's Arts Awards 2023
The best thing about Ars Choralis is the diversity of the programming. Or is it the way everyone involved feels like one big family? Barbara Pickhardt, who has been the artistic director and conductor of the choral group since 1976, knows that it is both. “There is a sense of family, a sense of caring for one another. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to share creative ideas with others and to have 40 to 50 people who enthusiastically want to work with me.”
Woodstock-based Ars Choralis has won the 2023 Ulster County Executive’s Arts Award for an arts organization.
Growing up in Minnesota, Barbara was the only one in her family with musical inclinations. “I was the anomaly in my family. I don’t remember not being musical. I started formal piano lessons at age seven, but I was already functioning as a musician before that.”
She went on to earn undergraduate and graduate degrees with honors from both the University of Minnesota and Westminster Choir College, where she received the Ruth and Raymond Young Award in Composition. Since then she has had a multi-faceted career involving teaching, conducting, composing, arranging and performing as both a pianist and harpsichordist.
Barbara says that these days, Ars Choralis performs a large variety of music, “from fifth century to contemporary.” A few years ago they performed a baroque opera at Opus 40. She notes that they are performing a Brahms Requiem in June, but in the fall will do a concert based on a Thornton Wilder play. “I would never have been able to do something unique like this in the past,” she says. “This is a wonderfully inclusive group that brings people together. We break down the walls between people.”